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The Premier League’s Spending Power Means Clubs Pay or Get Left Behind

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Speaking to the German press, Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp said the Bundesliga is falling behind other top leagues.

Bury v Liverpool - Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

Being competitive and keeping up the top domestic and European clubs takes quality coaching and players, but more than ever it also takes investment. It’s a reality Jürgen Klopp has gotten used to after spending time in England but not one that came naturally.

That’s because, he says, it doesn’t match the German mindset to club football, which tends to focus on development and bargain transfers—the cheaper the better, and best if they’re free—but that can tend to limit the upward mobility of any side that isn’t Bayern Munich.

“You can’t have everything,” Klopp told Sport1 when asked about the differing approach to spending. “I don’t think that in Germany there is a culture in which a transfer for 150 million euros would be tolerated. There, a free transfer is perfect. It’s different in England.”

In Germany, the purity of the experience and central role of the fan is often held up as admirable—even enviable—by those outside the country, but the reality is that outside of Klopp’s own challenges with Dortmund there is only one club there that tends to matter.

At least when it comes to titles and an ability to challenge for silverware on the continent, there’s Bayern—who clearly benefit from the German outlook by collecting many of the best players on the cheap as their contracts run down—and then there’s everyone else.

And there’s nothing wrong with that, if the clubs and fans value the positives that come with the approach. Increasingly, though, it means the best are starting to look abroad, to the clubs who can pay more and so compete both domestically and in Europe.

That’s widening the gap, not just between Bayern and the rest of the Bundesliga in domestic competition but also between Bayern and Europe’s biggest spenders, who are showing signs that they may be starting to open up a gap on Germany’s champion.

“Times are changing,” Klopp added. “Germany wants it that way and I think that’s fine and that it can work. But then you may have to accept that the absolute best individual quality players leave to play in England or in Spain. Accordingly, you have to make a choice.

“Either it stays everything as it is, then it’s great—great league, great stadiums, great atmosphere. Or you want the England model and the approach has to be changed. There is no other way.”