Liverpool’s Transfer Policy
From Committee to Simple Communication
Jurgen Klopp arrived on Merseyside in October 2015 with a reputation for doing a lot with little at his disposal. In the storm cloud of Brendan Rodgers’ failed transfer committee, most thought that this meant the committee would stay intact, with Klopp even facing questions about it in his introductory presser. He simply said that he had the first and last word on the goings on in his team, but that everything else was open to discussion.
His first eight months yielded two cup finals with a team largely not his own, which was an achievement that even the most optimistic of Liverpool fans saw as ahead of schedule. Though we came close with the same players that Klopp’s predecessor could only finish mid-table with, it was obvious that reinforcements were needed.
In 2016, Sadio Mane, Joel Matip and Gini Wijnaldum arrived as the three biggest additions to team. With Mane being the most expensive purchase at £30million, the previous regime of the Moneyball approach was being felt. Many put this down to the committee and the club’s reluctance to spend money with the teams around us prepared to break the bank, though Klopp insisted he didn’t need what others had to build a successful side.
That season, Liverpool finished fourth as another milestone was approached, and they once again earned the right to eat at Europe’s biggest table in club football.
Despite Klopp’s words to the media, it then became obvious that his conversations with the club’s hierarchy weren’t quite to the same tune. We broke our transfer record with the acquisition of Mo Salah, leaving the dark days of Andy Carroll’s £35m flop firmly in the past. We matched that with Alex Oxlade-Chaimberlain, and before his tenacious displays down the stretch in our run to Kiev, many were left scratching their heads at why the club would spend so much money on a player that fans and media alike saw as a serviceable backup.
Still, our needs weren’t quite met. Andy Robertson at left back arrived for £8m from Hull, most of which we got back as Kevin Stewart went the other way in a deal that also seemed to confuse most Kopites. But what was perhaps our biggest need was still to be filled. After a saga with many twists and turns, Virgil van Dijk seemed like a pipe dream given our previous reluctance to spend and an official club statement announcing our interest to be over right before the end of the window that summer.
And then, by some stroke of luck, everything changed. Many attribute the 3-3 draw with Arsenal as a direct factor for why Reds everywhere were given an early Christmas present when the club signed the Dutch center half, smashing the transfer record set the previous summer by some distance. That would be three times in six months the club would break the record set in 2010, with Salah and Ox by then at the peak of their powers, and van Dijk hitting the ground running with a winning goal against Everton in the FA Cup.
Since then, Liverpool have broken the €50million barrier three times, paying a premium to sign Naby Keita on a pre-agreed deal from Red Bull Leipzig, putting another happy end to a transfer saga from last summer. The club also addressed our long-standing need for an out and out defensive midfielder when Fabinho arrived from Monaco before the World Cup, and to that point breaking the world record fee for a goalkeeper when Alisson came from Roma for €87m.
So the question is, what happened? Why, after so long, did Liverpool finally loosen the purse strings? There are several easy answers. When Michael Edwards took the reins as CEO from Ian Ayre, the club began to implement a policy of not being pushovers when approached to sell. Edwards oversaw the sale of Phillipe Coutinho to Barcelona for £142m, adamant that we wouldn’t settle for anything less than top dollar in a market that saw Neymar go to PSG for over €200m.
With the departure of Ayre, the idea of the transfer committee also seemed to go out the window. Klopp’s previous statements on the committee seemed to say as much. Some still seemed to believe that it was in place whenever we failed to secure a signing, even though the club’s track record since appointing Edwards seemingly spoke for itself.
Another factor could be the results. Klopp’s assurance that he didn’t need to spend money was followed up with our high-priced arrivals. As stated, this was a classic case of what the manager says to the media and what the manager does being two separate things. So it stands to reason that after having a look at his squad and realizing reinforcements were needed, Klopp went to the owners and said he needed money to be successful. The owner’s obvious response was that they needed to see results, after previously being caught between a rock and a hard place following the sale of Luis Suarez, with Brendan Rodgers and the committee electing to look for quantity over quality.
As an aside from that, the owners seem to be taking a much more hands-off approach to the team, allowing those in charge, namely Edwards and Klopp, to do their jobs without too much interference, and keeping the lines of communication as open as possible. This is something that’s seemingly a part of the ethos for their other franchise, the Boston Red Sox, with their own CEO quoted saying after their World Series win this past week that he found it important to “let the manager manage, and communicate as much as possible.”
And so, while Klopp’s tendency to find diamonds in the rough is still there, he seems less bogged down than the previous regime to do everything with off-brand versions of the things he needs. Whether it’s down to results, or the club being in better hands than it was when he got there, or the abolishment of the failed committee, for the Reds, and for Klopp, it seems to be working.
Long may it continue.