When you’re not run by oil billionaires with no regard for the tame consequences of UEFA’s Financial Fair Play rules, but still wish to compete with the above, squad building becomes a multi-faceted and complex process. Relying on a combination of shrewd acquisition of undervalued talent, youth development, and top-end big-money signings, all underpinned by a robust player identification system, Liverpool appear to be successfully doing exactly that.
While much focus has been on their record signings Virgil van Dijk and Alisson Becker, 60% of Liverpool’s impressive back five were acquired for a total sum of less than £12m. Andrew Robertson’s £8m transfer from Hull was only made possible by the Tigers’ relegation from the Premier League, Joe Gomez was a gifted defender when he joined from Charlton for £3.5m, but his development into a Premier League starter — in spite of two devastating knee injuries — has only been made possible by the coaching available at the club, while Trent Alexander-Arnold didn’t cost a dime, having been with the Reds since the age of six.
Investing in talent development is crucial then, and on Thursday, Liverpool made another commitment to the cause, breaking ground on their new training ground at Kirkby. The £50m facility will replace the first team’s current base at Melwood, ensuring that first team stars and academy starlets will no longer be geographically separated.
“The Academy is important, especially here in Liverpool,” Jürgen Klopp told the club’s official site. “I think we are all desperate to get young Scousers through because it’s nice.
“It’s a special club and if you are grown up in that area it already makes you a special person. It’s always a difficult path to go, but if we can make it a bit easier, a bit more likely then we should try everything.
“This is the first step in that direction,” he continued. “It will be great, just great.
“This kind of will be the headquarters of Scouse football, if you want. That’s really good and we’re looking forward to it.
“For me, especially when I heard we will start in 2020, it’s pretty rare that a manager can plan that far, but I’m quite optimistic that I’ll be in when we start using the facility. I’m really looking forward to it. It’s a great day today.”
The manager went on to explain the decision to have first team and academy in the same facility — in short, building a stronger bond between the two — and praising the academy director Alex Inglethorpe.
The 9,200sqm facility will include the construction of a new combined training centre, redeveloping of the current Academy and converting the ‘front pitch’ at Kirkby into an indoor, covered pitch. There will also be new pitches, two gyms, a full-size sports hall, pool, hydrotherapy complex and specialist sports rehabilitation suites, as well as dedicated TV studios, press conference facilities and office accommodation.