John Henry
Kenny Dalglish retains the support of Liverpool owners John W. Henry and Tom Werner. REUTERS

Liverpool will struggle to match their Premier League rivals in the summer transfer market as Kenny Dalglish faces up to a third season without Champions League football at Anfield.

Twelve points behind fourth-placed Tottenham with just nine games remaining, the Merseyside club could struggle to attract Europe's elite with the Europa League the only European competition on offer next season.

Dalglish has always insisted that it will take "a hell of a player" to improve the Liverpool squad he has assembled. League Cup success and the prospect of further glory in the FA Cup only serve to cushion the impact of a failure to achieve Champions League qualification, something the club's owners - Fenway Sports Group - outlined as a minimum achievement last August.

Consecutive defeats to Manchester United, Arsenal and Sunderland in February and March all but ended Liverpool's European dreams but Wednesday night's shambolic 3-2 defeat at Queens Park Rangers finally put an end to the club's slim hopes.

The situation presents a tough sell for Dalglish when he sits down with principal owner John W. Henry and chairman Tom Werner at the end of the season to discuss Liverpool's summer transfer plans. Failure to finish in the top-four means tempting players away from Champions League participating teams becomes increasingly challenging the longer the club remains outside Europe's top tier.

Nevertheless, FSG appear unlikely to lavish another £100m+ on the playing squad this summer, as the club moves towards the model of self-sufficiency the owners have always insisted is their long-term goal. Indeed, Alberto Aquilani's imminent £6m switch to AC Milan signals the prudent nature of the club's future plans.

The Italian midfielder represents the kind of expensive, ill-conceived purchase FSG have sought to distance themselves from since taking over from former Liverpool owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett in October 2010. Although the club are set to accept an astounding £14m loss on the 27-year-old - bought for £20m under former boss Rafa Benitez in 2009 - Henry and Werner will be thankful they can draw a line under one of the last vestiges from the old regime.

Aquilani is scheduled to play his 25th game of the season for Milan, triggering a sales clause in his agreement with the Italian side which enables Liverpool to sell him in a permanent deal in May. And with another on-loan midfielder, Joe Cole, also likely to remain with Lille at the end of the campaign, Dalglish will be encouraged to trim the squad's fringe players before investing any further on a strike partner for Luis Suarez.

"Tom and I were attending the European Club Association meetings," Henry is quoted in the Telegraph.

"There are a number of critical issues such as Financial Fair Play and economic problems of clubs large and small that need to be addressed.

"Just as the countries of Europe need a sound financial landscape, so, too, does football as a sport."

Dalglish will have money to spend on one or two key players in the summer and the goodwill he engenders at the club ensures he will weather the calls for him to relinquish his role in the wake of a few minor setbacks. But the Scot appreciates he will have to mount a sustained challenge for the top-four next season, or risk further inquiries into his contribution over the last 18 months.