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Time’s up for Liverpool’s Transfer Committee

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Since the collapse of Rafa Benitez’s regime in 2010, Liverpool have relinquished their regular spot in the Champions League, with one top 4 finish in the last five years ensuring that the best chance Kopites have of catching their team in Europe will be on a Thursday night.

In recent years we have seen a club which, once upon a time, boasted arguably the best midfield in the world including the likes of Steven Gerrard (at his peak), Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano, reduced to fielding the likes of Joe Allen, Lucas and James Milner regularly. This severe reduction in quality is a prominent theme that has continued to occur post Benitez.

In this Premier League era with all the multi-million pound sponsorship/television deals and glamorous transfer saga’s, fingers are quickly pointed to managers when transfers don’t quite go according to plan. However one crucial figure at the forefront of Liverpool’s recruitment sector often avoids the blame, season after season when the club inevitably overspends on players who aren’t quite up to the task of gracing the Anfield turf. This figure is, of course, the notorious Transfer Committee.

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Influx of Players

Perhaps the most alarming statistic is the substantial amount of money the club has spent on players in the last 5 years (the total has now reached 50 after the bizarre  capture of Steven Caulker on loan last week). Season after season we’ve seen the likes of Andy Carroll, Lazar Markovic and Mario Balotelli come through the gates of Melwood, surrounded by anticipation and promise that they can become the next ‘big stars’ of the Kop, only to find themselves either relegated to the bench, or sent back to the John Lennon airport quicker than an alcoholic could down his Special Brew.

The relatively young age of the majority of Liverpool’s expensive purchases is something which immediately catches the eye. Sebastien Coates (£7 million),  Jordan Henderson (£16 million), Phillipe Coutinho (£8.5 million), Fabio Borini (£10 million), Joe Allen (15 million), Luis Alberto (6.8 million), Tiago Ilori (£7 million), Emre Can (10 million), Lazar Markovic (20 million), Divock Origi (10 million) and Alberto Moreno (12 million), were all 22 and under when they signed for Liverpool. That’s a staggering £122.3 million pounds spent on relatively unproven players, with only two of these players (Coutinho and Henderson), as of yet living up to their price tag (Don’t forget it took Henderson a long time to finally establish himself at Anfield).

The key point here is that the philosophy of buying young talent, as opposed to ready- made stars, is a mandate that was emphasised by Fenway Sports Group as soon as they purchased Liverpool in 2010, and every manager employed by the Americans has been expected to rigorously adhere to the policy, with only a handful of more senior players being purchased for big money during this period.

Although it is an admirable philosophy, one which has blessed Liverpool with a superstar in Phillipe Coutinho, as of yet it has seen very little benefit for both Liverpool’s financial status and results. Take a look at some of the best sides within the past five years, you will notice some key differences in the accumulations of their squads, and how they conduct business in the transfer market. Barcelona for example undoubtedly love to utilise their famous La Masia academy, turning players such as Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta (and more recently Tiago Alcantara) in to household names. Instead of spending significant amounts of money on young players (with the exception of Neymar), they’ve spent their Euros on some of Europe’s finest superstar’s such as Luis Suarez (purchased from Liverpool ironically), Jeremy Mathieu, Ivan Rakitic and Claudio Bravo.

Juventus have successfully utilised the Bosman ruling, allowing them to develop a young Paul Pogba in to somewhat of a phenomenon, and rejuvenating an apparently declining Andrea Pirlo, seeing the playmaker spend arguably his finest days in Turin.

But perhaps the club who’s philosophy is most similar to Liverpool’s, whose fortunes have been remarkably greater than Liverpool’s in recent years would be the Reds current managers’ former club, Borrusia Dortmund.

Like FSG, Dortmund operates under the mantra of developing young players. The key differences between the two clubs is that Dortmund spend very little money acquiring their young protégé’s, instead opting to purchase young talent cheaply and developing them using their second team (Borrusia II), and then integrating them in to the first team when the time is right. This has seen rise to the likes of  Mats Hummels (£2.9 million), Robert Lewandowski (£3.3 million),  Shinji Kagawa (free), Lucas Piszczek (free) and Ilkay Gundogan (£3.8 million).

The lack of players being brought through the Liverpool academy is another worrying trend that needs to be tackled, with the only players to be brought through in the last few seasons being Raheem Sterling, Jon Flanagan and Jordan Ibe. Exciting youngsters such as Sheyi Ojo, Joao Teixeira, Jordan Rossiter and Brad Smith have never really been given much of a look in, however it seems as though Klopp has begun to address this problem somewhat, given the youngsters a chance to prove their worth in the FA cup.

Only time will tell if John Henry and the board at FSG decide to dismantle the transfer committee, and pass complete authority on transfers to Jurgen Klopp. Unfortunately there is only so long a manager of the calibre of Klopp will work under the current transfer system before deciding enough is enough.

andy carroll Borussia Dortmund Champipns League Coutinho James Milner Joe Allen jordan henderson Jurgen Klopp Lionel Messi Rafa Benitez steven gerrard

About Ryan MacGregor

Aspiring journalist/sports writer at Nottingham Trent University

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