DOMINIC KING: Be careful what you wish for as FSG put Liverpool up for sale

By | November 8, 2022

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Who next? On a day when Liverpool insisted it was business as usual, there was only one question being asked by supporters — and it had nothing to do with the start of their Carabao Cup defence.

Fenway Sports Group maintain they are looking for fresh investment and there is no drama about the statement they made on Monday, but the reality is significantly different. One day in the future, the landscape around Anfield will change and who is to say it is going to be for the better?

FSG would not win any popularity contests. Fans of other English clubs loathe them for the fingerprints they left all over the crime scene also known as the European Super League, while some Liverpool supporters will be happy when they are gone for their approach to transfers.

FSG, headed by John W Henry (above) have put Liverpool up for sale after 12 years at the helm

But what makes anyone think that the regime that follows will somehow be a force for good, as well as universally well-liked? It simply isn’t realistic. No matter your view of FSG, it is impossible not to recognise what they have done for Liverpool.

‘What I would like to say is that I always knew that the owners act in the best interests of the club,’ said Pep Lijnders, Jurgen Klopp’s assistant. ‘They always did. And I believe they always tried to, at least. This relationship is very important for us — and will be.

‘Their statement was very clear. How did it distract us? To be honest, this is what I like about our club — we are so focused. There was a small discussion, a talk between Jurgen and me, and then we started focusing on a big game coming up.’

It was admirable that Lijnders —facing the cameras as he always does in this competition — attempted to turn his gaze towards the challenge that Derby County will provide tonight but the sole issue that needed to be addressed was what will happen from here.

Liverpool have won every available trophy under FSG, including the Champions League

Liverpool have won every available trophy under FSG, including the Champions League

Liverpool have won every available trophy under FSG, including the Champions League 

The information memorandum that was distributed last month to potential buyers was, in theory, a fishing exercise but FSG have cast their line into a very small pool and there is no indication when they will get any kind of bite.

Sir Jim Ratcliffe, Britain’s richest man, told the Daily Telegraph that he had no interest in bidding for Liverpool, but why would he? He might have the funds but how would it be taken on the Kop if they were sold to someone whose Manchester United leanings are well known? There is no prospect of anyone from Saudi Arabia, Qatar or Abu Dhabi coming to the table, while RedBird Capital — who are investors in FSG — have only recently bought AC Milan, so they would be prevented by UEFA from owning two clubs in the Champions League.

This is a complex situation made all the more difficult by the fact that any potential investor is going to look at Liverpool and wonder how they are going to get a return on their money when they see what FSG have done in their 12 years at the helm.

‘They are good owners and I will explain a few reasons why,’ Lijnders said. ‘First, they tied down one of the best managers in the world for seven-plus years. That says a lot. Second, they tied down the best players in the world. Then even more important, in my opinion, is that we have a stable academy.

Sir Jim Ratcliffe has already ruled himself out of the running to buy Liverpool

Sir Jim Ratcliffe has already ruled himself out of the running to buy Liverpool

Sir Jim Ratcliffe has already ruled himself out of the running to buy Liverpool

‘They invested in the academy, they invested in where we are sitting now, one of the best training grounds in the world. Then of course the (Anfield) Main Stand, the new (Anfield Road) stand. They made a lot of good decisions. If they were not good owners, we would not be sitting here.’

Yet still some argue that they should be doing more, that they should have pushed the boat out for signings when it mattered. It always gets pointed out that Liverpool’s net spend is relatively low but is the most important thing really to be known as the club who spend the most money?

It is nonsense to say they haven’t backed Klopp. They would have spent £60million on Aurelien Tchouameni in the summer had the France international not been set on joining Real Madrid and they have always worked to a plan.

‘If you buy a lot, young players don’t get a chance,’ warned Lijnders. ‘But it’s also about what kind of player you buy. If you look to our last years, bringing in Luis Diaz last winter was a massive signing, and needed, it was “water in the desert”. Darwin Nunez will be a good signing. A proper striker, a type we didn’t have.

‘Then you have Calvin Ramsay, Fabio Carvalho, young players who come in. Then before that Ibou Konate and Diogo Jota.

‘They are all signings that are bullseyes. We cannot afford to buy and not be right. You cannot be “left, right, left, right” — you want to be right all the time. And what was most important was to tie down our best players, because our team is a machine. If you don’t tie them down, they will leave.

‘It is a balance. Do people want to see three or four more players? Of course. Everybody wants to see that in the outside world. But we prefer to have the right one and to really work and give time to young ones, to add and renew the team and make it younger and younger.

‘People see transfers as the one thing, but building a club and a long-term relationship has much more than just transfers. Tying down Jurgen Klopp for seven-plus years is even more important.’

Once again, it made you think. FSG have, in the main, made all the right moves. The next one will be the most crucial of all.

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