Mo Chatra

Mo Chatra

24-08-2022

20:39

As we move into the closing stretch of the summer transfer window, many Liverpool fans' now annual tradition of agonising over the club's transfer activities is in full swing (especially after Monday's result). This thread considers whether complaints of under-investment are fair

There can be no question that the club went through a stellar purple patch on the recruitment front between the summers of 2016 to 2018; Gini, Mane, Matip, VvD, Mo, Robbo, Alisson and Fabinho proved to be fantastic signings, with the likes of Shaq and Naby being solid additions.

During that period, the club spent close to £400m, though much of the spend on incomings was funded by player sales (£280m).

Since then, the club has spent relatively modest amounts on incomings- outlay on incomings has been approximately £240m (thus far) with sales of £194m (or a £46m net spend post 2018).

For the first team squad, that outlay has gone on Elliott, Minamino, Jota, Thiago, Tsimi, Konate, Diaz, Nunez, Carvalho and Ramsay. That is less money than Newcastle will have spent this calendar year by the end of next week, and also, by some distance the least of the Big Six.

The table below contains a lot of information, but it helps put this analysis into better context. It presents figures for the Big Six from 2018/19 to 2021/22 in respect of turnover and wages (21/22 are all best estimates; the clubs' accounts have not been published).

It also contains net spend information based on figures available from and percentages covering four seasons since 18/19 and transfer windows from summer 2019 onwards (on the basis income generated in 18/19 then funded transfer spend in summer 2019).

In simple terms, this analysis shows that of all revenue generated by Liverpool over the past four seasons, just 2% has gone towards funding transfer activity (based on a net spend of £46m).

All of the other Big Six clubs' net spend relative to turnover is significantly greater- though as we've seen from the likes of Manchester United, spending more money does not always equate to a fine hit rate.

Liverpool's wage bill has increased significantly over recent years, thanks in large part to the heavily incentivised nature of contracts the club has in place. That said, wages to turnover is relatively on par with other rival clubs.

Nonetheless, it has struggled to spend at anywhere near the levels of the other Big Six clubs during the period in question. Some of this is due to other clubs operating under very different circumstances; Abramovich pumped £250m of his money into Chelsea...

... Arsenal had built up very significant cash reserves in the past and they have dipped into them to help finance their heavy transfer outlay whereas Spurs' owner took out a £110m loan this year to use as equity to help finance transfer spend (despite the enormous stadium debt).

The most notable metric is the one in the final column in the table, which shows net spend relative to turnover. Liverpool's is 2% whereas the other clubs are between four and thirteen times bigger (as a percentage).

Granted, Liverpool has had infrastructure costs to meet, with repaying of the Main Stand loan (£28m paid towards this between 18/19 - 20/21, with any further reduction of the loan yet to be reported) as well as £56m on the AXA Training Complex.

However, others have incurred infrastructure-related costs too. Tottenham Hotspur had over £850m in loans owing to funders at the end of 20/21 (for the stadium) and even Manchester United spent £54m on infrastructure between 18/19 - 20/21.

Each of the six clubs is very different, and their risk appetite during and after the pandemic varied quite markedly (FSG were keen to minimise exposure to financial risk for them personally, hence why they went as far as looking to furlough staff).

This was absolutely a factor in financial decision making between summer 2020 and last summer (and this clearly created tensions in the January 2021 window when Klopp came as close as he has ever done to calling out the owners over not signing a centre-back).

However, lack of spend cannot be pinned squarely on the owners. Klopp and the recruitment team have a very selective approach to identifying the right fits for roles/positions. Has Klopp and/or Ward et. al. been too fussy over midfield targets this window?

A question that has been debated much over the last several weeks - and especially since Monday - is whether the club has no money. That is simply not true. My estimates are for Liverpool to have generated approximately as much (if not more) money as Man United for 21/22.

Despite United's owners taking millions in dividends out of the club, they will likely have a NET SPEND exceeding £200m this transfer window- and like Liverpool's owners, the Glazers will not be funding any of that from their own pockets. This will all be funded from club revenue

Liverpool's infrastructure spend is a red herring. The club, without any question, can afford to deliver and finance those projects, maintain a wage bill exceeding £300m yet still fund very significant outlay in the transfer market.

So where does all the money go? I cannot itemise where it all goes, and contrary to what some people think, the club's accounts do not break this all down fully either.

From the main P&L accounts, there is no breakdown of what the £52m cost of sales is comprised of.

Of the £476m of admin expenses, the following two extracts provide only a partial breakdown amounting to £435m, so no explanation is provided for the remaining £41m (though a fair chunk of that is likely to relate to agents' fees, which amounted to £22m for Feb '21 to Jan '22).

What financial accounts evidence/don’t evidence or prove/don’t prove is a separate thread in itself, but I’ve noticed them being used both ways in arguments amongst Reds recently. However, I felt it was important to clear up this misconception about them.

Nonetheless, regardless of whomever is responsible for transfer spending decisions, the club has on its hands one of the oldest squads in the Premier League- and this is partly down to not bringing in enough younger talent in over these last four summers

... (even one additional quality signing coming in per summer, with an older player making way, would have made an appreciable difference to the squad age profile).

All that aside, the club is leaving itself with a very significant squad overhaul for next summer and the summer after- and it very much feels like this predicament could have been avoided by slightly more proactive transfer market activity post-2018.

I could understand being in this situation had we generated significantly less money; but we’ve made more money this last year than all but a small handful of clubs in the history of the game- and yet we still appear to be leaving ourselves short for the fourth successive summer.



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