With Liverpool missing out on their priority signings of the summer so far, John Ritchie discusses the club’s transfer policy and predicts a lack of big name signings to come.
‘Calm down. It’s all over’.
Those words from Artur Petrosyan were the final nail in the coffin that was the potential transfer of Henrikh Mkhitaryan; the man so many Liverpool fans had placed their hope in; the man who we believed could take us from being a decent side, to an outstanding one.
The blistering pace, acceleration from a standing start, creativity, versatility and an eye for goal; there was nothing that didn’t excite the fans about Armenian midfielder, our number one target for the summer window has now fallen through.
Whilst rumours of a transfer badly handled by Liverpool continue to fly around (neither of which have yet been fully explained or substantiated yet), many Liverpool fans are now asking the questions which continue to haunt Fenway Sports Group (FSG).
Do we have enough footballing personnel in the management of Liverpool FC? Will they invest? What will they do now? The initial promise and hope this transfer window would be the best in years now seem to have completely gone…
The big question on everyone’s mind right is now is who next? What’s the alternative? Are FSG going to walk away given their main targets are becoming harder to purchase than initially hoped?
When Liverpool withdrew their interest in Clint Dempsey on deadline day last summer, FSG made a statement of intent in ways many of us had not expected. In John W Henry’s open letter to fans he stated:
Spending is not merely about buying talent. Our ambitions do not lie in cementing a mid-table place with expensive, short-term quick fixes that will only contribute for a couple of years. Our emphasis will be on developing our own players using the skills of an increasingly impressive coaching team. Much thought and investment already have gone into developing a self-sustaining pool of youngsters imbued in the club’s traditions.
That ethos is to win. We will invest to succeed. But we will not mortgage the future with risky spending.
Yet given what our owners have said as recently as last summer, this shouldn’t be a surprise. They have well and truly laid out their stall. We’ll pay top dollar if we can afford and believe in the talent that we’re buying; that much is clear with looking to pay up-to £25m for Mhkitaryan. But if the equivalent players aren’t there either in the market or come with an over inflated fee, it’s clear our owners won’t pay over the odds, even though a few million here or there could land the deal.
Daniel Sturridge is an example when it comes to such a policy. Chelsea wanted £15m for the their bit part striker last summer, we wouldn’t budge even when that proved a costly decision last season; the eventual fee £12m signalling that even £3m is deemed gambling too much with no guarantee of success.
On one level, such a policy could be seen as frankly (to put it bluntly) stupid or even at best naive; yet this is businessmen using business logic. A million here and there to even the biggest and best run global corporation is seen and accounted for with the same rigour; only hefty uplifts in investment will do, justification an endless process of governance coupled with the persuasion of a skilled negotiator.
As football has grown and grown, some clubs, even more evident in this window, have used their extra cash with the gleeful joy of a kid with his first pay packet. West Ham, Norwich, Swansea and others have all spent and at times large sums of money. There’s no guarantee of success, there’s only hope this is enough to generate larger sums of revenue given the new premier league deal.
Put this in contrast to Liverpool who have spent small, bought wisely and continue to offload the deadwood around the squad.
Jonjo Shelvey has gone, with Stewart Downing and Jay Spearing likely to follow, Liverpool will be almost £7m in the black should all these deals come off. Even more if Tom Ince decides now is the time to move into the Premier League with offers on the table from a number of newly promoted clubs. How positive sell on clauses are when they actually deliver significant amounts of money back to a club who taught a player their trade.
Yet the last thing any fan wants to see right now is a positive number in a transfer window; especially off the back of the previous summer widely regarded as a disaster – neither is it likely to appease fans already suspicious of the never-present owners. FSG continue to play the long game, it seems now even more so that the game is going to get a little longer than we’d first hoped when the season finished on a sunny day an Anfield.
Will Liverpool make a “marquee” signing this summer? My guess is no. Their two main targets are now out of reach; one deal is not what we want and the other decided against a move to Merseyside. No new names are emerging, no stars seem to be heading this way.
If Liverpool wanted to pick a time to really make a push for the top four, you could argue now is such a time; Chelsea, Manchester City and United all changing manager, you could be forgiven for thinking well now the irons hot, let’s strike! However is this nothing but a gamble, and in my opinion we won’t gamble, panic or jump before we need to before bringing in the finished article that as fans we all desire. The FSG logic seemingly being that even if it’s not this season, then OK so long as we continue to build, so long as we can see progress not just in league positions or points but also in the clubs on-going healing of past regimes and the current ones mistakes.
As John W Henry said:
It will not be easy, it will not be perfect, but there is a clear vision at work.
We will build and grow from within, buy prudently and cleverly and never again waste resources on inflated transfer fees and unrealistic wages. We have no fear of spending and competing with the very best but we will not overpay for players.
We will never place this club in the precarious position that we found it in when we took over at Anfield. This club should never again run up debts that threaten its existence.
Most of all, we want to win. That ambition drives every decision. It is the Liverpool way. We can and will generate the revenues to achieve that aim. There will be short-term setbacks from time to time, but we believe we have the right people in place to bring more glory to Anfield.
With the signings of Sergi Canos, Yan Dandah and Herbie Kane all coming into the academy, Liverpool continue to stock one of the finest academies in the country with talent and promise. Luis Alberto is also a prospect signing in that he’s clearly ear-marked for first team duty, but he’s by no means the finished product, or guaranteed to be a success.
So the long game continues, young players are bought in the hope one day will come good, yet that day is not today, nor this season or maybe (God forbid) the next… The longer we go without the star signings the more and more frustrated we as fans become. Long games are a risky business; even the safest of strategies are risky if you don’t have the right people to deliver the long term goal.
The longer Liverpool remains outside the Champions League the longer we as fans grow restless. Some of our global support may even become disillusioned as we see our rivals go from strength to strength. Playing poker with Liverpool fans isn’t the wisest move and the club would do well to come clean now if that’s the position having suffering our blows early this summer.
For us, the fans, we may well have to get used to being a very different club in the short term if we want to achieve our longer term objectives under the stewardship of FSG. ‘But we are Liverpool’ I hear you cry ‘we’re all about winning trophies’… Yes, I agree, but it not at any expense or without a long term plan in place to sustain the early victories achieved by stop gap signings.
Like most reading this I crave the success you do, we all do, we all want to see our club challenging back at the top but being a fan isn’t a thing we do for a season or two it’s a lifetime pact you make with the club. If we don’t fancy the second best alternative to the man we initially wanted, it looks as though we’ll walk away and this means waiting longer, like it or not.
So here’s my prediction for where we end up in September; we’ll probably sign a few more players, maybe two or three at a push. If we sell Suarez he’ll be replaced, but not through a marquee signing it will be through one or two very good players who can help to fill some of the void, but probably none of the individual genius we’ve witnessed from the troubled Uruguayan. Do not however expect big names.
Who knows what the coming season will bring, but be under no illusion Brendan Rodgers and FSG know as well as anyone what they’re doing and barring a complete disaster of a season then we’ll try again both in January and again next summer. Either way, weather I’m right or wrong, one thing is certain – It’s turning into a very long uncomfortable summer and I for one can’t wait until we can all calm down, because at least then it’ll all be over.