Shrewd Spending in a Time of Need

by Nick Weaser

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

Over the regular morning coffee today, I was reading that Liverpool’s new multi-millionaire owners NESV have told reporters that come January, the board will be spending-smart, and not splashing out on any big-money signings. Now, although this may sound like the complete antithesis to what the Liverpudlians had been hoping for, I cannot help but back John W Henry’s decision.

Under Rafael Benitez, the figures speak for themselves: Rafa spent £230 million in six years on fees alone. Yet, it is unquestionable that the poor signings completely outweighed those that succeeded at Anfield; Morientes, Keane, Voronin, Dossena, Babel, Gonzalez, just to name a few. Giving Rafa his due, he did make a few huge coups, signing the likes of Torres, Mascherano, and Xabi Alonso. Nevertheless, when he decided that the door was open for his best defensive-midfielder to leave and head to Madrid, he resorted to his usual policy of buying quantity rather than quality. Xabi Alonso, one of the most adored players among Liverpool fans, replaced by none other than Lucas Leiva (although bought a year earlier) and Alberto Aquilani. If you know even an infinitesimal amount about football, you will know that the comparison is non-existant.

Compare these decisions with the likes of Manchester United or Arsenal (putting ‘money is no object’  Chelsea to one side). Wenger has always insisted on building from the grass-roots up, reaping huge rewards as a result, whilst Fergie is very shrewd with what money is made available to him. Granted, Hodgson has clearly ruled with his heart rather than his head with the signing of Paul Konchesky, but nevertheless, with a relatively small budget come January, Hodgson is the perfect Manager to wield the axe on the dead wood at the club, whilst bringing in real star potential. The names being touted in the papers this morning; Defour, Afellay, and Eden Hazard; are exactly what Liverpool need. If I were a Liverpool fan, I would rather have those three exciting prospects, than a Rafa-style gamble on a whole new starting 11.

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  • mike

    it basically shows you what an amazing job Arsene Wenger is doing at Arsenal. Read last blog comments

    Liverpool are doomed. I can’t see them getting back into the big 4 for a long time, there’s no players coming through. They need 6 or 7 players, and they will cost a lot of money!!

  • Benji Inwood

    Great blog Nick.

    Can’t predent I don’t come to this subject from a partisan point of view, but I’m going to do what I can in trying to stick up for Benitez, perhaps in vain but I believe on certain subjects he is very unfairly remembered. His net spend was somewhere between 95m and 110m depending on which sources you read. The 230m figure ignores sales. This is not the way Wenger is judged (one of his main achievements often heralded is the remarkable deal on Anelka), so lets apply these parameters to Rafa as well.

    The idea that Rafa’s poor signings unquestionably outweigh his good ones is in my opinion entirely questionable. Perhaps regarding the frequency of his signings it is a fair point. However, financially the bulk of his money was spent on Mascherano, Torres, Johnson, Alonso, Babel, Kuyt, Aquilani, Bellamy, Dossena, Crouch, Agger, Reina, Sissoko, Riera and Keane. Those 15, certainly a mixed bag of playes, make up 187.5m, just over 80% of the 230m gross spend. Of those players, 6 are still at the club. 5 of those are contributing regularly, and are some of the better players for that (I am excluding Ryan Babel). 1, Aquilani, is on loan, although admittedly unlikely to raise many transfer funds anytime soon. The other 8, signed for a collective 85.1m, were sold for 94.95m.

    I guess what I am trying to say is not that Rafa was a magician, but that these statistics are incredibly maliable depending on how you interpret them. However, to suggest Rafa threw money down the toilet whilst Ferguson is somehow frugal is insane. If pennant and morientes constitute a case against Rafa, then Kleberson and Djemba-Djemba constitue a convincing case against Ferguson. However, they don’t, and similarly you cannot use Mark Gonzalez as a stick with which to beat Benitez while glossing over Xabi Alonso and Fernando Torres.

    On the potential signings, I’d argue this: Defour, unproven. Successful in Belgium, but one of many players in their national side who have failed to propel Beligium to where they should be, on paper (maybe this means he will fit right in in In-ger-land). 1 goal in 24 internationals. Affellay, if he leaves he will go to a club with cash in the Champs league. and they will be bidding for him. Great talent. Hazard? Another unproven player. In the French league, which if anyone has watched this season is truly dreadful. However, this doesnt mean hes no good, just we’ll have to wait and see. I guess the same applies to Defour. Maybe its a moot point, as I’m not convinced Hodgson will be in a job come Xmas.

    One things for sure, Benitez’s ‘Moneyball’-esque economics would have resonated with NESV’saproach. Pragmatism.

    Great blog nick, I hope my (at times) controversial comments might draw some reaction and debate! x

  • Simon W

    Doomed? So says an IDIOT who supports one of Arsenal, City, Spurs, Yernited or Chelskov no doubt? I presume said idiot FORGETS that in the past 30 years or so alone – City (twice), United, Chelsea and Spurs have ALL been relegated and only 15 years ago in ’95? Arsenal almost were as well. Point being? Point being Prat – Liverpool are NOT doomed – Very FAR from it actually – LOOK at their record for the past FIVE decades or so; Notice anything yet? Yep, despite Numerous such predictions as this and Much worse from FAR more credible sources than yourself? Liverpool not only survived but flourished – Indeed so much did they flourish that they’ve yet to finish out of the Top 10 in England’s Top Division in those past 50 years not even ONCE!! And rarely have they looked like doing so either – Look at what happened to Chelsea (relegated in ’87), United (likewise in ’75ish), City (the same to many times to count) and Spurs (relegated and then promoted in the early 80’s/late 70’s) THAT is doomed – Liverpool are not that and thus are not doomed – You know the REALLY great thing about the Liverbird? Just when ALL think it is doomed/done/finished/whatever? It ALWAYS rises back out of the flames to confound it’s enemies – Liverpool have done that numerous times in the past and STILL you do not learn – Maybe you’ll learn This time for they WILL do it once again – Mark my words – Liverpool WILL be back and most probably FAR sooner than you think……………………………

    NB: Not that Roy Hodgson will be around to see or have ANYTHING to do with said Renaissance – He’ll be gone within 4 matches at the VERY most – He’s going to be fired in a couple of weeks and no number of ‘defend me I’m English’ pleas to the odious UK Press ‘Don’t look at me; It’s ALL Rafa’s fault’ or ‘I know what I know and am NOT changing’ rants will disguise that will they? I await eagerly the day he receives his much deserved bullet as our manager.

  • Chamberlain

    In my opinion it would be extremely sensible to sell Torres at the earliest opportunity. It is time for players to concentrate on playing and not be dabbling in money management at clubs. It appears all thes players want to have major says in who does or does not come to the club! Look at Everton. The best thing they did was in selling Rooney to ManU as it brought them much needed cash and it did not deteriorate from their performances! They still play at around or a little above their usual league level. It did them no harm.
    Liverpool will struggle to re-build but they will never be the force that they were. The sale was under conditions that the new stadium would be built and cash available for player replacement. Both those conditions seem to have been ignored and we are getting confirmation to that effect from NESV already. What money that will be available will be from selling before buying just as it was before the take-over. I have the suspicion that with the imminent Indian take over of Blackburn then the top league clubs for the next decade or so will be Chelsea, Man City,Man United,Arsenal,Spurs,Aston Villa, Blackburn. I add the latter as I believe that like Chelsea and Man City they will escape the new money investment rules as the owners of these clubs either do already give the money as gifts to the club or as in the case of Blackburn will give as gifts.
    I suspect that LFC will be trimmed and polished for a couple of years and then sold on to the benefit of NESV as they realize they cannot apply North American sports strategum to world football and compete.

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