FSG took their biggest Liverpool gamble yet and it has backfired – Liverpool Echo

This is not Anfield and this is not a real Premier League term.

But the real tragedy for Liverpool, now seventh and fresh from five straight home defeats, is the lasting ramifications this dystopian pseudo-season will have on what had looked like a blindingly bright future just last summer.

At a time when no supporters are allowed inside grounds across the country, a condensed calendar has led to an emphatic surge of muscle injuries that have robbed those still tuning into the overwhelming volume of TV fixtures of the sport’s brightest talents.

On top of the sterile and interchangeable environments that matches are played in by patched-up and exhausted squads, the looming spectre that is VAR is never too far away from raising its cold, dead hand.

A hand that is probably in possession of an offside flag.

So the plain facts are that it might be easier for some who have been unable to attend live football for the last 12 months to switch off, tune out and build up a hardened apathy towards a distorted product of what they once knew as football.

A cursory glance across social media shows an apparently increasing number of Liverpool supporters, some of them staunch followers who travel the length and breadth of the country and continent, seemingly content to shut off until next season.

The game, in its current form – while infinitely preferable to the wilderness that was the three-month hiatus last year – is apparently too far removed from what many remember, which was something they loved.

Now, it is said to be endured mainly out of routine.

But while those who support have the luxury to be able to choose the scale of their emotional investment to an extent, those on the inside at Liverpool simply do not.

For them, the fight continues.

Even if they are looking at the lights and trying to answer a count right now.

So Jurgen Klopp and his punch-drunk squad will carry on. There is no other choice.

It would be easy to bury heads in the sand and write this season-like-no-other off as just that.

With supporters hopefully back inside stadiums across English football next season and Liverpool potentially towards the back end of their centre-back crisis, Klopp will once more have something close to a full complement of the squad who won the title by 18 points in July.

Thiago Alcantara and Diogo Jota are also on board and Klopp may finally, belatedly, get to name what he will feel is his strongest XI.

There, then, is some optimism on the horizon as far as next season is concerned, even if many cannot understandably see the wood for the trees right now.

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But the real issue for the Reds is that while this campaign can be wilfully dismissed as a one-off aberration, its consequences will be lasting.

If Liverpool drop out of the top four in the Premier League, which looks increasingly likely every time they go another Anfield game without a goal right now, then years of hard work and excellence is in serious jeopardy of being undone.

“The main reason for qualifying for the Champions League is always for financial reasons,” Klopp said earlier this week. “It is a great competition to play in, but for the club, you want to excite some players to join.”

So just who will Liverpool be able to convince to come and “push the train”, as Klopp once coined it, should they miss out on the lucrative figures that come via association with Europe’s top club competition?

It is why club owners Fenway Sports Group were planning Liverpool’s future on a false economy when the January transfer window was still open.

Long-term injuries to Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez – in October and November, respectively – plus the inability for Joel Matip to stay fit left the world and his wife in agreement that centre-backs were needed at the turn of the year.

But rather than break with their financial model, whether through an unwillingness or inability to, FSG took the gamble that Klopp’s masterful management would be able to keep Liverpool at the forefront of the game without the need for drastic, costly action.

Instead a last-gasp delve into the Championship to take advantage of Ben Davies’ contract situation at Preston was signed off before a desperate dash across the continent saw Ozan Kabak join on loan.

Kabak’s arrival was agreed on a “try-before-you-buy” deal while Davies’ initial £500,000 sum was offset by the loan departure of Takumi Minamino.

Liverpool, despite the glaringly obvious need to, didn’t spend when the window was open. Or, more accurately, they were not out of pocket when the deadline passed on February 1.

Klopp was at least granted two more options for a depleted centre-back department that is now home to midfielders who are now able to claim squatters’ rights.

It was all too little, too late for a Liverpool team who needed significant strengthening at the beginning of the month.

Attempting to keep the club on top and financially insulated by a top-four berth on a shoestring left too much to chance.

At just 20, it is harsh to criticise Kabak, while Davies is yet to kick a ball for the club, but the sticking plaster has not yet healed the wound that needs stitching.

The American ownership group have made their fame and most certainly their fortune off calculated risks, such is the nature of their business.

But this appears to be one that has fallen flat.

Klopp needed help at the turn of the year.

Instead, the only support he received was the private conviction that he was good enough to continue his magic in the midst of a debilitating injury dilemma.

Unless the 10-year business strategy is set for a stern revision with regards to the constraints in which Liverpool’s recruitment team have to operate, then the ongoing reports of FSG’s potential investment deal with RedBird is one of the last games in town.

A report in America last week claimed FSG are close to selling 10 per cent of their company to RedBird Capital for $750million (£536m).

Quite what that will mean to Liverpool’s long-term finances and ability to compete at the top end of the transfer market is simply a guessing game right now.

But given the paucity of what the Reds were able to do in January, coupled with the fact that it has been a year since any significant revenue has come in from a match-day, it is fair to suggest that additional financial clout will be needed to return to the club to the position they found themselves in just last year.

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Much like their fortunes on the pitch in recent, Liverpool’s standing off it has risen significantly in recent years under the guidance of their owners and the people they have employed in key areas.

The lucrative Nike deal came hot on the heels of record-breaking shirt sales under the New Balance agreement. That success was based on the on-field success of Klopp’s Reds at the time.

But as the club continue to evolve under the Americans, the feeling that a need to spend in order to accumulate persists to sustain what has been wildly successful three years.

When the final whistle blows on this wretched campaign on May 23, thoughts can drift slowly towards a return to some semblance of normality at Anfield.

But what happens from there could be seismic. On and off the pitch.