This week has seen blockbuster news as Jack Grealish and Lionel Messi change clubs. The two deals shine a very bright light on Liverpool.
Jack Grealish and Lionel Messi will both play for new clubs next season. Both move for extravagant sums.
Grealish moves to Manchester City for £100m – a British transfer record. It makes him one of the most expensive players of all time, no matter what specifics you put on it.
As for Messi, all we know for sure is that he’s leaving Barcelona. It appears he’s joining Paris Saint-Germain, however. L’Equipe report that he’s on the verge of a €40m-a-year (£34m) contract after tax.
So first off, isn’t it nice to see the underdogs do well? Somehow, despite a season without fans and a pandemic tearing the world apart, these two clubs have worked really hard and somehow found the money to make record-breaking deals.
Incredible stuff. Feel-good stories all-around.
Now the bitterness is out of the way – the important stuff. Because these two deals do mean quite a lot for Liverpool. They represent a true test of the Reds’ viability going forward.
Grealish, Messi vs Liverpool
The injured players are back, Liverpool have a squad again, and there are trophies to be won. The Reds will want to compete at the top again.
And you’d have to back them to. They’ve got largely the exact same squad that delivered both Champions League and Premier League success.
Really, they’ve upgraded it since then. Thiago and Diogo Jota have both come in and shone. Kostas Tsimikas offers great cover at left-back, while Ibrahima Konate joined this summer. There’s also Takumi Minamino – the jury is out there, though.
The likes of Dejan Lovren and Adam Lallana have moved on, of course, but you’d say this is a better squad. Assuming everyone is fit. We have to work on the assumption that everyone will be and that this squad is ready to challenge.
What you can’t say about this side, though, is that it’s particularly expensively assembled. Liverpool went big in 2017 and 2018, by their standards, but there’s been little since.
Minamino cost £7.25m, Thiago £20m, Jota £41m, Tsimikas £12m and Konate £36m. In other words, Liverpool have spent roughly £120m in three summers since winning the Champions League.
Or 1.2 Grealish’s.
Liverpool don’t spend lavishly, they spend ‘sensibly’. The result is that there aren’t great improvements year on year and not much changes.
It also means their teams are built gradually. That particular strategy gets a test this year.
Put to the test
Liverpool’s squad is almost all at the end of their prime. Virgil van Dijk, Joel Matip, Jordan Henderson and Thiago are all 30. Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane are 29.
Liverpool will have to start shaking things up soon and this is one of the final years with this elite, successful XI. But when you’re slowly building teams, you’ve got to take advantage of having these XIs.
City and PSG don’t. When they need someone new, they spend a fortune to keep themselves dominant. Hence Grealish arriving for £100m the year after David Silva left and as Sergio Aguero departs.
PSG failed to win the Champions League last season, so they’ll try with Messi. It’ll cost them far above anything Liverpool have paid in their history, however.
That’s what Liverpool are up against. The slow, gradual build needs to deliver success at its peak and while it has up to now, is there a limit?
We’ll see this season what Liverpool are capable of. Can their well-thought-out, slow-build compete with the incredible spending they’re up against?
If it can’t, you’ve got to question the long-term plan here because City and PSG won’t stop. It could be some time before Liverpool have a team this good again.
But on the other hand, if Jurgen Klopp does lead this side to success, Liverpool can prove all this money needn’t scare them.