Does Salah Contract Tip Balance Of Scales In FSG’s Favour?

Fenway Sports Group have made mistakes during their ownership of Liverpool Football Club. Of that there can be no question, with the European Super League being the most obvious moment that errors were made. Whilst I personally believe that there is a need to stand up to UEFA, such is the extent to which the governing body for football in Europe takes its power for granted, there is no doubt that the Super League project was doomed to fail from the start. You cannot have an organisation that doesn’t allow for teams to be relegated out of it or promoted into and expect to be taken seriously. That it became clear that FSG didn’t communicate what they were planning with Jürgen Klopp, his managerial team nor the players made it even worse, ultimately leading to John Henry recording an apology over it all. Similar to the desire to raise ticket prices to untenable levels, it was a mistake that they backed down from but that shouldn’t have been made in the first place.

The reason I mention their mistakes is that I don’t want anyone reading this to think that I am some sort of FSG zealot. I believe balance is always important when talking about any topic, or at least topics that have two sides that should be weighted equally. The #FSGOUT weirdos on social media will never acknowledge that the owners have done good things during their time in charge, so they lose the argument immediately by being so one-eyed. I don’t like to make the same mistake. I always feel that it is important to talk of the mistakes that have been made as readily as the things that have gone well. For the owners, the balance has been tipped in their favour in recent months. That the manager and his team have agreed to sign new contracts was a real shot in the arm for everyone and proof, were it needed, that Klopp is more than happy with them being in charge of the club. Mistakes happen, fixing them is what matters the most and that’s what FSG have done.

But For City, We’d Be All-Conquering

It is easy to complain about Manchester City’s dominance. The sports-washing carried about by the United Arab Emirates means that the Cityzens have cheated, pure and simple. Whether it be lying about where their funding comes from or paying people via offshore accounts, they have mocked UEFA’s Financial Fair Play directive and ruined the game. Were it not for the financial doping that has taken place at the Etihad, Liverpool would have won a Premier League and Champions League double in 2018-2019, retained the title in 2019-2020 and won a domestic treble last time out. It is obviously difficult to stomach missing out in such a manner and though I firmly believe that history will officially show that they cheated for their success, that doesn’t give us the opportunity to party like we should have done. It also means that Klopp and his team will always be seen as also-rans by many, which is such a ludicrous proposition when you think about it.

What we would have achieved in a world in which Manchester City’s cheating was punished would have been era-defining. It would have rivalled what Alex Ferguson pulled off at Old Trafford, albeit not over the same length of time. Perhaps our own Bob Paisley is a better comparison, such is the extent to which the former manager defined what it was to be successful. I always marvel at the mental gymnastics needed from the critics of Fenway Sports Group who somehow seem to think that we have achieved the success that we have in spite of the owners, not because of them. They claim that FSG are holding Jürgen Klopp back, yet never ask themselves why it is that the manager goes out of his way to praise them and even extended his contract under them. If he was that bothered by them, why wouldn’t he look elsewhere to fulfil his ambitions? He knows that they are the right owners at the right club at the right time, which is what leads to sustained success.

They’ve Got The Transfer Strategy Right

Make no mistake, Fenway Sports Group made errors in the transfer market when they first took over the club. Having made a name for themselves as the owners of the Boston Red Sox, they thought that such Billy Beane-based Moneyball strategies could work in the Premier League. It was for this reason that relatively big money was spent on the likes of Charlie Adam, Stewart Downing and Andy Carroll. When it was clear that that way of thinking was a mistake, they shifted strategy and began to opt for talented younger players that other clubs had rejected for one reason or another. Luis Suarez, Philippe Coutinho and Loris Karius all came on board during that period, offering differing levels of success. The sale of Coutinho allowed the Reds to built a team capable of challenging, thanks to the purchases of Virgil van Dijk and Alisson Becker, both coming in for then-world record fees in their position. Since then, the owners have got virtually every decision right, transfer wise.

The decision to offer Mohamed Salah a wage structure-breaking contract at the age of 30 is proof that Moneyball has been hit into the bleachers. The same is true of Jordan Henderson being offered a new contract because the manager stepped in and ensured that it happened. Add to that the agreement to pay around €100 million for Darwin Núñez and you can see that the owners have realised what it takes to win. It isn’t about refusing to spend any money or always selling before you can buy. Instead, it is about spending the right money at the right time on the right players, giving the responsibility for making the decision on that to people that have proven themselves. Michael Edwards was a master at his job and it appears initially as though he’s passed on his wisdom to Julian Ward. Whether their critics like it or not, FSG have put the structures in place to allow for a period of sustained success. The only thing they need to do moving forward is to cut out the mistakes that they end up apologising for anyway.

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