Tom Werner said weeks ago what Liverpool fans will expect from FSG in the summer transfer window
Liverpool are out of the race to sign Jude Bellingham and pressure is now on Fenway Sports Group to deliver.
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Having to endure Manchester City run rampant against Bayern Munich in a Champions League quarter-final would have been bad enough. But amid Pep Guardiola’s side taking a giant leap towards the last four - and a maiden European Cup in the club’s history - bombshell news broke.
A single point separated the Reds and City in last season’s Premier League title race. Less than a year on, it’s transformed into a chasm. As the Etihad Stadium outfit pursue a treble, the best Jurgen Klopp’s side can hope for, in reality, is a berth in next campaign’s Europa League. Liverpool are some four places and 12 points outside the top four with nine matches to go and a run of seven years in the Champions League is set to be curtailed.
Bellingham has been regarded as the answer, by plenty, to the Reds catapulting back to challenging City for silverware next season. Interest in the 19-year-old has scarcely been a secret. Klopp’s gone on a charm offensive, while Jordan Henderson, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Steven Gerrard have done their best to try to coax the highly-coveted midfielder to Anfield rather than the likes of Real Madrid, City and Manchester United.
However, in an unexpected twist, Klopp has put the skids on a move for Bellingham. Liverpool’s supremo along with the club’s hierarchy believe that bringing in several players rather than spending £100 million-plus on the Borussia Dortmund star is the prudent option.
Time will only tell whether that proves correct. However, what can be agreed is that owners Fenway Sports Group (FSG) need to provide Klopp with sufficient ammunition to ensure the Reds are again competitive in the summer transfer window. Languishing in eighth spot might have become the expected in the 1990s and early 2010s but not in these times. The appetite for success is insatable like in the heady days of Bill Shankley, Bob Paisley and Kenny Dalglish.
Liverpool, of course, are one of several sports teams under the stewardship of FSG. The American group also own MLB team the Boston Red Sox, whose 2023 season started last month. The Red Sox finished bottom of AL East last season, which meant they missed out on the play-offs. The Red Sox, according to Forbes, are the third most valuable team in the MLB and have won 13 World Series titles.
And in a recent interview, FSG chairman Tom Werner, that being competitive the most important thing when it comes to the Red Sox. Speaking ahead of the MLB season getting under way, Werner told The Gresh & Fauria Show: “The fans in Boston, in my opinion, are the best in the country. They’ve got great teams. Look how well the Celtics (Boston Celtic, NBA team), Bruins (Boston Bruins, NHL team) and Patriots (New England Patriots, NFL team) are playing.
“We have to be mindful that people go out and spend money want a competitive product. Of course, it’s important for us that there’s a good experience at Fenway Park win or lose. But the most important thing is to field a competitive team.”
Everything that Werner said can resonate from Massachusetts to Merseyside.
Kopites are among the best on these shores. If Liverpool are in the Europa League - or the Europa Conference League - you can bet there’ll be supporters travelling to away games that could well take place in the back end of Moldova, Lithuania or any other country by hook or by crook. They’ll do whatever it takes to watch their team for 90 minutes.
To their credit, FSG have to be saluted for the renovations they’ve made to Anfield. The Anfield Road End expansion will take the stadium capacity up to 61,000. Along with the Main Stand, some £180 million has been spent on the ground. Win or lose, there is a greater experience attending games now than when the Boston-based group took over the club in 2010. Even their most steadfast detractors cannot deny it.
However, as Werner stated, the most important thing is being competitive on the field. Just like Red Sox followers, that is what is demanded by the Liverpool faithful. However, it has been a stark contrast this term. There has been a dark malaise overhanging throughout. Even against the backdrop of emphatic wins against Manchester United, Bournemouth and Rangers, no-one has even been fully convinced. The Reds have spluttered along.
Although significant fees since last summer have been paid for Darwin Nunez and Cody Gakpo, most will concur that Klopp requires more assistance than ever before. During eight years in the hot seat, he’s turned Liverpool from perennial underachievers to re-established European heavyweights. A 30-year wait for a league title was ended while a sixth European Cup adorns the trophy cabinet. That’s been achieved while having to compete with a force of nature in City. On paper, the Reds should have got nowhere near the petrodollar-fuelled club.
Klopp has had cash to spend but most funds have been generated by player sales. His coaching prowess is the chief reason behind the success he’s delivered. Henderson, Alexander-Arnold, Roberto Firmino, Andy Robertson, Adam Lallana and Gini Wijnaldum improved markedly. Meanwhile, the likes of Mo Salah, Sadio Mane, Alisson Becker and Virgil van Dijk have stepped up from being very good to world-class since being recruited.
This summer, the Reds don’t have any obvious assets like Mane or Philippe Coutinho to sell. Fringe players such as Caoimhin Kelleher and Nat Phillips will raise decent fees along with freeing up the wages of out-of-contract duo Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. But significant funds by FSG will need to be injected - especially as the lucrative windfall from the Champions League is set to be surrendered.
No less than two quality midfielders are paramount. Centre-back has come under scrutiny and someone to ease the burden and possibly succeed a 31-year-old van Dijk is another area of the squad that may be bolstered. The void of Firmino could also be filled.
Werner has said the most important thing is to be competitive. FSG must hold their end of the bargain.