“The day that this is football, I’m not in a job anymore, because the game is about playing together. That is how everybody in football understands it. You always want to have the best, but building the group is necessary to be successful. Other clubs can go out and spend more money and collect top players. I want to do it differently. I would even do it differently if I could spend that money.”
It’s a Jürgen Klopp quote from 2016 when Manchester United parted with a then world record fee to bring Paul Pogba back to Old Trafford. It’s been given a lot of air-time since the turn of the year.
With the Reds now adding the world’s most expensive goalkeeper to the world’s most expensive defender, the German tactician is being branded a hypocrite.
If reports are to be believed, the beaten Champions League finalists parted with around the £66million mark to bring Alisson to Anfield. It took their spending so far this summer to just under £180million, and with Klopp eyeing an attacking midfielder it’s safe to say the £200million barrier will be broken.
On the surface at least, it’s true, such lavish spending does appear to suggest that Klopp has turned into a chequebook manager. Fans of the Merseyside club haven’t ever seen their team be so aggressive in the market.
But unlike others before them, Liverpool aren’t spending beyond their means. They aren’t buying success.
The club pocketed £142million from Barcelona for Philippe Coutinho in January. The fee isn’t guaranteed but as many reported at the time, the clauses in place are realistic. And even without the bonuses, the Reds still saw their bank balance swell by at least £102million.
Combine that with the £30million they received for Mamadou Sakho and Lucas Leiva and the £7million in loan fees for Divock Origi and Daniel Sturridge and the Reds raked in close to £180 million, inclusive of the Coutinho add-ons.
Furthermore, that’s without making any sales this summer. Leicester City transfer target Danny Ward is expected to join the Foxes for a fee in the region of £12million while Simon Mignolet, Lazar Markovic, Danny Ings, Origi and Gini Wijnaldum have all been linked with moves away from Anfield.
It’s unlikely the Reds will sell all of those players but parting ways with three of them could easily see £50million banked.
It’s all theoretical for now but Liverpool’s net spend over the last three transfer windows could be close to £120million. It’s not an eye-watering amount when the money from the Champions League run as well as the new Premier League TV deal is considered.
That’s not to suggest Fenway Sports Group are scrimping – they aren’t – but in a post-Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain world, this sort of spending is going to be the norm. If Liverpool – and Klopp – refused to adapt they’d perish.
But despite embracing the new world, the Liverpool boss is still doing it differently. He’s not spending recklessly or for the sake of it. If he feels a player is unique and will improve his starting XI then they get his full backing and the Reds will perhaps pay over the odds – see Alisson, van Dijk and Naby Keïta for more details.
But, generally speaking, those on Merseyside still look for value where possible. Xherdan Shaqiri for £13million looks a shrewd buy, especially when Manchester City paid a club record £60million to sign Riyad Mahrez.
The circumstances were different but it highlights the fact Liverpool aren’t swayed by reputation and names. It’s all about the profile of the player. The former Stoke City man ticked the boxes and it’s possible he’s the reason interest in long-term Liverpool transfer target Thomas Lemar was shelved.
There’s more proof of this when analysing Liverpool transfer targets. Klopp wanted Manuel Akanji in January, a project at centre-back to complement van Dijk, Dejan Lovren and Joël Matip whereas Manchester City spent £57million on Aymeric Laporte to bring their total spend on centre-backs recently to £180million.
Chelsea, meanwhile, lavished £65million on David Luiz and Antonio Rüdiger to go along with Gary Cahill, César Azpilicueta and Andreas Christensen. Now £40million-rated Daniele Rugani is a Chelsea transfer target following Maurizio Sarri's appointment.
Collectively, despite spending £75million on one player, Liverpool’s four centre-back options cost in the same region as what Chelsea and Manchester United paid for theirs. Furthermore, Liverpool parted with a similar amount to secure the services of Keïta and Fabinho – a younger, more dynamic duo – as the Red Devils did to land Nemanja Matić and Fred.
Liverpool are still identifying players who fit their profile. They’re still bringing in players who can improve under Klopp. They reached the Champions League final with Andrew Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold as their full-backs, the pair cost a combined £8million. His front three of Salah, Sadio Mané and Roberto Firmino come in at roughly £20million more than United spent to sign Romelu Lukaku.
The Liverpool boss is not removed from his roots as some might claim. He’s just doing it his own way on a grander scale like he said he would.
“I would even do it differently if I could spend that money.”