Paul Tomkins 04 March 2009
Article by Paul Tomkins taken from LFC Official site
Okay, it must end NOW! I've reached breaking point. The shocking transfer myth must be put to rest, once and for all.
Let's make one thing clear: Liverpool have nowhere near the most expensive squad in the Premiership.
No. Where. Near.
Indeed, there are three clubs who have spent at least 50 per cent more on their current squad than Liverpool.
Shocked? Well, you should be if you believe what's spouted out on TV. But it's true. And one of the clubs is not a name you'd necessarily expect.
It doesn't help that some people – such as Jamie Redknapp last night – focus on Rafa's gross spend, rather than the net amount. Effectively, this means counting all the right-backs he's bought as one big outlay, rather than looking at how he's replaced one with another for roughly the same £2m fee.
Working with just the gross spend, you add the £2m of Josemi to the £2m value of Kromkamp (even though it was a swap), to the £2.6m paid for Arbeloa. But none of these players were at the club at the same time, and each was traded to get to the point where an outright success was secured, as happened with the final purchase.
So even though the total cost of getting Arbeloa was just the £2.6m paid, people will use a figure almost three times as high. That is illogical.
(Another note, Jamie: Liverpool have three right-backs on the books, not just one; but the promising Darby, like Arbeloa, was injured and Degen has had a first season ruined by various ailments. So it's wrong to criticise the manager for an unbalanced squad and playing a midfielder out of position when three right-backs are unavailable.)
It's like the housing market: you don't just go in and buy a mansion straight from school. (Okay, so maybe some footballers do, but not the normal people of this world. As someone stuck with renting, I'm speaking generally here!)
You start with an affordable house; you then use the money from selling that to buy your next property. Most people can only get to own a big house having traded their way up over a number of years.
Yet when someone asks how much you spent on your house, you don't add all the houses you've ever bought together, do you?
If you own a £220,000 house, you don't say £470,000 because you add the £90,000 starter home and the £160,000 step up. That would be moronic.
According to the excellent and reliable www.LFCHistory.net, Rafa's gross spend is approximately £188m, but his net spend is only £108m, given that around £80m has been recouped.
(I'd hazard a guess that a large proportion of the £108m net spend has also been recouped through Champions League progress rewards, particularly with the Reds being the top-ranked team based on his five-year tenure.)
So it's easy to pluck a figure of '£195m' from the air, live on air, and make it seem like that should make a team champions, or ultra-close challengers.
But it's only the cost of the current squad that counts. Because that's all a manager can choose from; he can't go back in time and select a player he sold in order to trade up, just as you can't just turn up to one of your old houses and let yourself in.
You simply cannot add Rafa having spent £5.8m on Sissoko to the £18m on Mascherano, because the two were never part of the same set-up; one was bought and sold for a profit, and as with a house, the money reinvested in a step-up. If Sissoko isn't bought and then sold, Mascherano probably doesn't arrive.
Is that really too tough to grasp?
From my own experience in writing 'Dynasty', I can attest that researching transfer fees is never easy, given the amount of undisclosed fees and various add-ons (for various things, like appearances, trophies won, national caps and the cultivation of unexpectedly daring hairstyles).
But taking each fee as the most a club has expect to pay when add-ons are activated, I've calculated the cost of the most expensive squads in the league, and listed them below.
(Note: while it's impossible to be 100 per cent accurate with the figures in the public domain, I'd say that overall it's at least 95 per cent of the true amount, and with rival teams I've actually been generous and excluded a couple of players whose cost just isn't listed anywhere I could find.)
The most expensive squads (excluding players out on long-term loan) are as follows:
Manchester United £206m*
Manchester City £140m
(*£226m if Carlos Tevez's deal made permanent, given that it is initially a unique two-year £10m agreement, and very different from 99.9 of transfer deals. Effectively United are winning games with a £30m player.)
So what does this tell us?
Let's start with the leaders. United's squad contains the most home-grown players, such as Giggs, Scholes, Neville, O'Shea, Brown and Fletcher, who all arrived for free.
So that shows that it is a long-established core supplemented by a lot of expensive signings added one by one to a unified collection. In other words, classic, spot-on building of a squad when already established at the very top.
But it shows that even if you work with the unfair use of Rafa's gross spend, it still doesn't match what Ferguson has spent on his current squad, let alone those who have been bought and sold for record fees in the past.
And this is utterly, utterly critical, and beyond the grasp of some people who cannot analyse things with common sense.
After all, what does it matter how much Rafa has spent since 2004 if Ferguson is currently fielding players like Ferdinand (£30m) and Ronaldo (£12.8m) who were bought before then?
Isn't Rafa – in the real world – competing with a team whose construction started well before he arrived?
Unless Ferguson is banned from fielding players like Ferdinand and Ronaldo (which would be illogical), or forced to start from scratch in 2004 (again illogical), it is not a fair comparison, is it? – I mean, come on, use your brain for a second here.
After all, how much as Harry Redknapp spent since he took over at Spurs? I make it almost £50m. How much has Rafa spent since Harry Redknapp took over at Spurs? Nothing. But only a nutter would compare the two in this deeply skewed way.
Rafa has been in his job about five times as long as Harry, so you obviously wouldn't dare compare their teams. And yet Ferguson has been in his job about five times as long as Rafa, and yet the Spaniard is expected to have Liverpool as champions by now.
Chelsea and Spurs are actually the more interesting examples in many ways. I knew Spurs had spent a lot, but to have a current squad that cost almost £200m shocked me. Add together the cost of Bentley, Pavyluchenko, Palacios, Bale, Defoe, Bent, Keane and Modric and you more-or-less end up with the cost of Liverpool's entire squad.
I could be sarcastic – or media-style sensationalistic – and say that with that much spent, any manager should be able to win almost all of his matches, but it wouldn't be fair or logical. It's far more complex than that, and even a good manager like Redknapp has his work cut out.
Chelsea and Spurs have had seven managers between them since 2007. This means different men making expensive signings and ending up with a mixed squad. Based on expenditure, both of these clubs are massively underachieving this season. Almost certainly to blame for that is the hierarchy having itchy fingers when it comes to firing managers.
Of course, this analysis doesn't include wages, either. You don't get the very top players in the world without also having to pay them a king's ransom. Michael Ballack must be most expensive free transfer ever, with wages reported to be around £130,000 a week, or about £30m over five years. Again, Liverpool are no way near the highest payers, either.
So there you have it. By all means print it out and pass it around; 'pass it on', as the saying goes, including to those in the media who could do with reading it. By all means quibble over some of the finer details, as there is a tolerance of a few percent on the accuracy of the figures, but the overall gist is very much sound and robust.
Note: as all good schoolteachers tell you to do, my workings are there to see, and will be available to view on my website.