Blog by: Beyond The Kop
During the transfer window, a lot of rumours travel across the cyber space, float around the electronic media and ink themselves in the newspapers. A fair amount of acrimony also flies around as clubs go head to head, agents take on clubs and players confront clubs to force moves.
Suarez said quite a bit to get the backs of Kopites up in his bid to force a move. Exasperating as his comments were, they were trumped by comments from someone else.
One Monsieur Comolli beat Suarez. Remember him? Given the reaction to his comments, it is safe to say that his name alone engenders annoyance among Reds. In the midst of the Suarez saga, Comolli was quoted as saying Liverpool was a “top eight club not a top four club” and that the club was too small for Suarez’s ambitions.
Hurting as these comments were, it was the author that was more annoying. The comments were difficult to take given the role he played in what he sees as the club’s current status-top 8 club. This was a man who had the chance to help shape the recent history of the club in a positive sense. Yet mention of his name is only a reminder of an episode fans would rather forget; a deep scar the club is still struggling to recover from.
With a transfer budget of over £100 million pounds, over two transfer windows, the then director of football oversaw the recruitment of Carroll (£35 million), Suarez (£22.7 million), Henderson (£20 million), Adam (£7.5 million), Enrique (£6 million), Downing (£20 million). Suarez and Enrique apart, the rest of the players brought in did not justify their transfer fees.
While Henderson has began showing promise, the others have moved on at a whopping loss of about £40 million to the club. In the wake of the departure of Comolli, then LFC manager, Kenny Dalglish said he sanctioned the recruitment of all the players that came in during Comolli’s tenure.
However, given that Comolli’s remit as director of football includes recruitment; it is hard to believe he did not have a significant role in the process. Even if he had no hand in identifying the players, by virtue of his position he would have been involved in the negotiations.
On the evidence of the return LFC got from most of these signings, the club did not get a good deal and that is an indictment on the negotiators. The debate over Carroll, Downing and co. has little to do with their ability rather than their staggering price tags. They are good players but not good enough for the club and at those fees.
Imagine how the last three seasons would have gone for LFC if Caroll’s fees had bought Aguero and Downing’s had gone to get us Mata? LFC paid top notch fees for just average players under the watch of Comolli. Ever since those two transfer windows, the club’s spending has been considerably low as the shadow of that period continues to hang over the club’s activities in the transfer market.
But LFC cannot continue being a slave of the past. It was commendable that FSG wanted to spend to get the club back to its rightful place. However with their hands burnt as a result of the failings of men like Comolli, they have been timid to show similar “generosity” in subsequent windows.
The problem has been highlighted this season where LFC has been outspent by clubs aiming for survival or mid-table finish (Norwich and Southampton). LFC has been careful in the transfer market following the days of Comolli and this has led the club to trim wages, reduce expense on transfer fees and reduce agency fees. Commendable, but satisfactory?
While it is important for the club to be healthy financially, health on the pitch is critical. Given the aspirations of the club for the season and avowed aim of the owners to rebuild LFC as force, the club cannot afford to keep itself in the shackles of the shadows of the Comolli era.
If there is anything the club’s recent Asian and Australian tours highlighted, it is the strong global brand of LFC. Liverpool is noted for passionate and legendary supporters. But even for supporters with such commendable attributes, continuous sporting failures may wear them out.
The appointment of Brendan Rodgers as manager last year marked a significant phase in the history of the club. He has been charged to lead the resurgence of the club. Following a difficult start, he has achieved some progress. Rebuilding has been on and Rodgers has reshaped the squad to enable it meet the club’s aspirations.
This season provides a chance for consolidation of gains made so far and further progress. To achieve that, Rodgers and the squad need to be backed with quality signings. Rodgers admits that the signings made so far have only improved the squad but not the starting XI.
He has therefore emphasized the need for quality to be added to the starting XI. Fans have watched on as one marquee target after the other has slipped through the club’s hands. There have been reports of the club falling short by a few millions in some of the deals or pulling out in others when prices flew beyond its valuation.
The transfer market does not care two hoots about the scars inflated on the club by the Comolli period. Given the rewards-Champions league qualification and wining of trophies – the club seeks, it cannot continue taking living in the fear of paying huge sums for talents that will truly add quality to the team , get supporters excited and drive the buzz and confidence up.
I sense this season is going to be a defining one and LFC have to qualify for the Champions League. The consequences of not doing so would be very dire. The club may have more players agitating to leave, the impressive streams of cash from various sponsors may wane over time and we may never attract top quality talents and ultimately condemn ourselves to mid-table mediocrity.
Heavens forbid! The size of Liverpool’s challenge is magnified by the transfer activities of rival clubs. Chelsea, Manchester City and Tottenham have all spent millions improving their squads, thereby, making qualification even tougher. Even though investment of millions in a squad does not guarantee success, acquisition of the right talents gives a club a better shot at success.
The choices that face the club and owners are pretty straight forward- keep the cheque book in the drawer and see the club stagnate or spend and build on the progress Rodgers has made. There is no better time for the owners to step out of the shadows of the past transfer dealings.
Rodgers does not need the over £100 million spent during Comolli’s period. He needs perhaps a third of that to add quality to team and get it challenging. We are not far off challenging for top 4. However, if FSG fails to back Rodgers, we will be driven further away from top 4. It’s time for FSG to back Rodgers. Please bring out the cheque book.