They snatched a late draw from us last season if I remember right. Be good to smash them
A bit of revenge in all honesty, here's a piece from Paul Joyce in The Times, that first paragraph should be remembered by every player on Sunday and ram it back down their throats.
The last time Liverpool arrived at Elland Road, they were headed down a dead end.
The European Super League had been launched the previous day and, as the first of the co-conspirators to step into the spotlight, they would bear the brunt of a vitriolic backlash.
Jürgen Klopp and his squad were abused in Leeds city centre on their pre-match walkabout on April 19, berated as “greedy bas**rds” by strangers in the street, while upon reaching the stadium the buses ferrying the Liverpool team were charged at by home fans.
The visitors’ mood did not improve once inside the sanctuary of the changing room. The Leeds kitman had laid out T-shirts on every peg, with a pointed message towards the closed-shop principles of the Super League. On the front, they bore the slogan: ‘Champions League: Earn it’. On the reverse, the message read: ‘Football is for the fans’.
Klopp was infuriated that a decision made by owner Fenway Sports Group without his, or his players’ knowledge, resulted everyone at the club being painted as villains. The T-shirts were hastily dumped in a pile outside the dressing room door and the co-ordinated tweets from the first team the following day — “We don’t like it and we don’t want it to happen” — confirmed the death knell for Liverpool’s collusion.
On Sunday, Liverpool return to face Leeds United. Exactly where Liverpool and FSG find themselves five months on from the Super League debacle is complex.
The squalid episode, killed off within 48 hours, stings a little more for Liverpool than the other Premier League plotters. The intervening months have highlighted how attention spans are short. For a proposal deemed to be rooted in greed, the antidote for many clubs has been lavish spending and on-field success.
Manchester United have largely silenced the outcry by recruiting Raphaël Varane, Jadon Sancho and now Cristiano Ronaldo. Sky Sports pundit Jamie Redknapp cut to the heart of the matter recently, asking Gary Neville what he thought of the signings and pointedly adding: “I mean, you and your mates wanted to burn the stadium down last year with the Glazers!”
Chelsea spent £97.5 million on Romelu Lukaku to embellish a squad that won the Champions League six weeks after supporters took to the streets around Stamford Bridge to protest against their involvement in the Super League. Manchester City spent £100 million on Jack Grealish. Arsenal, now bottom of the table, have different problems to those caused by the Super League and Tottenham have found welcome distractions in fending off City’s interest in Harry Kane and topping the table under new manager Nuno Espírito Santo.
However, the ripple effects continue to be felt at Anfield. The European Super League may be dead but a financial super league continues to emerge, dominated essentially by Paris Saint-Germain and City. Manchester United’s commercial income allows them to be a member and though Chelsea have skilfully balanced the books, offloading academy graduates to fund incoming signings, they still have the deep pockets of owner Roman Abramovich in which to rummage around.
Liverpool sit in a tier below. There has been no extravagant transfer spending with the outlay of £36 million on Ibrahima Konaté, signalling a determination to wait in order to bolster the backline with the right player, rather than a player, regardless of the pain injuries to defenders caused in the interim.
The priority has fallen on contract renewals, hugely expensive in their own right. It is indisputable that Liverpool have added quality in Diogo Jota and Thiago Alcântara [£61 million combined], and potential in Konaté, to the squad which won the title in imperious fashion in 2020.
However, whether that is enough fuels an ongoing debate. FSG’s model of self-sustainability, and adherence to seemingly defunct Financial Fair Play rules, has brought Liverpool huge success in recent seasons with the Champions League triumph before the Premier League.
Yet as Swiss Ramble, the excellent football finance analyst, outlined this week, it is a model that has come under strain. Revenue growth has been swallowed by higher costs, including wages that have grown £197 million since 2011. They are now the second highest in the top flight at £326 million behind Man City, £351 million. It has also been calculated Liverpool could have lost around £152 million over the past two, Covid-disrupted seasons.
Such financial hits do nothing to lessen the expectation that always swirls among supporters. The demand is that they must compete and, in the main, they have done just that thanks to Klopp and clever recruitment. Still, the concern they could be left behind was, clearly, at the heart of FSG’s attraction to the Super League in the first place.
Further to the €200 million - €300 million ‘welcome bonus’ outlined in the proposals, there was the prospect of new income streams to plunder. Tap into those and FSG would continue to back the people working on the ground each day to outsmart their rivals, although sporting director Michael Edwards’s contract is due to expire at the end of this season and Klopp’s in 2024.
Outrage to the plan among supporters was unequivocal. Liverpool had won everything by being the best team, doing so with sporting integrity. Now FSG was prepared to sign up to a proposal which removed that basic principle.
Something must now change, however, if calls for increased investment in the team, or the belief Mohamed Salah should be handed whatever size contract he craves during talks on his extension, are to be answered.
Liverpool’s finances suggest there is not too much room for flexibility, but FSG should be considering how they maintain the club’s standing even if none of the immediate solutions appear particularly palatable.
Taking on debt is one way, they could choose to indulge in a financial arms race they are unlikely to win when pitted against state-owned clubs and then there is selling up, although there is no suggestion of that.
Klopp and his players led the way out of that dead end, but for FSG a crossroads now looms.