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American owners invade English soccer
Last Updated(Beijing Time):2007-02-07 15:39

The Beatles started the "British invasion" by leaving Liverpool and heading to the United States. Forty years later, George Gillett Jr. and Tom Hicks are joining an "American invasion" of English soccer, and taking it right back to Liverpool.

On Tuesday, the two American sports team owners agreed to buy controlling interest in Liverpool, the famous English Premier League soccer team that has won a record 18 league titles and five European Cups.

The duo is expected to take full control of the team after buying out the remaining shares, making the club the third in England's top soccer league to be owned by Americans.

"It was not a question of money," said Hicks, who owns the Texas Rangers and the Dallas Stars. "It was a question of, `Are we the proper custodians?' and I believe we are."

Malcolm Glazer may have felt the same when he took over control of Manchester United two years ago, but the Tampa Bay Buccaneers owner was met with protests because his purchase put the team in debt.

Randy Lerner, the Cleveland Browns owner who took over at Aston Villa, was accepted right away, with fans hoping his money will help restore the team to the upper echelon of the league.

Gillett and Hicks' reception remains to be seen, but the fans knew the team was on the market ?? it has been for about three years.

"It really is about winning," Gillett said at a news conference to introduce the pair who will share the title of chairman, adding that Liverpool is "perhaps the greatest franchise in the history of the greatest sport in the world."

Gillett should know. He owns one of the sports world's other great franchises ?? the Montreal Canadiens, who have won a record 23 Stanley Cup titles.

Liverpool has a history of success, but not much recently.

The Reds won the Champions League title two years ago by rallying from a three-goal deficit in the second half against AC Milan. But the team needed a special exemption to even get into the following season's tournament, because it finished in fifth place in the Premier League.

That's a far cry from the glory days when Liverpool won 11 titles from 1973-90, with great players including Kenny Dalglish, Kevin Keegan and Ian Rush leading the way. The team won its first four European Cups in 1977-84.

Hicks and Gillett became the leading contenders to take over Liverpool after Dubai International Capital pulled out last week. According to Liverpool CEO Rick Parry, it was when Gillett enlisted the help of Hicks that things started to change in their favor.

"I would not say we welcomed him with open arms, but he would not go away," Parry said of Gillett. "He came back with a very different proposition because he came with Tom and that changed the complexion of the bid. If Tom had been with him in November, we may have made the decision then."

The extra money Hicks brings to the team should help Liverpool break the dominance of the big three. Manchester United and Arsenal combined to win 11 of 12 league titles until Chelsea broke the trend by winning the last two.

Liverpool, on the other hand, won its last title in 1990. Hicks' solution to combatting that problem is rather basic.

"If you have a chance to get a great player, you get a great player," Hicks said. "We're not going to put a budget on what we're going to do."

It's not always that easy in the world of soccer, with teams from all over Europe ?? and sometimes the rest of the world ?? also bidding for the top players on the market.

Then again, the Beatles did a pretty good job of competing with Elvis Presley and the Beach Boys.

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