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Liverpool is at the Abyss. Do They Have the Stomach for the Hard Decisions to Come?

liverpoolfans Liverpool is at the Abyss.  Do They Have the Stomach for the Hard Decisions to Come?

Having crashed out of the Champions League in the group stages, the FA Cup in the third round, and hanging out in 7th place on the table with their three best players out of action, Liverpool are staring straight at catastrophe.  Without the revenues available to buy their way out of this mess, and with no more money coming in from the Champions League or ticket sales from the FA Cup and a probable lack of Champions league football next year, all those unthinkable questions now need to be asked.

Can you sack Rafa Benitez?  Truthfully, whether the sacking is justified or not, Liverpool probably cannot afford to.  Seven months ago Rafa put pen to paper on a new deal that will pay him £20 million through 2014.  If they had that type of money to spend, they would probably spend it in the transfer market, but since they don’t, spending it for the right to sack their manager and then having to spend to hire a new one is probably out of the question.  Who would Liverpool hire to replace Rafa?  What renowned manager would want to jump onto this sinking ship?  Somehow, I don’t think Mark Hughes is the solution to this problem.

Can Liverpool sell and buy in the short term?  Doubtful.  With the coffers bare, Rafa needs to sell to generate cash to buy, but who can he sell?  The value of Ryan Babel has collapsed in the face of his failure to establish himself at Anfield, and while Rafa may dream of getting £10 million for him, £5 million is probably where the market is.  Combined with the £1.8 million he got for selling Andrei Voronin, the problems are a lot bigger than the budget to solve them.  With a lousy central defense, little width and no significant cover for Fernando Torres, these are not problems that can be solved during this transfer window.

If you can’t afford the addition, is it time to demolish and rebuild?  Perhaps.  Let’s face the reality.  At this stage of his career Torres cannot afford to be on a team that does not play in Europe and is more likely to see the middle of the table than they are the top.  Torres will want to go.  Liverpool could probably get £35-40 million for Torres, and possibly more than that if he blows doors in South Africa.  As great as Torres is, a giant transfer kitty is more valuable to Liverpool than one great striker.  Spent wisely, they can probably get four or five young players with a great upside potential to fill the holes they have all over the pitch.  However, this would mean asking the Kop for patience as the team spends a couple of season retooling.  Will the rabid Liverpool fans accept the fact that the team may spend a couple of years in the proverbial shop getting refitted?  They may not have a choice.

Which brings us to the Gerrard question.  This may be tough for Liverpool fans to accept, but Steven Gerrard turns 30 this May, and his best days are in the rear view mirror.  His lifetime highlight reel – the final against Milan, the strike against West Ham in the FA Cup and many other great moments – will almost certainly not include a parade around Anfield holding the EPL Championship Cup.  These niggling injuries he has had all year are a leading indicator of what is to come for Gerrard.  Whatever his value in the transfer market now, and it still may be substantial, it will reduce by 40-50% every year for the rest of his career.  As painful as it might be for the Anfield faithful, the right move is to cash out Gerrard to some free wheeler like Man City and let his game continue to degrade on someone else’s payroll.

 These are hard issues for Liverpool.  So hard, the team probably cannot speak of them publically.  However, after net spending (purchases less sales) of over £90 million in the transfer market during the Rafa era, they have little to show for their investment.  Like any business operation that finds its cash low and its income cut, Liverpool needs to pull back, sacrifice in the near-term and invest for prosperity in the future.  Liverpool is not in danger of becoming the new Leeds, but it will take some very hard choices before they can rise again.

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18 Responses to Liverpool is at the Abyss. Do They Have the Stomach for the Hard Decisions to Come?

    • Tyson says:

      http://www.goal.com/en/news/9/england/2009/12/13/1684028/report-manchester-united-on-the-verge-of-1b-buyout

      Manchester United could be sold overnight if those idiot Glazers didn’t have a stranglehold on it.

      The asian consortium has been viewed twiced at United grounds in the past year but negotiations were shot down by the Glazers the day after they announced they would buy the club outright for a billion pounds including the debt.

      When you think about the City owners these guys are bums compared to the amount of money the Asian consortium would bring as Dubai and the UAE is failing as en economy and well.. Asia is kind of doing well as you may have heard.

      If you look at the movies they are making now with rescturing the loans you can tell their long term goal is to sell the club.

      You can read about the financial aspect of it and what the Glazers are doing with the club in depth here:

      http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/leagues/premierleague/manutd/6976496/Glazer-familys-high-risk-strategy-is-anathema-to-Manchester-United-fans.html

      This quote is a good summary if your too lazy to read the article:

      Like a buy-to-let landlord with an interest-only mortgage, their long-term goal is to sell United at a profit, settling up with the banks on their way out of Manchester. They cannot do that without fundamentally restructuring their loans, however.

      When Manchester United is sold it will be sold as the most expensive sporting entity in human history and it will probably be sooner rather than later.

  1. Robbie says:

    After Istanbul, I thought he should have sold Stevie G and built the team he wanted. Not necessarily the team I want, but one with a consistent philosophy matching Rafa’s, which Stevie does not share. That’s what he did at Valencia. Stevie’s never fitted into a scheme Rafa’s been happy with, because Rafa is a controlly sort of manager, and Stevie is a superheroey, in-and-out sort of player.

    Sale of Crouch most inexplicable of the striker sales. Presumably now Rafa’s going to really have to get behind Babel, or buy? Presumably (2) the issue with Crouch was wages? They are the real cost of doing EPL business, and the spending figure which most closely predicts championships is wage spending (thus: watch out for Manchester City). (Obviously, I have been reading my Kuper/Szymanski.)

    Question to which I do not know the answer: endless crapping on about zonal marking – how come Liverpool’s defensive records tend to hold up reasonably well overall? It’s easy to point at zonal marking when it leads to a goal; why does no one point at the times when zonal works? Also, remember, goals are rare.

    • Simon Burke says:

      Excellent response Robbie, interesting way at looking at Gerrard and zonal marking and I think with hindsight you are right on both counts.
      Liverpool may of course may offload Gerrard in the Summer but I doubt Rafa will be around in August to reap the benefit.

      Gerrard has certainly saved Liverpool umpteen times but it has definitely not been a Benitez style team.

  2. Matthew N says:

    The Liverpool commentary on this site is pathetic. According to many sources, Brum offered 9m PS for Babel, so your 5.5 valuation is off. Gerrard is a born and bred Scouser and he will stay with the club until he retires. Some things are worth more than money. I can’t believe you call yourself a Liverpool supporter then suggest we sell a player who is playing for his local club and has said many times that he wants to play with LFC until he retires. Purslow has said we are close to getting some sort of deal struck with an investor group and that will allow us to finance the new stadium. We have an amazing squad right now that has suffered terrible injury problems on top of poor form and poor luck. Do not underestimate how much trouble these things can cause…

  3. jack says:

    Kneejerk reactions. We have improved every year with Rafa. This season has been one of those bad ones. The injuries have not helped. Add to the mix the lack of investment and you get our position in the league. As one of the commentators said, LFC should realistically look to around 5th to 6th position with the kind of finances that they have. They can no way compete with CFC, MUFC and certainly not Man City. Fans who think that getting a new manager will get us to win the league are living in cukoo land. Only way would be for new investment. Also please tell me which respectable manager would want too come to a club with such dire investment when it comes to world class players? Remember Fergie was one match away from getting the sack. I think the least we could do is give Rafa to the end of the season.

  4. Johnson says:

    His purchases and subsequent benchings of Keane and Aquilani are very questionable. I would not like that kind of reckless spending as an owner. For the amount he spent on those two, he could’ve gotten a number of quality players all around the field.

  5. CA_backpacker says:

    With Rafa’s history of poor signings, why would anybody have faith that the “4 or 5 young players” he could pickup for the price of selling Torres would be of any quality??? Selling your “winners” and keeping your “losers” doesn’t work for stockmarket investing anymore than it does for footy management…

  6. knocsucow00 says:

    What is the guarantee that the 35-40 mil from a potential sale of Torres goes back into acquiring new players?

    Wouldn’t that 35-40 at least somewhat partially have to pay off next year’s interest payment, and cover the lost revenue due to the loss of Champs League action next season?

  7. Matt from Texas says:

    I have not read anyone addressing the real problem here: the ownership. I have seen Tom Hicks absolutely ruin my favorite baseball team (Texas Rangers – no playoff appearances in the 12 years he has owned them) and my favorite hockey team (Dallas Stars – 27th out of 31 teams in payroll and currently out of the playoff picture).

    Sack all of the managers you want; sell all the players you want. Your team will not succeed as long as the profit-driven poison hand of Tom Hicks is at the helm.

  8. calamityjames says:

    What’s the EPL Championship Cup? Is that what you get put into when you’re knocked out of the Europa League?

  9. Gravypan says:

    While I generally agree with your sentiment about Tom Hicks, Matt, you are a tad bit incorrect on the number of playoff appearances the Rangers have made under his stewardship (1998 and 1999).

    Otherwise, you’re spot on. Tom Hicks cares not one bit about winning. Only making money.

    • Matt from Texas says:

      Gravypan: you are correct. I should have been more exact in my post. When the Rangers went to the playoffs in 98 and 99, it was right after he bought the team. Thus, the foundation for their success was laid before Hicks bought them. After the influence of the previous ownership faded and the influence of Hicks manifested itself, success quickly went away and mediocrity and profits followed.

      History has a way of repeating itself, does it not? How much did Hicks have to do with last year’s top 4 finish for Liverpool? I would speculate that the groundwork for that finish was laid by those who came before him. We are talking about a club that is known for success and excellence. How is Liverpool doing this season? Number 7 in the EPL?!?

      I would submit to you that the same thing is happening in Liverpool as happened in Arlington, TX. Hicks takes a club having success and quickly runs it into the ground in the name of profitability. The best you can hope for is that he loses money very quickly, has his notes called in and has to sell. Otherwise, you too could be in for 12 years of misery watching the club you love be decimated.

      And don’t even get me started on the Dallas Stars! I am a miserable hockey fan right now.

  10. JC says:

    A well written article and an interesting perspective on what to do at Liverpool.

    I also agree that Hicks needs to go.

    Aston Villa improving and Man City finding money have not helped either.

    Thank you

  11. 50 says:

    Let’s put it this way-I believe gerrard & torres will both outlast benitez at anfield….gerrard will retire a red,as long ad torres gets a strike partner he’ll be fine….benitez out this summer.

  12. I think it’s a pisser and will be fantastic and interesting if they finish outside the European places.

  13. Tom says:

    liverpool need to sell gerrard but keep Rafa until 2014 so they have the money to buy some good striker who can stay with the club for another ten years

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