Caislin Boyle begs the intriguing question: can Jurgen Klopp find success at Liverpool while continually looking to conduct his business with integrity?
Integrity is at the heart of every decision Jürgen Klopp makes. Integrity has meant that Klopp has kept his word not to poach players from Borussia Dortmund. Integrity has meant that Klopp hasn’t bought certain players, and that when he has, his integrity has prevented Liverpool paying over the odds.
There is much to admire about the business model of Liverpool – the money is there but it won’t be spent frivolously. As Jürgen himself once said: “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.
“I don’t know exactly how much money we could spend because nobody has told me, ‘No, you can’t do this.’ If I spend money, it is because I am trying to build a team, a real team.”
Emphasis on the collective – that’s admirable. It’s also largely effective given that Liverpool collectively are through to the last 16 in the Champions League, are collectively on course to finish in the top 4 and have collectively progressed as a team since the German joined the club in 2015.
There’s no doubt Liverpool have built a tremendous team, with the Manchester City win the epitome of that team operating at its peak. But what of the games that require the individual genius?
There are games where the momentum of the team unit will overpower the opposition, like against Manchester City. More often than not, Liverpool win those games.
The predicament lies in the games where the team unit is matched by an equally committed unit, like against Swansea. There you need individual genius and intricacy; the overpowering, swashbuckling method will not work. It’s then you realise that the single biggest provider of that genius now lives in Barcelona.
And back to the question of integrity. Philippe Coutinho walked out the door in exchange for a handsome fee, Jürgen Klopp only sanctioning a sale when the timing was right for the club. This was another decision made for the right reasons, but what the club does next will either serve to vindicate that decision or to undermine it entirely.
Making integrity central to everything you do only works if it augments a business model geared toward success.
The reality is that selling Coutinho would only work if the money went toward building success for the team. The accusation I would make as a fan is that our business model is designed toward economic viability, and any trophy-based success is a bonus.
There is an additional argument to suggest that Klopp was so sought after by Fenway Sports Group because his ideology on heavy spending was well-known. Yet that is not enough to appease those of us who are all-too aware that our net spend does not compare with our supposed rivals.
In the last 7 years, the Liverpool net spend has been £163.985m (as of October 2017). That of Man City has been £718.05m, with Manchester United and Chelsea spending £540.05m and £351.8m respectively. Those figures already make for stark reading, and the January transfers of Coutinho and van Dijk haven’t been taken into account as of yet.
Let me be clear – I don’t want Jürgen Klopp to change. I don’t want the club to become a Man City or Chelsea; this would invariably involve a loss of the heart that defines the club. However, what I do want is for our business model to lead to consistent success and I do believe that involves compromise from Klopp.
FSG (for all their detractors) trust Klopp implicitly, so the decision must come from the man himself – there is nothing wrong with Klopp occasionally compromising his beliefs for the greater good of the collective that he himself has built. He has done it with van Dijk, and to a lesser extent, Naby Keita.
The man that bases everything upon integrity must realise that sometimes the most honourable thing to do is to fight fire with fire.
Spend the money, build the stronger collective, and garner the success. Klopp is the way he is because his legacy matters to him, he is unique in that respect.
To ensure that legacy with the Liverpool fans, he must open the purse strings, pay the premiums and make us stronger. Klopp claims timing is everything in football and in life.
He’s right – now it’s time to spend.