Liverpool owners in talks over $8bn deal that could follow Red Bull style model

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Liverpool owners FSG are in talks with a company co-launched by Moneyball founder Billy Beane over an $8 billion deal that could partner them with other European clubs.

Fenway Sports Group have long been open to selling a minority stake of Liverpool Football Club, but are not currently considering selling the club outright.

But there is no denying the fact those within the club are enamoured with the Red Bull model, with the energy drinks company owners of clubs in Germany, Austria, Brazil, the United States and Ghana.

Their two most successful clubs are, arguably, RB Leipzig and Red Bull Salzburg, both of which have built a strong relationship with the Reds in recent years.

Whether that is the pathway Liverpool follow remains to be seen, but the Wall Street Journal reports that this may be an eventuality as special purpose acquisition company RedBall enter talks with FSG over purchasing a stake in the ownership group.

This would convert FSG into a public company, allowing them to “buy up more clubs in Europe, where a number have been on the block, according to a person familiar with the matter,” the report explains.

On RedBall’s board are Beane, whose Moneyball ethos inspired FSG’s ownership of Liverpool and the Boston Red Sox, and former Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore, and was launched alongside private-equity firm RedBird Capital Partners.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, October 17, 2010: Liverpool's owner John W. Henry during the 214th Merseyside Derby match against Everton at Goodison Park. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Any deal would not only affect Liverpool, but also the Red Sox, with the investment being for a stake in FSG themselves rather than any club or franchise.

However, the most interesting part of the Wall Street Journal‘s report is the suggestion that Liverpool could follow the likes of Red Bull and the City Football Group in partnering with other clubs under the FSG umbrella.

RedBird Capital Partners acquired a majority stake in Ligue 2 side Toulouse back in July, with this described as the firm’s “first foray.”

In theory, RedBall purchasing a minority stake in FSG and then buying up other European clubs could see Liverpool utilise a ‘feeder’ system similar to that which has allowed Salzburg and Leipzig to prosper.

On a basic level, the relaxed work permit situation in Austria allows Salzburg to sign players from clubs in Africa, Asia and South America, before selling them or moving them on to Leipzig when they are more established.

Leipzig's Naby Keita thanks the fans after the German Bundesliga soccer match between RB Leipzig and Werder Bremen at the Red Bull Arena in Leipzig, Germany, 23 October 2016. PHOTO: Jan Woitas/dpa

This is currently impossible for Liverpool, and this is a situation that Klopp acknowledged ahead of the Reds’ first meeting with Salzburg last October, having already paid big money for two players who graduated from the Austrian side’s setup in Sadio Mane and Naby Keita.

“The Austrian rules make it a little bit easier to make transfers for these kinds of players,” he explained.

“Because for us, it’s just not possible to get that early ahead on these kinds of players which they got.

“I think when they sold – I don’t know if they sold him or gave him to Leipzig – Naby Keita for example, it looks like they had the next one already lined up, a similar player and stuff like this.

“They always look prepared for these kinds of things.”

Red Bull Salzburg’s Takumi Minamino could be on his way to Anfield (John Walton/PA)

The Reds went on to sign Takumi Minamino from Salzburg in January, with it likely not have been possible to bring the Japan international in when he was making his breakthrough at Cerezo Osaka.

Liverpool have struggled with work permits for the likes of Taiwo Awoniyi, Allan Rodrigues and Anderson Arroyo in recent years, and the prospect of a partnership with other European clubs would also allow them to loan out signings to their ‘feeder’ sides.

There are certainly pros and cons to this model, but it is one worth studying as, if the Wall Street Journal is to be believed, this could be the way FSG move forward in the future.

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