THE BIG SPENDERS

Klopp has spent big, but well, un­like pre­vi­ous Liver­pool man­agers

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Sport - - FRONT PAGE - COLIN YOUNG

For ev­ery Mo Salah there is at least three Lazar Markovics

THEY have spent more than 1.2 bil-lion over 28 years in pur­suit of their 19th English Champi-on­ship suc­cess. Liver­pool have won the Cham­pi­ons League, UEFA Cup, three FA Cups and four League Cups in that pe­riod but still the league crown has evaded them. The roll call of league win­ners in that time must make for de­press­ing read­ing for any Liver­pool sup­porter: Chelsea (5), Arse­nal (4), Manch­ester City (3), Le­ices­ter, Black­burn and Leeds (1) and, worst of all, Manch­ester United (13). Their great ri­vals have now won 20 league ti­tles in to­tal, tak­ing Liver­pool's long-stand­ing record un­der Alex Fer­gu­son seven years ago. As for Liver­pool, they have fluc­tu­ated be­tween the hope­less and the nearly men over two very long decades. Since Kenny Dal­glish last lifted the English crown in 1990, they have fin­ished as low as eighth three times, sev­enth three times, sixth four times, fifth twice, fourth seven times and third five time. They have been run­ners-up on four oc­ca­sions, and two of those were in the last nine sea­sons. The clos­est they came to fi­nally win-ning their first Pre­mier League tro­phy was un­der Bren­dan Rodgers in 2013/14. 'top of the league with three games to go, Liver­pool — and, fa­mously, Steven Gerrard — slipped up and handed the ti­tle to Manch­ester Qty. Then they sold Luis Suarez to Barcelona and Rodgers bought Chris­tian Ben­teke in his stead. He is not the first Liver­pool man­ager of the Pre­mier League era to squan­der hard-earned cash from the club's sales. But he might be the last. Jur­gen Klopp's ex­tra­or­di­nary sum­mer spend­ing spree may have been largely funded by the sale of Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona in the Jan­u­ary trans­fer win­dow — he spent £75m on Vir­gil van Dijk within that pe­riod — but a Liver­pool man­ager spend­ing big to by and win the ti­tle is not a new phe­nom­e­non. The team Kenny Dal­glish first as­sem-bled af­ter he took over from Joe Fa­gan in 1985 was not cheap but the most the play-er-man­ager spent dur­ing his first reign in the dugout was the £2.8m re­quired to bring Ian Rush back from Ju­ven­tus af­ter his un­suc­cess­ful year in Thrin. It was Dal­glish's abil­ity to spot a bar-gain in his early years which en­abled him to as­sem­ble one of the best sides in the club's his­tory. Liver­pool even bought Irish play­ers back then, and Ray Houghton and John Aldridge, at a com­bined £1.5m, were two of Dal­glish's best buys. John Barnes was an ab­so­lute steal at £900,000. But when Dal­glish walked out of An-field af­ter a trau­matic Mersey­side derby, no-one at the club could or would have guessed they would not win the league ti­tle again. Dal­glish had sul­lied his ex-em­plary trans­fer record by sign­ing David Speed ie be­fore he left. It got con­sid­er­ably worse than that in the years af­ter. Ev­ery man­ager since Dal­glish has squan­dered money— in­clud­ing Dal­glish him­self when he re­turned to the club. He signed Andy Car­roll from New­cas­tle for £35m in 2011, and splashed out an­other £20m on the patently av­er­age Ste­wart Down­ing when he took over af­ter the Roy Hodg­son de­ba­cle (he signed Chris­tian Poulsen and Paul Konch­esky for 410m). Car­roll is not the only player for whom Liver­pool paid too much for too lit­tle. The cur­rent West Ham striker is the club's joint sixth most ex­pen­sive sign­ing with Alex Oxlade-Cham­ber­lain and left at a £20m loss, but Rodgers and Rafa Ben­itez argu-ably fared worse. Ben­itez bought Rob­bie Keane for £19m, hardly played him and sold him for ,C 16m within months. Ben­itez also bought Glen John­son and Al­berto Aquilani for nearly £3.5m, Rodgers paid £16m for Mario Balotelli. Spend­ing big on big play­ers has usu­ally worked for Liver­pool, which is en­courag-ing for Klopp as he at­tempts to bridge the con­sid­er­able gap to cham­pi­ons Manches-ter City this sea­son. It is the ac­cu­mu­la­tion of the lesser sign­ings which ham­pered his pre­de­ces­sors and de­nied Liver­pool a re­turn to the cham­pi­ons' ta­ble. And they all did it. The list of failed sign­ings Is em­bar­rass­ing. For ev­ery Mo Salah there is at least three Lazar Markovics. Klopp has taken his spend­ing over £400m with his three ma­jor sum­mer ad-di­tions, Al sson, Naby Keita and Fabinho. But he is work­ing in a vastly over-in­flated mar­ket with the TV bil­lions in the bank. Twelve months ago, the £36.9m spent on Salah looked an ex­pen­sive gam­ble. Now he looks like a bar­gain. For­mer cap­tain and as­sis­tant/care­taker man­ager Phil Thomp­son knows that Klopp's fig­ures will be­come more rel­e­vant if he has signed flops this stun­ner. But the Sky Sports pun­dit is con­vinced the Ger­man coach has added enough qual­ity to se­ri­ously chal­lenge City, par­tic­u­larly with the ac­qui­si­tion of Brazil­ian keeper Alis­son from Roma for £66m. That world record fee for a goal­keeper was quickly bro­ken by Chelsea, when they signed Kepa Ar­riz­a­bal­aga from Ath­letic Bil­bao. "It was within 48 hours of los­ing the Cham­pi­ons League fi­nal that Fabinho was an­nounced as our first sign­ing, the hold­ing mid­fielder to maybe put a bit of pres­sure on Jor­dan Hen­der­son," says Thomp­son. "Liver­pool have done their busi­ness nice and early, un­like some clubs who have been caught out. For Liver­pool though, I think it has been a fan­tas­tic trans­fer win­dow. "We needed an ag­gres­sor in mid­field and got that in Keita. I know it's not right, but he was sent off four times last year, and a lit­tle bit of nas­ti­ness helps in a side, plus he gets goals and Shaqiri will bring goals from mid­field too. "But the goal­keeper has been a main po­si­tion for Liver­pool. What was re­ally pleas­ing was the goal­keeper sit­u­a­tion. Jur­gen Klapp was very pro­tec­tive of both goal­keep­ers, cer­tainly af­ter the Champi-ons League fi­nal, but we all thought this had to be nailed down and there had to be a change. They are good keep­ers but were they of the level? He did it and he spent big. It was a world record for a keeper, un­til this week, and it gives ev­ery­one a lift, not just the fans, but the team and the play­ers. Yes, Kar­ius might not be happy with it but it hap­pens in foot­ball. "If Liver­pool go on and win the league ti­tle it will be in­cred­i­ble and he will be the sign­ing of this win­dow] know it is a lot of money but that is where it lies. We have seen how well David de Geri has done at Manch­ester United and the amount of points he has saved them. If Alis­son can do that at Liver­pool — be­cause of­fen­sively we are up there with Manch­ester City quite eas­ily — then it is quite ex­cit­ing. That was the one area that needed to be sorted. It was mas­sive "This fella has kept Eder­son out of the Brazil na­tional side, so he is a good goal­keeper, but no mat­ter how much you pay, not just for a keeper but for out­field play­ers as well, you don't know what they are go­ing to be like, par­tic­u­larly com­ing from abroad and com­ing into the Pre­mier League. If he comes and he does the busi­ness, and saves us points and adds to what we have de­fen­sively, he could be a fan­tas­tic sign­ing. "Alis­son will have to ac­cept all the pres­sure that comes with play­ing in the Pre­mier League and be­ing Liver­pool goal-keeper, be­cause they have been watch­ing Kar­ius for ev­ery mis­take and ev­ery save and it will be ex­actly the same for him. But this is a big, big chance for him."

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