Liverpool badly need to invest in their team
Liverpool are learning the hard way that success only lasts if the team is constantly being improved and upgraded. In a competitive environment, no unchanged part has a lifespan of more than two or three years. The problems were accelerated by the injuries, but the Reds are no exception.
They need to reinvest to put together the next team and prevent this one from being a flash in the pan, but it is seriously doubtful that they can actually afford to do so at the required level.
This Liverpool squad was largely formed between 2016 and 2018. The Reds reached the Champions League in 2018, won the Champions League in 2019 and ultimately ended a 30-year drought for the England league title. in 2020. We are now in 2021 and three years since finishes have been added.
The club barely added to the squad between the 2018/19 and 2019/20 campaigns, completing the latter with a transfer market profit close to £ 30million. Part of that will have been due to huge spending in 2018 when Virgil van Dijk, Fabinho, Alisson and Naby Keita all arrived.
Liverpool also sold Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona that year in a deal worth up to £ 142million. A significant portion of these costs were to come from add-ons and last account three years later, the Reds still owed nearly £ 60million of the overall figure in one form or another.
In other words, Coutinho’s sale, while helpful, didn’t just pay off for the 2018 arrivals. Since then, the club have also removed the squad without replacing depth, which is hurting them now.
Despite the sale of Dejan Lovren and ending up with just three specialist senior center-backs, Liverpool decided not to replace the Croatian in the summer of 2020.
Instead, they chose to get by without spending money in this position and revisit the situation in the summer of 2021 with a focus on the long term. They could have gotten away with it under different circumstances, but the end-of-season injuries to Van Dijk, Joe Gomez and later also Joel Matip brutally exposed the rather self-inflicted lack of depth in the middle of the defense.
Even until the end of the January 2021 transfer window, Liverpool were still determined not to spend. Ben Davies was ultimately a cheap stopgap and Ozan Kabak was a cheap loan. Notably, the latter arrived with a option buy, rather than any pre-established obligation.
Fans had congratulated sporting director Michael Edwards on a £ 20million summer deal to sign Thiago Alcantara from Bayern Munich for just £ 5million up front and just £ 5million per season thereafter. The club were also believed to have paid just £ 4million upfront for Diogo Jota’s £ 45million transfer from Wolves.
Installment plans are much more common in transfer transactions than the media usually want to tell, but spending so little up front on two major signings is an indicator of a cash shortage.
When Jamie Carragher said in response to this week’s loss to Chelsea, an unprecedented fifth in a row at Anfield in league competition, “… Liverpool must do something big in the transfer market in terms of bring someone to score goals … “it is not that simple.
Fans want Kylan Mbappé or Erling Haaland. Either would be a perfect complement. But despite how they dominated English football last season and were crowned European and then World Champions in 2019, Liverpool also cannot afford to land without serious concessions. This could be done through even more player sales or the riskier idea of installment payment plans in the future to minimize immediate costs, only serving to provide a financial boost in the future.
The lack of significant transfer spending since 2018, while generally selling fringe players like Danny Ings, Dominic Solanke, Danny Ward, Rhian Brewster and Ryan Kent at a premium, indicates that they may still be constrained by the huge spending from building that team in the first place.
Klopp has spoken about Mbappe in the past, acknowledging his admiration for the player but in the next breath exclude it because of the numbers that would be involved.
“What a player he is. But it’s about the money of course. No chance. Absolutely no chance. Sorry I killed this story.”
– Klopp on Kylian Mbappé, November 2019
Fans challenged FSG club owners, demanding that Klopp be supported in the transfer market. But Americans, who firmly believe in the principles of Moneyball seen in Major League Baseball, have not funded the club’s success, and they don’t withhold money for fun.
The FSG does not provide the money, not least because the owner’s investment can easily fall under UEFA. On the contrary, they manage finance, trying to find ways to streamline and increase various revenues to pay for things like better infrastructure, more expensive players, and bigger contracts.
Involving Nike as a partner was seen as a money generator that would fund approaches for players like Mbappe. The 2020 deal is vitally important for long-term business gain and global reach, but it cannot be seen as a winning lottery ticket with an instant cash prize.
It should also be remembered that Liverpool have invested heavily in infrastructure in recent years, both in the redevelopment of Anfield and in the construction of a brand new training ground.
In 2020, the club tried to appeal for government help by putting non-playing staff on leave at the start of the coronavirus crisis. Public pressure forced a quick U-turn and the fact that this was an inevitable PR goal suggests trying it in the first place would not have been taken lightly. As a cost-cutting measure when revenues were hit hard, this had a clear benefit.
Liverpool had no choice but to spend big in 2018 as the team were on the cusp of something very special. It was a gamble that paid off enormously, but it was not without consequences as money is never unlimited and must always come from somewhere, even that effectively means “borrowing” from their future selves and a mantra of ‘Spend now, skimp’ later ‘.
A club with Liverpool’s recent record of success, which were willing to spend a lot to help achieve that success, would no doubt spend to maintain that success if they had the financial power to do so. The fact that they were so reluctant instead probably tells you what you need to know.