Liverpool’s evolution and now progression is simply intricate, but one facet cannot work without the other. And after the latest success, what is next for the club?
It has been an incredible 12 months for Liverpool Football Club. The journey hasn’t always been easy, and there have been lots of difficult moments along the way, but FSG have achieved at Liverpool what they achieved with the Red Sox. They have found a way to win.
The success Liverpool and the Red Sox have enjoyed under the ownership of FSG has been by design. The current squad at Liverpool has been carefully constructed and there isn’t one player who hasn’t improved under the guidance of Jurgen Klopp.
The FSG model has never been about taking the easy option and buying in talent that comes at a huge premium, aside from players that can elevate the level of the entire club such as Virgil van Dijk or Allison. Both of whom are now cemented as the very best in the world and have grown into that status since they arrived.
What Liverpool under FSG, Michael Edwards and Klopp have become the best in the world at is finding players with a huge ceiling and recruiting them before they become superstars.
The FSG model at Liverpool is based on the three C’s.
The very core of the philosophy throughout Liverpool Football Club it is about improving and moulding good players into great ones. The journey started with Brendan Rodgers and when the very best coach in world football became available, he was immediately the perfect fit for the club.
There are many reasons why Jurgen Klopp is the perfect fit for Liverpool, but perhaps the primary reason is he is an absolutely critical cog in the model of success. What makes Klopp great is that he makes everyone else around him great. He gets the absolute maximum out of his players and guides them to be the very best they can be.
He has found the perfect apprentice and thinking partner with Pepijn Lijnders and along with Peter Krawietz has built his very own Bootroom. There are strong similarities with the trio of Dalglish, Moran and Evans the last time Liverpool won the title in 1990.
There isn’t one player in the current Liverpool squad that hasn’t improved under Klopp and his backroom team.
It is easy to forget how underwhelmed so many supporters were with the signings of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah at the time only for them to have grown into one of the most feared attacking trios in world football. That is no fluke. Everything that happens at Liverpool is by design, not by chance.
FSG understand that they can’t go toe to toe with clubs that inflate wealth through benefactor owners, and with FFP now dead given the CAS verdict on City’s European ban it is more important than ever to do things differently for sustainable success.
One of the characteristics of Liverpool under Klopp has been mentality. The mentality to keep on winning and never give up, even when the odds are stacked against you. Barcelona anyone?
That isn’t something that just happens. It is a culture that is once again built by design. Built by bringing everyone together. Built by turning doubters into believers.
Culture can take any business, organisation or football club an awfully long way. It is one of the reasons that Jordan Henderson is absolutely the right choice for the FWA Player of the Year award. It isn’t just about what he contributes on the field, it is about the tone he sets, the intensity he demands, the leadership he shows when the club is fighting for every point.
The best thing about Henderson is that you really notice it when he isn’t playing. He is the perfect captain for a Jurgen Klopp side, and his mentality sets the tone for the entire team.
The culture at Liverpool at the moment is a winning culture. It has been nurtured and built around a squad that doesn’t have an ego, where every player is respected and the team is the star.
Adding to that group needs very careful recruitment as the culture and mentality of this squad is an absolute critical part of the success model.
So that brings us to the last point. Character. There are certain things you need to become a Liverpool player, it is all about the fit with the group, the ceiling and the character of the player. It is this point where Michael Edwards has been masterful in his recruitment.
If you were to look at one player that Liverpool have signed under Edwards and Klopp that perfectly fits the FSG model it would be Andy Robertson. Signed as a young player from a relegated Hull City, there was a collective groan from supporters when he signed.
Fast forward two years and he is now arguably one of the best left-backs in world football and an integral part of this Liverpool team and culture. His character is all about winning.
Michael Edwards saw that at Hull when everyone else missed it – including our own supporters. Robertson was signed for a low fee and has been coached into a world-class full-back. He has the character to want to improve every day, he doesn’t have an ego, and his mentality is the exact fit with the club.
Big players on big wages with big egos are never going to work all the time Jurgen Klopp is at Liverpool. They maybe the type of signings that excite supporters, but unless they ‘fit’ the character the club needs they’ll not work for Klopp.
This isn’t about a reluctance to pay big fees if required, as Van Dijk, Alisson and Keita all evidence.
The next steps…
It is going to be much tougher for Liverpool to maintain the success of the past 12 months with competitors strengthening. Although a very wealthy club, Liverpool do not have the riches of others with benefactor owners.
Under FSG the model has been to reinvest profit back into the infrastructure and retaining its elite talent with the main stand, new training facility at Kirby and the top five wage bills in world football all evidence of huge investment (despite being seventh in the Deloitte Football Money League).
If a player becomes available at an elite cost that can make a transformational impact, the club has also shown willingness to pay large fees.
Pep Ljinders made a really interesting point that elite players at Liverpool no longer want to go elsewhere, that Liverpool is now a destination. This is reflected in the club’s wage bill (£310m) which is now within £5 million of both Madrid and City, both of whom are higher up the revenue league.
Once players reach an elite level at Liverpool, they are rewarded as elite players.
The past 12 months have seen astonishing levels of success for Liverpool and for FSG. The huge investment in infrastructure, such as the Main Stand and the new training complex at Kirby are sustainable foundations that elevate the club’s capability to win over the long term. Anfield Road will be another once complete.
Although hugely profitable in recent years there is no question that COVID has influenced or affected the finances of all clubs that rely purely on own income for investment. Matchday revenue adds £90-100m a year to Liverpool’s bottom line, with another £150m in commercial revenue.
That number will already have taken a hit in 2020 and with so many unknowns about fans returning, it is clear it is a complex picture when forecasting revenue for the season ahead.
For the season ahead there will likely be some additions to the squad from both within the club and external recruitment. It’ll be up to Edwards to conjure up some more magic to strengthen the squad. He has proven he doesn’t need marquee signings to build a team of champions.
Over the next two-three years, Klopp and Edwards will need to carefully begin to replace some key players and that will be a true test of how sustainable the FSG model will be. But right now, they have surely earnt enough trust for supporters to believe in the next stage of our journey and evolution.
And for the immediate future, this current squad isn’t yet at its peak. There is more to come. No matter who spends what this summer, Liverpool will be incredibly hard to beat and very much in the mix for the big honours again next season.
For now, let’s enjoy being champions of everything and let the people who got us here do what they do best.