It’s become the norm during transfer windows for fans to second guess how much money their clubs have got to spend on new players. Everyone has an opinion on what names should be brought in to help their team reach the ‘next level’. It’s a sign of the times. But it’s also a sad indictment of what the game has become. As exciting as the transfer window is, the success of football clubs shouldn’t come down to which owners have the most money.
Years ago, kids wanted to be professional footballers because they loved playing football and they dreamt of playing for their boyhood clubs and winning the FA Cup. Nowadays, in a time where the FA Cup has been devalued because of the money on offer to teams for getting into the Champions League and avoiding relegation, how many kids growing up want to be footballers so they can buy a Ferrari, live in a mansion and date a pop star? Probably all of them!
I remember when Liverpool last won the league in 1989-90 and I had no idea what the likes of Rush and Barnes were earning or how much they would be worth if we sold them. What’s more, I didn’t care. Now football is all about cash. It has become more of a business than a sport.
Back in 2011, Liverpool were heavily in debt and Chelsea came in for Fernando Torres during the January transfer window. I was in a pub and I overheard two supporters talking about this. One of them wasn’t happy about Torres leaving but his mate’s only gripe was that he thought the striker was worth more than the £50 million on offer. The thing is, there was nothing unusual about the lad’s comment although in hindsight that was actually shrewd business. But when I reflected on it, two things struck me. Firstly, the reasons I didn’t want the club to sell Torres back then were because he was a great player and when he was signed there were rumours that he was a Liverpool fan. This made him an icon. Someone the supporters could relate to. It appeared the guy in the pub only wanted him to stay because other clubs hadn’t bid enough money. The second thought that occurred to me was that while many people were struggling to get by, millions of pounds were being talked about as if the money was penny sweets.
I found this vulgar but I could see the lad’s point. Liverpool have recently rewarded Suarez with a new £200,000 a week contract and inserted a massive buy-out clause. It was either that or lose him to another club. Now based on his performances and the current transfer market,I suppose he is worth every penny. But I don’t think any player should be worth that amount of money. It’s obscene when certain footballers are valued at more money than most clubs.
The problem is, football clubs have no choice but spend big money on the top players or they’ll get left behind by their rivals. Even Arsene Wenger, who is renowned for his prudence, has shown signs of change this season, paying £42 million for Ozil and bidding £40 million and one pound for Suarez. And the fact that most people reading this will immediately think that price is cheap for Suarez highlights how money has become such a big part of football.
So far this January, Liverpool are actually having a low-key transfer window compared to last season. The transfer committee is still trying to find players who can improve the squad. Two midfielders, a left back and a forward are wanted although it is highly unlikely Liverpool will be able to add four players in the next eight days. Ideally they would like to make two quality signings to help the group.
Today it has emerged that Chelsea have outbid Liverpool for Mohamed Salah and they now look certain to capture the Egyptian winger who has been likened to Messi. If the figures being quoted are accurate, I am a little disappointed that the board aren’t prepared to go over the £11m that Chelsea have bid. During the summer Liverpool missed out on several targets. They lost out on their first choice, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, to Borussia Dortmund who bid an extra £1.5m, although it’s rumoured that he chose the German club because they were in the Champions League. Unfortunately, due to the fact that we haven’t played in this competition for the last few years, it’s hard to attract star players. But there’s more to it than that. Tottenham aren’t in the Champions League either and this summer they beat us to the signing of Roberto Soldado, Christian Eriksen and Nacer Chadli. They also offered more money than Liverpool for Willian only to then be outbid themselves by Chelsea. I know some of these players haven’t set the world alight but if Liverpool want to attract great players we will have to find the money for them.
I understand the need for caution after expensive mistakes in the past. And if it were Liverpool offering £37 million for Juan Mata rather than Man Utd I would have mixed emotions as I think that is too much money for him. But if the club is prepared to pay £10m for a player and one of our rivals offers £11m I would hope that we would then compete with them. It is bitterly disappointing to keep missing out on transfer targets, especially to rival clubs. So although I think money has had a negative affect on the game, I can’t help but hope that the Liverpool board spend a little bit more.