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On Record Sales and Six Years in Transition

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Nobody has made more from sales in recent years than Liverpool, but they aren’t a selling club. They’re a club stuck in transition.

Liverpool Training Session - UEFA Europa League Final Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images

Over the past six seasons, going back to the start of the summer of 2010, Liverpool have made £379M in player sales according to the CIES Football Observatory. It’s an eye-popping number, one all the more noteworthy for the fact it’s more than any other club have recouped over the same period.

Other sources, including Transfer League and Transfermarkt, peg Liverpool’s sales at closer to £347M. Either way, it’s a big number. One that, as would be expected, has led a few people to get upset, asking questions about Fenway Sports Group’s investment and commitment and whether Liverpool are a selling club.

“It shows a lot if you want,” was manager Jürgen Klopp’s initial response, though the manager quickly dug down to the real meaning behind the headlining number: namely that Liverpool has been a club stuck in transition. Because over that same period, while the club have been selling, they have also been buying.

Using Transfer League’s numbers in to ensure a fair comparison of outgoing spend vs. incoming spend, over the past seven summers, Liverpool have sold players valued at £347M while spending £502M to bring new signings in. That’s a net spend of £155M, and it’s a net spend skewed by FSG’s first year in charge.

It’s a spend that includes the club’s final season under Tom Hicks and George Gillet. If one only looks at the past five years and six summers, Liverpool have made £261M off of sales while spending £422M, a net spend of £161M. Sales have been made, but Liverpool have done far more buying than selling.

“A club changing, not as successful as everyone wants them to be, you need to make changes and everyone is under pressure,” Klopp continued. “Our transfer window was quite busy and I don’t want it to be that busy in the future. Development doesn’t stop after a year—it’s about having consistency.”

Taken on its own, that headline number—and the fact nobody has made more off sales than Liverpool—paints the picture of a selling club. Taken together with the purchases, looking at the net spend, it paints the picture of a club that has seemingly spent every summer these past six years in year one of a rebuild.

And that, more than the picture of a selling club that has some concerned, is the picture that lines up with reality. Ever since Rafa Benitez was sacked in the summer of 2010, Liverpool have been beginning a rebuild only to give up, change directions, and begin another rebuild and another and another.

Sometimes those been due to a change in manager. Other times, it’s been because the same manager changed his mind when as to what he wants his Liverpool side to look like. Such was the case under Brendan Rodgers, who in his time at the club attempted to build three wholly different Liverpools.

Roy Hodgson’s stumbling start was replaced by Kenny Dalglish’s desire for a British core and an over-reliance on chance creation stats. Then Rodgers arrived preaching from a pass and move bible. Then he embraced a run-and-gun attack. And finally he decided to try to build around a big body target striker.

“The successful teams don’t have to change a lot,” noted Liverpool’s current manager. “There is no need to sell for us. Nobody says, come on, sell because we need money. It’s only about finding the right squad. We brought in the players we wanted [this summer]. We don’t need to change another six next year.”

Liverpool aren’t a selling club, no mater how much they’ve made in recent seasons from selling players. What they are is a club who haven’t known who they want to be or what direction it is they’re heading in. Hopefully, under Jürgen Klopp, those days are finally at an end.