Although he may not win any friends amongst those who live and die by the idea that Germany are still England's No. 1 rival on the international stage, Brendan Rodgers is looking to youth-focused clubs like Borussia Dortmund as an example of what can be accomplished through investment in a club's own academy and low-cost youth during lean years.
"You can challenge [for the top four] without spending £80m in one summer," said Rodgers. "Look at the example of Borussia Dortmund. A team that won the Champions League [in 1997] and then struggled financially. They went out and rebuilt and it took them four to five years to push on. Then they won the league and their European work suffered. This year you can see they have put their focus on Europe and they have lost their title. That's a team that has been growing over five years.
"Unless you have got the Manchester City or Chelsea money and just bring in £70m-£80m worth in one summer to add to a Champions League-winning group, you need a different way. I think this [Dortmund's] is the best way because you are not just looking after the team but also the club. Of course, supporters will always look at the team but for me it's bigger than that to have success. It's about all aspects of the club, so that when you do arrive you are in a strong position."
It's easy to see why Rodgers likes the Dortmund model so much: the emphasis on academy graduates, inexpensive youth signings, fiscal responsibility, the "one club" concept. It all adds up to what Rodgers hopes to accomplish at Liverpool given the correct application of resources and a reasonable time frame in which to do it. A thin squad allowed Liverpool's own youth contingent to shine this season, and there is already much excitement about where the club could be in five years if built around a core made up of many of these players, as well as some who haven't yet made their senior debuts.
Dortmund's resurgence in the last few years coincides with the benefits the Bundesliga is now reaping as a whole due to massive investment into the country's football infrastructure following Germany's calamitous showing at Euro 2000. The children who entered improved academies staffed by coaches with more qualifications than ever before are now coming of age in stadiums around the country, bringing with them an incredibly strong push to the forefront of European football.
It's a revolution led by homegrown products: Marco Reus and Mario Götze have collaborated to lead the charge at Dortmund, but even clubs with tons of money are still developing an incredible amount of talent, as the performances of Toni Kroos and Thomas Müller this season at Bayern Munich also demonstrate. Exorbitant transfer fees paid by clubs consistently make for good headlines, but the amount of money saved through nurturing young players in your own backyard cannot be underestimated.
That England hasn't made the same sort of investment as Germany despite its continually disappointing showing in major tournaments is frustrating for fans of the Three Lions, but also impacts the development of its future stars. Brendan Rodgers and Liverpool are obviously keen to do it themselves if the FA won't, and that puts the club at an advantage in developing a cohesive approach from the ground up. It may take a few years to see the dividends, but Dortmund's run of success shows how worth the wait is.
Auf geht's, Jungen!