(Opinion) Dispelling the myth of John W Henry’s big summer spending claim

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It was the day before the Champions League final in Madrid. Expectant electricity surged through the Spanish capital as Reds fans filled the streets, an anticipation that was further augmented by a bold claim from Liverpool’s principal owner, John W. Henry.

With the Premier League title a single point out of reach, the FSG boss sent out a rallying promise that the ownership would invest in the squad this summer to relaunch an assault on the top-flight.

All focus was trained on the showdown in Madrid and, with victory eventually assured, Reds fans sailed through the weeks on European euphoria.

Fast-forward nearly eight weeks and some Kopites seem discontented with the lack of transfer activity, if not somewhat confused at the disconnect between Henry’s words and the club’s actions.

A sensible perspective explains that one would be hard-pressed to improve this unbelievable squad of players, that, perhaps, there is little that can be done and the Reds are the envy of our rivals.

Others clamour for the injection of litres of liquid funds into Klopp’s playing personnel.

There is, however, a potential rationale behind the comments Henry made.

An ESPN article by Glenn Price back in 2017 detailed a comparative conceit between FSG’s two major entities: Liverpool and the Boston Red Sox. There, amid the similarities and differences, lay a crucial part of the potential puzzle.

Covering the Red Sox for the Boston Herald, Jason Mastrodonato contributed his own thoughts to the contrasts between the two, but revealed a key piece of insight that might explain what has happened. Though this comes with the caveat that this was ‘true’ two years ago in relation to the Red Sox, not necessarily to Liverpool.

“John Henry has certainly scaled back his presence with us over the years I’ve covered the team. He’s become far more careful about what he says. He speaks once a year, every spring training,” Mastrodonato claimed.

“There was this incident a few years back where he made this comment about the Red Sox overrelying on analytics, and that was one reason for their failures in identifying free agents. Naturally, a lot was written about it and he seemed to take great offence to it.

“It’s like he’s grown annoyed by the fact that his words, specifically because he so infrequently shares them, mean so much and are taken so seriously.

“I think that’s why he doesn’t talk as much anymore. Werner is slightly more available and shows up to some charity events. Henry is seen at Red Sox games fairly often.”

There’s the rub. That the opinion of Henry was that he had “grown annoyed” by people taking his infrequent words “so seriously” speaks volumes about the so-called investment claim he made before the Champions League showdown.

While it can be argued that Henry could have said nothing at all, he either felt compelled to give the interview to Sky Sports, or else was coaxed into doing so for another, unknown reason.

Read more:

Klopp compares “reasonable money” with “crazy money” in transfer window admission

In any case, a cursory reading of what he actually said dispels the rampant hopes that caught flame.

“We are going to have a go [at winning the Premier League]. [But] we feel like we are strong already,” Henry told Sky Sports.

“We haven’t gone through that process yet because we are still playing but every year we have shown we are willing to invest in the right kind of players and do it the right way so that the club is sustainable.”

‘Willing,” “right kind of player,” “do it in the right way,” “sustainable” – do they sound like the words of an owner willing to write blank cheques to land multi-million pound signings in the summer?

It makes absolute sense for the owner of deeply competitive side to issue a rousing call to arms and a declaration of investment on the eve of a European final, especially within the context of having just missed out on the league title.

That said, on the basis that his words have previously been twisted and contorted by virtue of their infrequency, it doesn’t seem like there has been any diversion from FSG’s initial gambit.

Equally, they forked out over £170 million last summer in a window that included Alisson and which followed the £75 million record acquisition of Virgil van Dijk. Surely those signings demonstrate the ambition and resolve of FSG and the direction the Reds are heading in?!

It’s been the club line all summer – there will no significant transfers, unless the right player becomes available for the right price; Klopp himself would have a significant say on transfer dealings anyway.

Based on Henry’s comments from Madrid, that line has never been diverged from. We may still see a more high-profile signing than Sepp van den Berg at Anfield, but it will be on FSG and Klopp’s terms.

While there might be some investment, the notion that a promise has been broken is quite clearly debatable.

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