Brendan Rodgers, FSG and the Net Spend Myth

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Let’s be honest here, Liverpool fans are rarely content. The highs of 2013/14 wet our appetite for what could be and many have failed to readjust their expectations since. A club with as much prestige as Liverpool should be challenging for the title year in and year out but for various reasons we aren’t in a position to really push for that. Fans find it difficult to accept this. They can’t accept Liverpool aren’t set up to push for the title both on and off of the field. This isn’t accepting mediocrity as certain fans will try to claim, this is  just being realistic.

Fans are now jumping on the ‘net spend’ bandwagon due to the ‘wage expenditure is par’ train running out of steam, for now. Not many fans took much notice of this until the past season or two. Even managers didn’t really mention it, you just have to look at Brendan Rodgers’ quotes about Spurs towards the end of the 2013/2014 season – Look at Tottenham, you spend over £100-odd million you’d expect to be challenging for the league.” At the time Brendan Rodgers was lauded by Liverpool fans for that comment. If you’re spending £100 million you should be challenging for the title, right? Fast forward two years and you’d be wrong. Now it’s net spend that’s holding you back from a title challenge.

Rodgers FSG Net Spend

Liverpool fans want change. A change of manager and this net spend myth is starting to turn the screw on FSG now. FSG aren’t perfect, they are at fault for many things at Liverpool but using net spend to beat them with is probably the most pointless argument out there. It’s fairly possible to spend over £100 million in the market and have a negative net spend (as you’ll see later). Does that make a bad owner? There is still value for money in Europe, you could sell a player for £30 million and buy two £10 million players and be better as a squad but have a negative net spend. Would net spend be an issue then? Do fans just want money spent for the sake of it?

Alternatively would Liverpool fans want the club to not sell the likes of Fabio Borini and Sebastian Coates so our net spend this summer would be £15 million more than it ended up? Would this make us better, would this appease these fans?

Net Spend 2015/2016

Team Spent £ Received  £ Net Spend £
Arsenal 13 2.3 10.7
Chelsea 73.3 35.2 38.1
Liverpool 88 66.3 21.7
Man City 154.2 52.9 101.3
Man United 115.3 72 43.3
Southampton 41.7 38.5 3.2
Spurs 53.2 40.9 12.3

I’m sure many if not all have seen the net spend table that is doing the rounds on social media, I’ve taken the top 7 teams from 14/15 and looked at their business in the summer.

If you look solely at net spend, with the exception of Manchester City no team had a net spend of more than £50 million and only United spent more than £40 million. Spurs, Arsenal and Southampton all had a net spend of less than £15 million, specifically, Southampton’s net spend was £3.2 million. Will fans, media and even Ronald Koeman mention this? Doubtful. They’ll mention the fact Southampton spent over £40 million.

You won’t hear the media or fans of  other clubs stating United only had a net spend of £43.3 million if they happen to underperform again. The only thing you’ll be hearing is the fact they spent over £115 million on players and they’re still struggling.

Liverpool spent close to £90 million this summer. I realise that’s not much when players like Kevin De Bruyne are going for £54 million but, and this is a big but, Liverpool aren’t in the market for those players anyway. If anything fans looking at net spend are punishing the club for actually doing well when selling players. The net spend is only so low because Liverpool did so well to get £49 million for Raheem Sterling. Not long ago many fans were fully behind the ‘moneyball’ tactic. Buy cheaply, develop and sell for big money. It’s a business strategy. Now it’s in full effect people aren’t happy with it?

Net Spend 2014/2015

Team Spent £ Received  £ Net Spend £
Arsenal 62.2 19.8 42.4
Chelsea 87.7 88.5 -0.8
Liverpool 116.8 81.1 35.7
Man City 54.5 19 35.5
Man United 147.1 14.1 133
Southampton 47.9 88.6 -40.7
Spurs 34.2 40.7 -6.5

I can’t imagine the anger amongst Chelsea, Spurs and Southampton fans when this window slammed shut. I mean, how can you be happy with a negative net spend. That’s right, negative. Liverpool finished the previous season 2nd, Manchester City finished 1st and both clubs have near identical net spends but did we hear much about that? Hell no. We heard how Liverpool, and more specifically Brendan Rodgers, had wasted over £100 million whereas the City fans all seemed to think City, who spent £55 million, hadn’t spent enough. Liverpool spent more than double what Manchester City spent. Why wasn’t net spend relevant to Liverpool fans during this window?

Net Spend 2013/2014

Team Spent £ Received  £ Net Spend £
Arsenal 57.2 31 26.2
Chelsea 106 58.5 47
Liverpool 44.8 28 16.8
Man City 91 15 76
Man United 65.5 0 65.5
Southampton 36 1.75 34.25
Spurs 105 115 -10

As aforementioned, the window when a team spent over £100 million yet finished with a negative net spend. Tottenham Hotspur received £115 million in this window and spent £105 million. Silly Brendan, not mentioning their net spend when he claimed Spurs should be challenging for the title…

Were their fans moaning at their net spend or were they amazed at their side had spent over £100 million on talent, spending more than the likes of City and United and £1 million less than Chelsea?

Were Arsenal fans bothered that they only had a net spend of £25 million or were they excited at the signing of Mesut Ozil?

United spent the third most money this window out of those listed yet their net spend was the most. Chelsea spent £106 million and finished with a smaller net spend than Manchester City who spent £91 million, why? Because Chelsea sold near £60 million worth of talent.


Personally I can’t remember any fans mentioning the fact Liverpool’s net spend was £16.8 million during this summer. The likes of Tiago Ilori, Mamadou Sakho, Luis Alberto and, erm, Iago Aspas all signed and Liverpool fans seemed content at the time. We jumped from 7th to 2nd with a net spend of less than Southampton.

In the 2014/15 season Chelsea had a negative net spend and managed to jump from 3rd to 1st. Why? They bought well and sold even better. In the same season United had a net spend of £133 million and had Liverpool taken their chances they’d not have finished top 4. Likewise, Southampton had a negative net spend of over £40 million and they weren’t too far off finishing 5th. Net spend, without context, is really a nothing stat. If Liverpool had sold zero players and their net spend was only £21 million I’d see the issue, but we’ve not, we’ve spent near £90 million on new signings. It’s not like Brendan is fighting for money like Rafa Benitez had to. It’s not like we went bargain hunting.

If you’re going to moan then moan about wasting huge amounts of money on players when there are cheaper alternatives elsewhere. Moan about FSG partly backing Brendan Rodgers so we get this mess of committee signings that aren’t utilised and Rodgers’ signings that are used too often. FSG should either back Rodgers properly or back the committee but don’t be half arsed about it because we end up with over £50 million worth of talent out on loan whilst we have Jordan Rossiter on the bench.

Is net spend the be all and end all of the transfer window? Anger at net spend is misguided but the truth is a completely different argument. I myself wonder if somebody else was in charge if we’d see FSG loosen the purse strings a little more now FFP is lax. Are they reluctant in some ways to give Rodgers *more* money after what’s gone on and if so, and they want us to progress, why not appoint a manager who will work with a committee so money wouldn’t be wasted? It becomes a vicious circle because deep down many fans resent what’s gone on.

If everything was as simple as many seem to think Liverpool would kill two birds with one stone. They’d spend £100 million on a player and offer them £300k per week in wages thus taking both net spend and average wages over the threshold to mean their par should be 3rd, for example.

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  1. B U L L S H I T about moneyball,the fans didn’t at all want this strategy…FSG use it to save themselves huge amounts of money,hence the reason on average we only spend about £25 Million Pounds NET.And these P R I C K S want us to compete with that type of spending ( K N O B H E A D S ) We will win nothing while this idiot manager and FSG stay at the club…FACT

    • Simple fact: you pay the best wages you get and KEEP the bed players. The best players generally play for the best teams who are challenging on a yearly basis. This doesn’t fit into the FSG financial model. They have investors who want return – Trophies mean nothing.

    • If their investors want a return then the club needs to be playing Champions League football. If you want CL football you need good players, and good players will give you a team which challenges for trophies.

    • Been saying this for ages mate. The system isn’t set up to challenge, it’s just for profit. Ironically, we’d make more money if we were successful I imagine. I always get shot down with “it’s not wages, the best players won’t come because of Rodgers”. They then cite players wanting to go to City, not for wages but to win something. City tho’ got into this position, not because of the particularly brilliant management of Mark Hughes or Mancini, but because they attracted top players by paying top wages. Our strategy is a gamble, it means that once every three or four years we might challenge, only if the manager (whomever it is) dramatically over-achieves and possibly signs a real world class talent like Suarez, under the radar. On that note, we could’ve grabbed Yohan Cabaye this summer, he’s no Suarez granted, but he’s better than most of what we have.

  2. This article fails to recognise the fact that even though you spend money or not, the teams which normally has good seasons are one where the group has been around for 2 or 3 years and everyone is in their prime and use to each other. Liverpool can never get the continuity of Arsenal, Chelsea or City because they always sell their best player at the start of each season or every two. Also Liverpool would be better if they could actually pay the wages top teams pay. This article only shows transfer fees not actual wages of the players. Ok article not great at all

  3. interesting, but needs comparisons of each clubs net spend over a defined period, say five or ten years. if they average out as high to mid spenders competitively over time then your argument about net spend is valid. but if consistently low net spend compared to rivals then it can be argued that is the problem. just comparing one years spend to another has no validity.

  4. After spending £200+ millions in 2 seasons if we r going to see performance like stoke and west ham net spend is not the issue. BR should hv Atleast have a team which he wanted but each Window he throws his buys…that’s ridiculous. Shows his not capable of handling pressure. And comment like not getting coaching time is really unfortunate from a manager of a club like liverpool. We should hv gone with someone else who has vision to move forward n plans with he sticks.

  5. Net spend is essentially relevant only to the club’s accounts and not when it comes to discussing playing staff. A squad is not composed of net players. You sell players and buy players. The cost of a player depends on several factors like buy out clauses (Benteke), length of contract remaining (Clyne) and desperation of buyer/negotiating skills of seller (Martial).

    Assessing a squad’s overall quality is another matter. LFC’s squad costing more to assemble than say Bayern Munich is worth a look, especially in the context of quality and success.

  6. Agree that net spend is a myth. However, transfer spends done over a period of time as someone said above cannot be ignored. Over a period of say 5 or 10 years, the spend (inflation-adjusted) should and does count for something. I am a fan of the Tomkins Times articles, the TPI model as well as the conclusions made thereof; so while I agree that ‘net spend’ per se indicates very little over one summer, it cannot be said that the same holds true over 10 summers (20 transfer windows).

  7. I think the sums for 2015/16 given are wrong
    Joe Gomez: £3.5m
    Firmino: £21.3 (may rise to £28.4m)
    Clyne: £10m (may rise to £12.5m)
    Benteke: £32.5m
    Milner: Free
    Bogdan: Free
    Ings: Subject to tribunal
    Total: £67.3 (may rise to £76.9m)
    Coates: £4m
    Aspas: £5m
    Sterling: £35.2m (may receive £5m more)
    Borini: £8m (may rise to £10m)
    Lambert: £3m
    Wisdom: £1.25m (loan fee)
    Ilori: £1m (loan fee)
    Markovic: (Dunno the loan fee)
    Total: £57.45m (may rise to £64.45)

    As of now our net spend in the summer is less than £10m. Even if the additional fees for Firmino and Clyne are paid, plus the pending fees for Ings and we include the future amount to be received from the sale of Borini and Sterling, plus the loan fee of Markovic, our net spend will surely not cross £20m as stated in the article.

    You guys really need to check your stats before posting. This is the second time in the space of a week where I’ve seen flaws in your numbers.

    • If you look at the Net spends since Rodgers took over then you’ll find Liverpool will be 5th which really should be the position we really should finish in the league but also pushing for a champions league spot. Now facts and figures are one thing but they really don’t paint the full picture. In Rodgers 1st season the wage bill had to be slashed so lots of 1st team players were sold on leaving our own youngsters stepping up to replace them. It’s fair to say the team struggled till we bought 2 new players in the Winter transfer window. The next Window we were still slashing the wage bill by selling high earning dead wood and replacing them with young talent at a cost. The squad was still very,very thin at this point with only Sakho really adding something to the squad but we still went on a title challenge. The 1st team picked itself due to the very small pool of players we had to choose from but at least we had a couple of youngsters who had stepped up to plate in Sterling and Flanno. Aspas clearly wasn’t any serious back up to Suarez and Sturridge so in the next window you’d expect to see this problem addressed along with a new left back. What happened in the 14/15 transfer window can only be described as a disaster for many reasons. Not only did we lose our number one striker that window but we failed to get his replacement too(Sanchez). Failing to get our number 1 targets was becoming a common theme in every transfer window and that is a point that still bugs me today. In the 14/15 window we certainly added players to a thin squad but we didn’t solve the problem of replacing Suarez and getting a back up in. That season we didn’t just lose Suarez we lost Sturridge too.
      I look at the players we got in this summer and I really think the team is better than our position suggests. The problems of last summer were clearly addressed and there is now more than 1 or 2 players who will get us the goals. Rodgers as left a good squad for the new manager and I really don’t see him bringing in many players in future Windows like we have seen over the last couple of seasons.
      I hope Rodgers waits for the Newcastle job and turns them into the entertainers mark 2 while we play the heavy metal football that wins titles.


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