The FSG Spending Myth
With Liverpool in the middle of a critically important transfer window (aren’t they always?), it seems like a perfect time to revisit a recurring myth amongst the Liverpool fanbase: FSG refuse to spend the money to compete for trophies. As an American Liverpool fan, I scoff at the notion that Fenway Sports Group is a bunch of cheapskates who do not like to put money into their teams. This is because FSG also just happens to own the Boston Red Sox, and if you suggested to any MLB fan that the Red Sox haven’t spent enough on their players and free agents, they would laugh in your face.
The Red Sox are one of the financial bullies of the MLB – along with their archrival New York Yankees – that spend more money than almost every other team, thus having an unfair advantage over smaller market teams. FSG have green-lit a number of large contracts throughout their stewardship of the Red Sox and continue to do so even after several of those deals have gone pear-shaped. So, my frame of reference for viewing FSG as owners has been shaped by watching FSG spend the cash necessary to compete almost every single year they’ve owned the Red Sox, which has resulted in 3 World Series titles since 2002.
However, even if you look only at FSG’s dealings with Liverpool, the myth that FSG won’t spend simply doesn’t hold up. Only one (Fernando Torres) of Liverpool’s top 15 most expensive transfers happened before FSG took over in October 2010. While certainly some of this can be explained by inflation raising transfer fees exponentially in the past couple decades, FSG’s record shows they will absolutely invest in the team rather than just pocket the money they make from the club. When Fernando forced his way to Chelsea, FSG immediately spent the Torres transfer money with big gambles on Andy Carroll and a certain forward from Ajax named Luis Suarez. FSG’s willingness to reinvest the money obtained from selling big names like Torres, Suarez, and Coutinho shows that they’re not owners hoarding the money they get from their club, such as Mike Ashley. Instead, after failures with Carroll, Christian Benteke, and pretty much everything that happened in the summer of 2014, Liverpool have learned to invest in the right players instead of spending simply for the sake of spending (see: everything Everton did last summer). This is similar to how FSG have spent their money differently with the Red Sox after getting burned by huge contracts handed out in flashy signings. With both clubs, FSG are now focusing on targeting players that fit their system. Big money signings or transfers generate headlines and interest, but winning will always be more important.
Ultimately, the negative parts of the Liverpool fanbase appear to confuse a lack of ability to spend on the level of City, United, PSG, or the Spanish giants with a refusal spend any money at all. Liverpool simply do not have the financial muscle of those clubs, but the money spent to bring in Van Dijk, Keita, Fabinho, Salah, and Mane over the past few years shows that FSG absolutely will back Klopp and Edwards when the time and player are right. FSG certainly are not perfect, and if Liverpool do not spend the money this window that it takes to shore up the remaining holes on the roster, there will be some justifiable criticism much like similar failures in January 2014 and January 2016 to get players necessary to make a title challenge. However, based on Klopp’s past comments on transfers, it’s extremely hard to argue that FSG is handcuffing Jurgen from spending what he needs to build a contender. Instead, FSG has enabled Klopp and the transfer committee to go out and get the players they want by making the money available if the player can be brought in. If Liverpool decline to spend wildly like some of their competitors, then it will be the decision of the football side of LFC not wanting to make the move, not the owners.
So, now that’s settled, can we just announce Fekir and Shaqiri already?