The last 5 years, completing the next cycle and how to pay for it.

By guest writer Brendan Taylor

There has been some monumental stepsmade at Anfield over the last 5 years!

A world class, charismatic, and caring manager at the helm, a passionate and talented coaching team, an analytical and character focused recruitment team which is the envy of European football, which has culminated in the best football team I have seen play for Liverpool in my 40 years.

Completing the next cycle and establishing a squad to allow Liverpool to compete for the next 5 years at the highest level is already underway, but the speed it is being done has left Klopp and the team exposed.

Strengthen from a position of strength!

Some sayings, like wife’s tales aren’t worth much consideration and others are based on common sense, if you have created something special and it’s reached a peak you have to freshen, adjust and support it, so it may continue to flourish, to be the best, the strongest, while maintaining that superiority over the competition.

Following defeat to Madrid in the 17/18 season it was evident that further strengthening was required in order to surpass the competition.

With Van dijk signed in the January of that season and Allison and Fabinho to follow in the summer, the result was transformational. They completed the spine that allowed Liverpool to win the Champions league then followed swiftly by the Premier League, breaking records as they went.

It’s at this point I expected to see further investment into some key areas within the squad, as the competition was only getting stronger. Liverpool started the 20/21 season with the positive additions of the cultured Thiago and the slightly unexpected but talented Jota. Two areas of the team that needed adding to, providing much needed quality for Jurgen to call on.

Unfortunately this good work was undone, with untimely injuries and selling long servant of the club Dejan Lovren without bringing in a replacement.

Leaving Liverpool to try and compete on multiple fronts with only 3 established centre backs, two with very patchy injury records.

It was a gamble that went horribly wrong, with Jürgen Klopp left having to work miracles milking everything from the players at his disposal to somehow finishing 3rd and in doing so securing entry into Europe’s lucrative elite competition.

Starting the 21/22 season there were a number of outgoings with Xherdan Shaqiri, Harry Wilson, Marco Grujic and most notably Gini Wijnaldum on a free. With the acquisition of the young and talented Ibrahima Konatè coming in to fill the hole in defence from the previous season. Coupled with Elliots rapid rise, a shining light at the start of the season, adding creativity and unpredictability to a sometimes workman like midfield and filled the power cube shaped hole until his unfortunate injury.

But with a midfield that now looks unbalanced, (Henderson and Fabinho aside) stocked with either players that are constantly on the treatment table, or that lack the tactical and physicality on the pitch to really dominate teams.

Wijnaldum played almost the entirety of last season and every other season for that matter, fabulous at breaking up opposition counter attacks, tactical and positional awareness, combined with a great ability to shield the ball when in possession and more importantly, fit and available!

The ground he covered has never been more appreciated and sorely missed as it has been over the last few games, with Atlético away, Brighton and West Ham all demonstrating an ability to breeze through our midfield as though it wasn’t there at times.

The lesson from last season seems to have been ignored again, losing such an experienced first team player again without an adequate replacement has left the manager with less than ideal options to choose from.

This demonstrates a lack of willing to be flexible with the financial model, to provide the required funds to strengthen without first having raised money through player sales, which should not be the case, even with the impact of Corona Virus.

With FSG securing a $500 million dollar investment for an 11% stake at the start of the season from Red Bird Capital, more than countering the financial impact suffered over the last 18 months.

Prompting Tom Werner to publicly state (this would give Liverpool the ability to operate within the market at pre COVID levels).

To add some context to this Liverpool are currently 15th in the league for Net spend on transfers over the last 5 seasons with £92.4 million spent in total and a average net spend per season of just £18.5 million.

Below is an image giving perspective of how much we can spend without breaching FFP rules, speaks volumes.

Manchester City have spent £505.6 million net over the last 5 seasons with a net spend per season of £101.1 million and they also have the highest wage bill in the league.

When you consider Everton have spent net £55 million per season, Arsenal net £49.8 million and even Brighton net £39.5 million per season, none have featured in the champions league for this 5 year period, but are able to spend at this level, it begs the question, where is the money going?

With Liverpool now valued as the 12th richest sports team in the world and up to 6th in the richest football teams above Manchester City and Chelsea, with a estimated value of £2.92 billion via (Forbes) and a new broadcast deal imminently incoming to the premier league from the States valued at over £1 billion, covering a 3 year period. The club is surely in a incredibly strong position to invest in the team under Klopp’s ever shortening reign.

So what’s left to be done to complete the next cycle?

Looking at the rejuvenation that has already happened with an eye to the future, the arrival of Jota, Konatè, Tsimikas, Minamino, Thiago and the development of Elliot, Jones and Kelleher. Coupled with long term contracts signed by Robertson, Trent, Allison, Van Dijk, Fabinho and Henderson provides a good frame to build on, with only a question mark over Minamino’s suitability.

Three serious reinforcements will be required in the midfield area come the end of the season.

With Chamberlain having barely featured last season even with the injury crisis and not living up to the rigorousness expected of a Klopp midfielder this season either.

Naby Keita’s dismal run of persistent injuries continue, while clearly having the talent, it doesn’t count if you can’t get on the pitch to show it.

Finally the ever dependable James Milner, who has been a wonderful servant to the club, setting the standard from the minute he walked through the door is now 35 and struggling with the pace the game is played at, rash challenges trying to close ground, should of seen red against both Crystal Palace and Manchester City this season already.

Milners contract is up at the end of the season, perhaps with an eye to move within the coaching staff set up.

Both Keita and Chamberlains contracts only have 18 months left to run. Both should be sold this summer in order to raise funds to breath new life into the engine room and Milners wages going towards enticing fresh blood. With a Gini shaped hole still to be filled.

Two names that should be under serious consideration are Dortmund’s dynamic midfield talent Jude Bellingham (18) and Leverkusen’s effervescent Florian Wirtz (18).

Bellingham’s ability to cover ground quickly, play on the front foot or operate with a more defensive remit coupled with his aggressive nature and height would complement a midfield three of Henderson and Fabinho while also offering little to no drop off if needed to replace either of them.

Wirtz is a much more attack minded midfield player, right footed, with the abilities to operate on the left of a front 3 as well, offering the flexibility that Klopp likes from some of his players. This season he has scored 4 goals and assisted 6 in 9 games for Leverkusen, while scoring on his debut for Germany and has now replaced Haverts as the new golden boy of German football. Offering penetration, great link play with the forward line and work rate likened to that of Coutinho when featuring on the left of a midfield 3.

This brings us to the forward line that has played such a big part in the success enjoyed over the last 4 years and perhaps the hardest to replace given the situation.

All still full internationals with Salah now elevating his status to the worlds best at the start of the season.

All 3 have 18 months left to run on their contracts with no resolution in sight around Salah’s contract negotiations with the club, and no noise at all about renewed terms for Mane or Firimino.

At a best guess I would say the club will look to come to a compromise around Salah’s wage demands but he will have to come down on the £400k a week figure being muted.

With the other two not receiving increased offers, perhaps down to there age and output compared to previous years. This will probably result in them looking to sit tight and move on in 18 months time for free (I would if it were me).

If this plays out where does the money generated from player sales come from to refresh the forward line? Divock Origi? Minamino?

Maybe there was a plan to move one or two on last summer but with a decrease in valuations within the transfer market, Liverpool might have chosen to sit tight. Slowing the transition of the forward line could well leave Liverpool needing to replace all 3.

The one name I would love to see come in and take a central 9 role apart from (Erling Haaland) is Red bull Salzburg’s Karim Adeyemi (19)

A fantastic pressing game, rapid and with the ability to operate in tight spaces, winning 5 penalties in 2 Champions League games this season! He has 14 goals and two assists in 18 games with 3 goals coming in the Champions league. Showing that his ability transfers well when competing at a higher level.

All these players suggested are under 20, while the first two would most certainly command hefty fees and the later reportedly available for around £35 million, it would bring the age of the squad back down while reducing the need for investment into the squad over the next few years, inject fresh talent with elite potential, while providing positional flexibility for the team.

If you add to this the next young talents coming through our youth set up (Kaide Gordon) and Perhaps a sneaky free transfer here and there, we wouldn’t be a million miles away.

I’m not advocating going out and spending money for the sake of it, but the need for fresh blood and more of it is plain to see and this simply won’t happen if funded by player sales alone.

The need for a world class squad and not just a first 11 is now imperative. The ever increasing number of games, greater competition from other teams within the league and enlarging competitions with shorter periods of rest for a lot of top players simply demands it.

If you think of the ever increasing revenues made by Liverpool and the crazy capital return on their investment already, the finances are clearly there to support a clever but not frugal approach in bringing glory on the pitch for the next 5 years!

Good luck Julian Ward.