IN an interview with German newspaper Die Welt at the weekend, Jürgen Klopp was asked about Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea investing heavily in new players. José Mourinho, Pep Guardiola and Antonio Conte “are not known to go shopping at Aldi,” he replied.
And so, here we are again, not even in August and we have the all-too-familiar story of a Liverpool FC manager letting it be known, albeit in assenting terms, that the club won’t be shopping at the Formby end of the supermarket spectrum this summer.
Convivial Klopp’s manner may be, but he certainly has a way of getting his message across and in a week when it was revealed that Liverpool Football Club, even in the post-Brexit Sterling slump, is now worth more than an eye-watering £1billion, any expectations of Liverpool competing financially with their supposed peers have been dashed emphatically.
Expectations well and truly managed.
While Klopp’s standing as one of the top managers in Europe is beyond doubt, and his philosophy and ability around the coaching of improving players is in keeping with what the core tenets of Liverpool should be about, it cannot and should not be used as a blanket to cover up the fact that sometimes, even with the best coaching in the world, sometimes you need a little extra.
The impression projected by the club, with the manager’s consent, is that he believes that by looking for very specific attributes in his targets he can identify the so-called ugly ducking and make them into an effective cog in a highly-tuned, aggressive, attacking unit.
It’s all a bit Moneyball, isn’t it?
As well as being probably the best manager in the league, Klopp is undoubtedly the best fit of any manager in world football for Liverpool Football Club. But he is no miracle worker.
While Klopp might also be publicly happy to extol the virtues of coaching and financial conservatism in football — values that just to happen to conveniently align with those of his paymasters — it would be foolish to think that he would turn down the opportunity to add some genuine stardust if the opportunity were afforded to sprinkle it.
And in another example of why you should never take notice of what a manager might say publicly, compare and contrast the mixed messages below:
“So if I would speak to a player now and he would tell me ‘if you were playing in the Champions League next year, I would be really interested’ then I would put the phone down from my side.” – Jürgen Klopp, April 2016.
“We can talk about the one or two disadvantages that we have. We are not in the Champions League, we are not in the Europa League. That possibly means a player wants to play in the Champions League or European football or whatever so cannot join Liverpool.” – Jürgen Klopp, July 2016.
This isn’t a dig at the manager, far from it, but a lesson in reality and a game that every manager in football has to play.
The truth is that using a lack of European football as an absolute barrier to signing the players you want, as Manchester United have proven over the last two seasons and Manchester City before them, is a cop out if you are genuinely ambitious enough.
And while shopping at Aldi might put you in the top four or five restaurants in town, sometimes you can’t do a Delia and substitute Maris Pipers for powdered Smash.
To stretch the theme a little further, sometimes if you want to make something extra special you need those rare ingredients that they just don’t stock in your local Aldi, or even the more exotic Co-op up the road in Crosby.
Sometimes, if you want it to be perfect, you need to take your base ingredients and take that trip up the bypass to Waitrose to get your sumac and pomegranate molasses that, as a certain spicy Uruguayan has proven in the past, can make all the difference.
In the era of billion-pound valuations, record TV money, selling bits of wood for £200 and a summer when Liverpool — assuming Christian Benteke to Crystal Palace goes through — are likely to show a transfer profit and a wage bill £350,000-a-week lighter, shouldn’t the newly emboldened Klopp be allowed to celebrate his six-year contract by going out and showing out? Or have Liverpool had a glance at what Leicester have achieved and thought that trying to replicate a likely once-in-a-lifetime occurrence should be the way forward?
The obvious counter argument is that money isn’t everything and to point to Klopp’s Dortmund team and how they signed Lewandowski, Hummels and Gundogan all for less than Liverpool paid for Joe Allen. But the reality is that at the same time, Dortmund were, and still are, comfortably the second biggest spenders in the Bundesliga behind Bayern Munich.
Couple that with the simple reality that as much as English football has many lessons to learn from the Bundesliga, competitiveness isn’t one of them.
For Dortmund to win the Bundesliga they have one financially superior giant to overcome, Liverpool have at least four. That is a reality that the manager of Liverpool Football Club has to work with every single day.
Klopp may have the first and last say on his purchases, but when the shop he’s sanctioned to spend the money isn’t even in the area code as his supposed equals, he may struggle for a mixed metaphor title-winning checkout.
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