Rafa Benitez’s £20m Buying Cap – Fact, Fiction, Irrelevant?
The Independent reported today that documents have been revealed “which suggest Liverpool’s net summer spending will be locked at £20m until 2014″. This is slated to include player pay raises and not just transfer fees. This story has also appeared on Sport.co.uk and in the Daily Mirror. While this might explain why Liverpool weren’t particularly aggressive in the transfer market apart from getting a hold of Glen Johnson and bringing in Alberto Aquilani, for me, the story has two major problems.
Firstly, the report cited in the article was a prospectus by investment banks Rothschild and Merrill Lynch. The prospectus was made in March. So it cannot take into account Liverpool’s new, lucrative sponsorship deal with Standard Chartered Bank.
Secondly, the article acts as though Liverpool will be crippled by being forced to sell players to generate funds.
Now, part of me would love to see Liverpool bring in big name talent without having to say goodbye to players I love. But this is simply unrealistic. As much as the boundless transfer budgets of Chelsea, Manchester City and Real Madrid tickle the imagination of supporters of other clubs – “If we only had their spending power…” – ultimately that’s not a road I want to see Liverpool go down.
Selling players to bring in new ones is inevitable. While I don’t think the club should be viewed purely as a business, a certain level of fiscal pragmatism needs to be maintained for the sake of the club’s long-term health. An over-inflated transfer budget, while helpful in the short-term, does not make sense for a club that wants to reestablish itself as a title-contender for years to come.
Since, he’s been managing, Rafa Benitez has, through transfers, improved the club every year until this one. This season we took a step backwards with the loss of Xabi Alonso, but it is not as if Xabi was sold simply to raise cash. Xabi wanted to leave and so Liverpool let him go and took the money. Apart from that, the building process has been a positive one, culminating in a great season last year which saw the Reds end just four points shy of the title. If Rafa can prove that Xabi’s absence can be covered, there’s no reason not to think this club will keep striving toward that ultimate goal.
Now, there is – and will continue to be – a lot of debate over the intentions of the current owners. But this talk of a £20m buying cap can’t really enter into the fray until the conversation is updated.
Most importantly: how will the new deal with Standard Chartered Bank affect upcoming transfer windows?
Tom Hicks has hinted at putting some of the new funds toward players:
“Knowing Rafa Benitez I suspect he’s got his eye on part of it,” Hicks said, according to the Liverpool Echo. “As we build our revenues it gives ability to be more competitive on the pitch and, this is a very important one, but we think we have other opportunities in the future.”
Hmmm. Vaguely promising.
Hicks and Gillette need to show a firm commitment toward this end. Most of the talk since the new deal seems to revolve around a new stadium and that’s an important discussion as well. But the owners need to give us a healthy sign next summer that the new sponsorship will directly affect the side via the transfer window.
I’m not talking about the kind of spending coup that makes Roman Abramovich salivate. But I am talking like The Summer of Torres (cue the timpani). We brought in El Nino, Ryan Babel and Yossi Benayoun. While Babel hasn’t come as good as we’d hoped, it was the right kind of transfer window thinking. We brought in attack and creativity and we weren’t afraid to chase the quality we needed.
This summer will be an important time to do the same. I’m looking for a positive sign that after taking one step backward with the sale of Xabi Alonso, we are willing to take two steps forward (at least) in the transfer market. Then all this talk of buying caps and being forced to sell can prove itself irrelevant.