Another FSG Conversation

I am not an FSG apologist. That being said, if you’re the sort of person that would tweet #FSGOUT in a non-ironic way then I’d suggest that you don’t even bother reading this piece. Equally, if you follow me on Twitter then you might want to click the ‘Unfollow’ button. I have a healthy scepticism of our American owners, but I also pride myself in attempting to be balanced as much as possible. If you line up the positives and negatives of Fenway Sports Group as owners of Liverpool Football Club then I think the positives easily tip the scale. Just because they’ve got more right than wrong doesn’t mean that they haven’t made any mistakes, however, and I think they’re in the middle of making one at the moment. Anyone that watched our match against Manchester United yesterday will be under no illusion about where our biggest weakness currently is.

Everyone in world football knows that we need to sign a centre-back, so there’s no way that it’s escaped the attention of those in charge of FSG. The problem is that I’m not totally sure how easy it is to sign one right now. The obvious answer is to bring in one on loan and I have a feeling that that might well be what we end up doing before the window ‘slams shut’. The question that John Henry and his cronies will presumably want answered is how useful a loan signing will be and how much better than either Rhys Williams or Nat Phillips they’ll prove to be. The reason it’s a question that they’ll want answering is that few football clubs will be willing to let a decent defender leave in the middle of the season unless they’re getting decent recompense for their decision. That’s not really going to happen with a loan move, so is it really all on FSG and, if so, why aren’t they moving?

It’s All About The Money

Most of the conversations that I’ve heard about the current situation seem to be completely ignoring the fact that we’re in the middle of a global pandemic. Fenway Sports Group are not, have never been and will never be sugar daddy owners. They are not willing to spend money like it’s going out of fashion in the same way that the likes of Chelsea or Manchester City’s owners will. For some supporters, that will never be good enough and they’ll happily turn a blind eye to how well run we’ve been as a club in order to criticise the Americans. Regardless of your opinion, the reality is that all clubs are being financially sensible right now. Let’s not forget that Barcelona, one of the biggest clubs in Spain, are having to ask banks not to call in debt repayments for fear that it will bankrupt them. Little wonder a group of hedge fund managers are being risk averse right now.

FSG’s model at Liverpool has been one of playing sensible, balancing the books between player sales and acquisitions. Even if Jürgen Klopp was desperate to hold on to all of his players right now, the change in rules over foreign players mean that he wouldn’t be able to, but it’s tricky to open up a space in the squad if none of your fringe players want to leave or no one else wants to buy them. The owners are never going to be willing to pay off the contract of a player like Divock Origi in order to give another player a contact that they’ll also have to pay for and that’s something that too many people seem to be ignoring. Having spent money or taken on debt in order to redevelop the Main Stand and build a brand new training centre, it’s not even as if they’ve been particularly miserly during their time as custodians of the club. Right now, though, they are looking at a situation where income is down by a huge degree and they don’t know when it will be back up.

Buying Players Isn’t Easy When You Won’t Overspend

Who should Liverpool buy in the remainder of the window? If we’re going to actively purchase a defender then there’s no way that Jürgen Klopp or Michael Edwards would sanction a short-term solution and I’ve already mentioned the problem with loan options. With that in mind, the level of centre-back that we’d be looking at will almost certainly be playing regularly for their club right now and how many sides will be willing to let such a player go without receiving a premium for them? Imagine that you want to buy a house in the summer and have identified the one that is for you. It costs £500,000, which you can afford. Your landlord is happy to let you stay in the flat you’re renting until then, so it’s all good. Winter comes and your landlord has changed their mind. They want you out and when you ask the sellers if you can buy they house earlier they want £750,000 for it. The problem is that you’ve lost your job, so that’s suddenly too much. What do you do?

That is far from a perfect metaphor, but it gives you an indication of the position that the owners currently find themselves in. Let’s imagine that Dayot Upemecano is the player that we want, but he’s an important player to Leipzig and we’re playing them in the Champions League next month. His release clause says he can go for £40 million in the summer, but the German side want £70 million to let him go this month. How can FSG justify the extra £30 million at a time when their income has taken a battering? It’s far from an easy situation and there is no obvious solution. As hedge fund managers they will be more than aware of the risk of the Reds not making it in the Champions League places for next season, but might it be worth rolling the dice on Klopp achieving it without needing to spend an extra £30 million? Especially if that money has been earmarked for the likes of Erling Haaland or Kylian Mbappe. There are no easy answers right now.

One Response
  1. January 25, 2021

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