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22nd Sep 2016

Liverpool are Europe’s biggest selling club – but that could all change with Jurgen Klopp in charge

The Reds have made more money from player sales than any other club in Europe

Tony Barrett

The headline figure inevitably created headlines.

£380.5m is a big enough number in its own right but it was made even more attention grabbing by being associated with Liverpool after researchers at the CIES Football Observatory discovered that is the amount that the Merseyside club has made from players sales since 2010. For once, Liverpool were top of a league, as this was a sum that none of their European competitors could match.

What this means is open to debate. On the one hand, it could be argued that Liverpool have sold well; that they have not wasted time when players have been deemed of little use and that they have also, at times, maximised value.

But on the other, the argument is that they have sold too much and too often and that as a result squad stability has been reduced and good players have found it easier to leave than would have been the case in the past. There is probably merit in all of those arguments.

The idea, though, that Liverpool have become a selling club is too simplistic, without even taking into account that most clubs are now willing to allow their best players to leave if valuations are met. Liverpool are also a buying club and a prolific one at that. They have become compulsive traders, always looking to speculate to accumulate and being involved in more transfers than most of their domestic rivals.

during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and West Ham United at Anfield on August 29, 2015 in Liverpool, England.


It is an issue that senior figures at the club, past and present, have been aware of and have attempted to control. After Liverpool signed ten players and sold seven in the summer of 2014, Brendan Rodgers admitted that level of turnover had to be and would be reduced and, in fairness, it was with eight incoming signings and five outgoing signings the following summer. But the pattern of buying and selling with players coming and going with an unhealthy regularity is one that Liverpool are yet to break.

In the transfer window just gone, Liverpool made six signings, a more conservative intake than has been the case in recent summers, but as many as thirteen players departed. Of the eight players signed in 2013/14, only two remain and one of those, Mamadou Sakho, is currently out of favour, while the other, Simon Mignolet, is now under pressure from Loris Karius, an even more recent arrival.

The intake over the following 12 months has fared better with six of the ten signings made establishing themselves as either first team regulars or squad members.

An inevitable spin-off of Anfield’s revolving door effect has been that Liverpool continuously find themselves at the top of another league table – that of payments to agents. In 2011/12 their outlay was £8.6m, an amount that Ian Ayre, their chief executive, said “we will always try to reduce”.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 09: Jurgen Klopp at Anfield is unveiled as the new manager of Liverpool FC as he stands alongside Tom Werner (l) the chairman and Ian Ayre (r) the chief executive during a photocall at Anfield on October 9, 2015 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)(Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)


The following year agents fees cost Liverpool £9.4m, with a further £14.3m following in the 12 months after.

What has to be said is that such spending is in keeping with a club that is trying to better itself. Their attempts to improve have lacked direction at times – the signings of Christian Benteke and Mario Balotelli being two of the most obvious examples – but their activity in the transfer market has been and still is underpinned by a desire to enhance the quality of players at their manager’s disposal.

If there has been an issue that has undermined such ambitions it is the changes of direction which has seen the preferred model of Fenway Sports Group (FSG), the club’s owners, become more malleable than it should have been and the changes of manager which have impacted on the way Liverpool’s transfer strategy has been implemented.

To use one lineage – FSG appointed Kenny Dalglish who signed Andy Carroll for £35m, sacked Dalglish and appointed Brendan Rodgers who sold Carroll for £17m and signed Benteke for £32.5m, sacked Rodgers and replaced him with Jurgen Klopp who sold Benteke for £32m.

It is that kind of trading which has meant Liverpool have spent much of the last six years running to stand still. Which is why the significance of their appointment of Klopp goes beyond the recent improvement he has overseen on the pitch.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 09: Jurgen Klopp is unveiled as the new manager of Liverpool FC during a press conference at Anfield on October 9, 2015 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

A manager who cannot understand the obsession others have in the transfer window, Klopp proved himself resistant to demands that he sign a left back and a holding midfielder during the summer. It may yet backfire on him, although the early signs are that Liverpool are not as weak in those positions as many had anticipated, but this was an important indication that Klopp is not going to be a conspicuous consumer and that if the right players are not available he will not be entering the market.

Instead, the Liverpool manager wants to oversee a more conservative approach to transfers as he looks to make more progress from player development than player recruitment in an attempt to bring more stability.

“You need to make changes and everyone is under pressure but the most important thing is this is the past,” Klopp said today. “Our last transfer window was busy and I don’t want to have these busy windows. It is not that important [to sign lots of players] because if you are really convinced development doesn’t stop after a year [you should be true to that idea]. You have more success by having consistency. Successful teams don’t have to change a lot.

“Liverpool has no need to be a selling club. No-one forces us to sell. All is positive but it is about finding the right squad. I am not usually that busy in transfer windows.

“We sold/gave away five or six players but that was the situation as the squad was quite big. We brought in the players we wanted to have – six – and if everything is going well – and that is the target – then we don’t have to buy another six next year.

“Change is sometimes good but not everyone was 100% happy in the last few years when we earned this amount of money. We need to try to bring in a little bit more consistency to this.”

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