I make no claims to be capable of running a football club but it’s a genuine wonder to me that “value” is as much of a concern to the hierarchy of Liverpool as it apparently is, with the club supposedly one of the top ten richest in the world. Surely they can’t think that Pogba’s signing was intended to represent “value”, outside of the usual inflated shirt sales claims? Maybe that’s a bad example given that Manchester United are frequently winning games at the moment in spite of Pogba rather than because of him, but the transfers of Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale to Real Madrid and, closer to home, Luis Suárez to Barcelona were very similar in that they were solely designed to bring on-pitch success to the purchasing clubs. Value? Suárez cost north of £60m and Ronaldo/Bale in excess of £80m in transfer fees alone, before you even start to skirt the matter of agent’s cuts, bonus payments, signing-on fees and weekly wages. The best don’t come cheap, the biggest don’t care. I can only imagine what Liverpool’s current hierarchy would make of Manchester United’s decision to buy the 23 year-old Ferdinand from Leeds United. That fee (£30m+) was mind-blowing for the time and made him the world’s most expensive defender. When Paul Tomkins’ Transfer Price Index was applied to take account of transfer market inflation in the meantime back in 2015, it became £82m. In no way, shape or form did Ferdinand represent “value” in the traditional sense of the word, and when he eventually left 12 years later the club didn’t even receive a fee for him, instead having to make do with the 6 Premier League titles, 3 League Cups and Champions League he helped them win. The same will also soon be true of Wayne Rooney, signed for £25m as a teenager in 2004 (also £82m in 2015 money according to Tomkins) who will likely command a vastly reduced fee when he leaves Old Trafford. I doubt they’ll care. Perhaps all of this is just a refusal on my part to live in the present. The truth is that FSG represent the inevitable conclusion of a journey that both football in general and Liverpool in particular have been on over the past 25 years or so. Arsenal and Wenger, who himself has never seemed particularly enamoured with modern football, have been on it too. Liverpool’s current owners likely wouldn’t have even had the opportunity to buy the club, much less at a knockdown price, had their predecessors not taken so long to adjust to the new reality represented by the Premier League. Everything else flows from that. Almost three decades of subtle, creeping mismanagement, never quite all-out collapse (well, once, almost) but nonetheless consistently operating at a level inferior (often vastly so) to what rivals have been doing in the same period followed and has long since culminated in death by a thousand cuts to another of those famous Bill Shankly mantras, one of the few not already laid to waste by the coming of the Premier League era, namely the one about building Liverpool into a bastion of invincibility and conquering the bloody world. The resulting mistakes, inadequacies and near-misses have seen to it that ideas of the club dominating anything have long since gone the same way as notions that well-paid footballers not giving their all for the public are a menace who should be put in jail, that the various appendages of players belong to the club rather than themselves, and beliefs in everybody working for the same goal and having a share of the rewards. In fact, the only part of modern football with which a reincarnated Shankly would likely be familiar is that he would still no doubt close the curtains if Everton were playing in his back garden. The most striking change he would find, of course, is to his professed belief that directors are only there to sign the cheques. In the first instance, this idea presupposes that said directors are actually “there” in the first place rather than 3,000 miles away on another continent, and in any case, SEPA transfers are the preferred way of doing business nowadays. More importantly, it vastly underestimates the power of modern owners and their assorted underlings. Rafa Benítez once said of Chelsea that “the key to them is Abramovich”, and he was right. In the decade or so before the Russian’s arrival, they had admittedly already moved from being a club purchased by its previous owner for £1 and with a carpark behind one of the goals as the Premier League era dawned to regular contenders at the top end of the table, but it was the billionaire’s purchase of the club in 2003 that started them on the path towards being one of the biggest names in modern football who, despite protestations to the contrary, now have going on 20 years’ worth of serious history to their name defined primarily by silverware and famous European nights in April and May. We all said that Chelsea won the lottery the day Abramovich showed up on the doorstep of Stamford Bridge with his billions, but their fortune was every bit as vested in his willingness to actually spend it as the number of pounds and pence to his name. That’s one side of the coin, the transformation of a club whose most expensive signing was Paul Furlong as recently as 1994 to one which can routinely demand the attention of the world’s best managers and players. The other side is that, at their worst, the suits in the boardroom now have the capability, in a sport whose relatively recent enrichment would surely be far beyond the comprehension of a time-traveller from the 1960’s or 1970’s, to literally destroy football clubs, or at least inflict serious damage. I wonder what Shankly would make of Leeds United, for example, one of the club’s greatest rivals during his time in charge who are still slowly working their way back from the cataclysmic events wrought by the mismanagement of a businessman in a suit named Ridsdale (who, incidentally, almost repeated the trick later at Cardiff and is now an advisor at another of Shankly’s clubs, Preston), and whose current owner’s highlights include sacking 7 managers in his first 2 years of ownership, brief disqualification from running the club after being found guilty of tax evasion and another suspension upcoming for sanctioning an illegal payment? And he would surely be downright baffled at the power now wielded by the likes of Jorge Mendes (I wouldn’t know where to begin), Mino Raiola (sufficiently cocksure of his place in the world to call no less a manager than Klopp “a piece of shit” earlier this season) and Aidy Ward (who was instrumental in an 18 year-old deciding that he had outgrown one of the most storied football clubs in the world). This is the era of money and moneymen, and the idea of players, manager and supporters forming a “holy trinity” into which the suits daren’t step is now as antiquated as terraces, tight shorts and perms. Liverpool’s owners hold the fate of their club in their hands to an extent that would have been unimaginable and maybe even horrific to Shankly, and the fear, of course, is that their definition of “success” has already been achieved and then some. Having bought Liverpool for in and around £300m back in October 2010, they now preside over a club valued by Forbes last year at over £1bn. Their investment was shrewd, a massive return already pretty much guaranteed. With that being the case, and regardless of how much revenue is being generated by the club, their approach to running Liverpool has every appearance of seeking to minimise risk above all else. Even Arsenal, a club at which the amount being spent on players has similarly long been a hot topic amongst supporters, have had a number of transfer windows where the amount spent massively exceeded anything recouped (2014/15 and 2016/17 in particular). With regard to Liverpool, I find it hard to shake the feeling that very few major transfers during FSG’s stewardship have been completed without a comparable sum, or the prospect thereof, coming the other way. The £23m signing of Suárez in January 2011 came a few months after Javier Mascherano left for £18m; the same month, Andy Carroll arrived for £35m on the same night that Fernando Torres left for £50m; the following summer, the £19m signing of Stewart Downing was offset somewhat by the departure of Raul Meireles for £12m; Sakho arrived for £18m in the same season that Andy Carroll left for £17m; the summer of 2014 saw a host of players signed primarily out of the £65m fee received for the departing Suárez; Christian Benteke (£32m) and Roberto Firmino (£29m) arrived as Raheem Sterling (£50m) left, Mané (£34m) and Wijnaldum (£25m) as Benteke (£27m), Ibe (£15m) and Allen (£13m) departed. Only Allen’s arrival for £15m in the summer of 2012 really bucks the trend in any meaningful way, and most of the original fee was recouped from Stoke this season. That feeling, I assume, is why Klopp was moved to explicitly discuss the matter last Friday. The last time the club had a manager of this stature guiding it, he was far more vociferous than the German regarding the need to sign players. Liverpool’s current boss has been more circumspect, but I don’t believe for one second that a coach as obviously driven, talented and passionate about the game as Klopp doesn’t want to work with the very best and to win. Speaking of Pogba’s transfer earlier in the season, he said that “other clubs can go out and spend more money and collect top players. I want to do it differently. I would even do it differently if I could spend that money”. However, he went on to qualify this by saying that “if I spend money, it is because I am trying to build a team, a real team. Barcelona did it. You can win championships, you can win titles, but there is a manner in which you want it”. If the transfer business of Barcelona, who haven’t been afraid to spend to spend huge sums over the years on the likes of Suárez, Neymar, Fabregas, Sanchez, Villa, Mascherano, Ibrahimovic and others to reinforce what they already had, is a benchmark for Klopp, then it’s safe to say that he is not adverse in principle to "spending big" on players he wants. Mané and Wijnaldum certainly weren’t cheap. The question then becomes whether he receives the backing this summer that he seems to be counting on (“We all have the same plan: sporting director, scouting department, owners, myself…we want to make this club as big and as successful as possible…Will it be a similar transfer window as last summer when we broke even? I don’t think it is possible. Now there will be a few other faces”). We can only hope so because, regardless of how disappointing the performances have been over the past couple of months, the majority of the current squad, which took 43 points from 19 games to start the season, should surely be retained and reinforced with three or four players of the highest quality. That, it seems to me, is not just how you “build a team, a real team”, it’s how you build the kind of squad required to support it. Sakho, maybe Lucas and, the way the signs are pointing, Daniel Sturridge are likely to be the only major exits from the club this summer, along with Markovic who in any case will have been on loan for two years by then, that’s if Barcelona leave it a little longer to go all-in for Coutinho and the club can convince Emre Can to sign a new deal. Breaking even with the income generated by those four is unlikely to be enough in itself, especially given that the style of football Klopp favours tends to rely more heavily on individual ability than, say, Conte’s Chelsea, where perceived weak links like David Luiz or Victor Moses have been able to form key cogs in a system built on defensive organisation (Luiz in Klopp’s system, for example, with Jordan Henderson frequently providing the only midfield protection, would surely be a different proposition to the one who has Kanté and Matić in front and a centre-back either side on a weekly basis). The talent required for it to function properly is likely, therefore, to come at a premium. All of this is not even considering the longer term issue of what happens if/when we reach a point where the manager wants to keep everyone during a transfer window but would like to add a couple more. Klopp’s Liverpool, occasionally dodgy defence and all, has frequently looked as good as anyone during his time in charge. To do that consistently is a tall order which will only be achieved by showing real ambition in actions as well as words, the kind of ambition that other top clubs are likely to be showing. Failure to take advantage of this opportunity will only result in more restlessness as the club falls further behind its rivals. Whether or not a top-4 finish is secured between now and May, this really does look like being the defining summer to end all defining summers.