While making sure he paid enough respect to the club hierarchy, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said enough to suggest he might not be getting his wish during this transfer window.
After watching his side beaten 1-0 by Burnley last week, a first home loss in the Premier League since 2017, Klopp told the media: “I make recommendations and all these kind of things. But I cannot spend the money. That’s not how it is.”
The German has been keen to stress the respect he has for owners FSG in recent weeks, although the lack of support in this window in landing a defender to mitigate the loss of Virgil van Dijk to an ACL injury must surely rankle.
FSG have been unwavering in their transfer approach since they arrived at Anfield back in 2010, the club’s recruitment always seeking value for money and the potential to see their outlay increase in value. It has been a successful model thus far, demonstrated in the signing of Philippe Coutinho and Luis Suarez, both turning major profit for the club, and the increase in value three fold in the likes of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane.
But while the makeshift defence seemed to cope well for a while, the cracks have now started to show and the Reds’ 1-0 loss to the Clarets sees them winless in five Premier League games, down in fourth and six points behind league leaders Manchester United.
While the title remains the goal for the Reds what had seemed a formality in terms of Champions League qualification is now by no means cut and dry with the race for the top four set to be the tightest for some time.
To Liverpool the Champions League is hugely lucrative.
During their season as European champions they raked in close to £100m from their journey, and progression so far this time around has seen them pocket around £32.5m. Take that kind of income away and replace it with Europa League prize money and it leaves a major hole in club finances.
We are, of course, in the midst of a crisis like nobody has seen before, the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to rage across the globe and its effects being felt significantly by the football industry, with the income streams from fans in stadiums no longer there and broadcast revenues stripped back.
The gamble for FSG is whether they risk doing nothing and hoping for the best or do something to try and make sure they get a piece of the Champions League pie.
It would mean breaking from their approach at Liverpool thus far but the risks are great to not only FSG’s standing with Reds fans but also to the continued growth that they have seen off the pitch in recent seasons, leveraged by their success on it.
But in the midst of a global pandemic the likes of which have not been seen for more than a century, how easy is it, and how wise is it for a football club to go out and spend big in the transfer window?
For some clubs, the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid in particular, their financial strain caused by coronavirus and lumbering heavy debt on the clubs for a number of seasons, will likely mean an enforced period on the sidelines when it comes to the big deals.
But for Liverpool, who managed to leverage their on-pitch success to the point of breaking in to Deloitte’s Money League top five for the first time in 18 years, shouldn’t they be taking advantage of the inability of others or are there other factors at play?
For football clubs across Europe, liquidity, the availability of cash or cash equivalents (short-term assets that can be converted into cash, ie stocks and shares) to a business to meet short-term operating needs, has been hampered by the pandemic.
“One of the biggest issues in the marketplace right now is liquidity because of the drop off in revenues throughout the footballing ecosystem,” Bryn Anderson, senior manager at international accountancy firm KPMG Sports Advisory, told the ECHO.
“It has meant that questions have been raised over if the money is there to be spent on player acquisition.
“I think the top echelon of players, if they become available, then the clubs at the higher level, including Liverpool, will find the funds to acquire these players but it is almost the next level of player where cash becomes an issue.
“What we are seeing in the marketplace is a lot more innovation around loan deals, whether UEFA will extend the period of payables on transfers etc.
“Liquidity is the issue. Liverpool’s ownership model and its ability to leverage its recent successes is something which allows them to navigate these times better than a lot of the clubs.
“There is a lot at stake to make it into the top four. For a club like Liverpool it is imperative.
“One can’t escape the link between on-field performance and off-field performance. In football there is no guarantee of on-field performance but as a business you have to plan accordingly. When on-field performance comes, and it came a lot for Liverpool, it is a case of leveraging and maximising the effect of that on your marketing plan.
“Liverpool has done a fantastic job at that, it has been able to attract and select some key commercial deals internationally and been mindful of having key sponsors from various sectors so as not to create some kind of competition from other partners. Liverpool have been able to maximise income as a result of that.
“If they are unable to reach the top four then there are no guarantees of maintaining that. But if you look at Manchester United in recent years, despite their relatively unsuccessful period on the field they have still been a commercial juggernaut and have a huge following internationally, as do Liverpool.
“There is certainly a lag effect in terms of seeing commercial might wane, and it wouldn’t drop off straightaway if they weren’t to hit the same sort of heights this season but they would certainly need to discover that sort of success over time again.”
While it may seem foolish to spend big money during a pandemic, Liverpool’s approach under FSG has at least meant that they are in a better position than most.
KPMG’s recently published European Champions Report detailed the financial state of the Reds, Bayern Munich, Juventus, Real Madrid, FC Porto and Paris Saint Germain, all winners of their respective domestic leagues last season.
The pain across Europe is very real and Porto’s inability to make the Champions League group stages last season has been reflected in a 50 per cent drop in revenue. A staggering amount.
Heavy losses have been reported across Europe’s big clubs, but while Liverpool have yet to publish their accounts for the year ending May 2020, the operating revenue figures were obtained from the club and show a likely eight per cent drop of £42m.
When that drop is compared to many it does show that Liverpool are likely to have been more robust at mitigating the effects of the pandemic on finances.
Anderson said: “Although they have not published it yet we do know that their total revenue has declined by eight per cent, so broadcasting, commercial and match day revenues. That is to be expected because of the COVID-19 impact.
“But that result when you compare it to other clubs in the Champions Report and the other clubs who have already published their accounts, a decline of eight per cent is really quite a strong result.
“If you look into that a bit more then you see that obviously match day revenue has gone down, broadcast revenues have been impacted and the earlier exit from the Champions League has had an effect. But the thing that has really offset that for Liverpool for the last financial year is the commercial revenues. They have been doing really well in terms of attracting some lucrative deals.
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“Performance wise it is looking promising, and if you were to look at this year and beyond then the new deal with Nike and the tie in after leaving New Balance is really quite an exciting commercial arrangement.
“The Nike deal could be worth up to £75m which would make it the most lucrative, or certainly one of the most lucrative in the Premier League.
“One of the biggest advantages that Nike has over New Balance is their distribution and being able to put their merchandise front and centre in all of their Nike stores and other sports retailers. That will stand Liverpool at a distinct advantage when it comes to shirt sales.”
The impact of the Nike deal and other new partners attracted in recent months such as AXA’s sponsorship of the new training ground at Kirkby and the uplift in the sleeve sponsorship deal with Expedia will be reflected in the 2020/21 accounts, due next year.
However good those commercial deals may perform it will be of little comfort to Reds fans if the club misses out on the Champions League and fails to build on the stellar success of the last two years under Klopp.
If you thought getting to the summit was hard, staying there seems even harder and may require a change of stance from FSG.