Jamie Carragher excused FSG amid an ’embarrassing’ transfer window, but the owners allowed the rot to set in at boardroom level before Jurgen Klopp’s engine room shambles…
Their methods might not be to everyone’s taste. But Chelsea get sh*t done.
After sealing the signing of Moises Caicedo, the Blues are tying up the loose ends around a £60million deal to bring Romeo Lavia to Stamford Bridge. The teenager will take Todd Boehly’s total to 28 signings since he took over. They will be the cost of a bang-average full-back away from breaking the £1billion barrier in three transfer windows.
It is a ludicrous state of affairs and one, we hope, the FFP police will be watching carefully to see how they justify their spending. Presumably, they will need mitigation beyond almost career-long contracts. But, whatever your view on Chelsea’s approach, you can’t dispute their proficiency in closing deals.
Liverpool could use some of that decisiveness. They were second-best to Chelsea on the pitch on Sunday before losing two subsequent battles over Caicedo and Lavia.
If Jamie Carragher was ’embarrassed’ last week, the cringe might be terminal for the Anfield legend now while his former club ponder their next steps after being blown out twice in quick succession by their two primary targets to fill a gaping void in Jurgen Klopp’s engine room.
How did it come to this? Liverpool were not long ago renowned for their efficiency and effectiveness in the transfer market. Now they have Chelsea laughing at them. Boehly’s Chelsea, for f***’s sake.
The transfer window started quite serenely. Indeed, Liverpool were buoyant after landing Alexis Mac Alister from Brighton. They followed the World Cup winner’s arrival with the signing of Dominik Szoboszlai, who turned up at Anfield with the Reds’ customary minimum of faff and fuss. Not because Liverpool had bettered RB Leipzig in negotiations; rather because they simply paid the Hungarian’s release clause.
Such was the scale of Klopp’s engine room refit, another midfielder would have been nice, but not necessarily essential. The need was similar to that of greater depth at centre-back. Until the Saudis showed up to spook the Reds by taking Jordan Henderson and Fabinho.
It was initially seen as a blessing, with big money brought in for two veterans seemingly ready to be phased out. But the Saudis’ trolley dash has turned into a curse for Liverpool and left them short of midfielders and, apparently, ideas.
The Liverpool of old would have moved swiftly to secure a replacement for the departing duo. But, as we’ve seen, this is not the Liverpool of old. It is a club amid a transition even they don’t believe in.
This would not have happened on Michael Edwards’ watch. It might not have on Julian Ward’s brief tenure as Edwards’ replacement. But, more so than any midfielders, Liverpool flailed in filling the sporting director’s shoes. It’s hardly as though Ward caught them on the hop – he gave and worked six months’ notice right up until the start of the summer window.
Then, and only then, did they find a replacement. One that is starting to look like the boardroom equivalent of signing Arthur on loan.
German Jorg Schmadtke was appointed at the end of May on a three-month deal to last the duration of a single transfer window. Liverpool, the club renowned for smart long-term planning, had taken to flying by the seat of their pants. An approach that has extended to their increasingly desperate search for midfielders.
How does any club, let alone one supposedly run as efficiently and diligently as Liverpool, go from starting the week quibbling over a few quid for Lavia, to finishing it by offering to smash the British transfer record to just get a jump on an outfit as chaotic as Chelsea? To make matters worse, then they started a new week by returning to Lavia and offering way above the price asked by Saints barely a few days before.
Amid all that, did they not think to check in with either agent? Caicedo’s representatives are notoriously tricky to deal with – Manchester United struggled even to identify them when they tried to bring him over from Ecuador for £4.5million in 2021 – so Liverpool might be forgiven for being played as the patsy on that score. But how did they not anticipate being pied by Lavia?
These are all questions for Schmadtke, the board, and FSG. Carragher excused the owners on MNF: “This is not on the owners, this is on the structure of the football club,” he said. There is, though, plenty of blame to be shared around. And FSG’s prints are all over the shambles of the last week.
Negotiations, if we can call them that, between Liverpool and Brighton were reportedly led by chief executive Billy Hogan, not Schmadtke. Hogan last week told The Athletic: “Our goal is to run the club sustainably. When you are missing revenue from the Champions League, you have to react accordingly — and we’ve done that.” That might explain their ’embarrassing’ pursuit of Lavia. So at what point did he and his FSG cronies decide to tear up that plan and chuck everything at Caicedo?
Hogan was pulling those strings because president Mike Gordon had reduced his role at Liverpool, around the time the owners were looking for new investment. While they were seeking that financial injection, they evidently took their eye off the back office while successive sporting directors decided they’d had enough. And searching for a third football chief was evidently not a concern since a six-month process resulted in Klopp’s mate temping through the most important summer at Anfield for years.
So haphazard has been Liverpool’s approach, John W. Henry felt it necessary to fly in over the weekend to find out for himself what the f*** is going on. He took in the draw with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, where it was plain for all to see just how badly the team need a holding midfielder.
Whoever arrives – someone will, be it Joao Palhinha, Ibrahim Sangare, Cheick Doucoure or anyone else – will know they are third choice at best, while selling clubs will whack a whopping premium on the price knowing just how desperate Liverpool are and how much money they were willing to spend.
His engine room is a massive concern – but not Klopp’s biggest. The board room, and within it the absence of a plan, poses the greatest obstacle between Klopp and ‘reloading’ the Reds.