Two summers ago, Liverpool spent much time and effort pursuing Ross Geller lookalike Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who was at the time still with Shakhtar Donetsk. The negotiations took a turn for the worse when it emerged that the Armenian was wrapped up in a third party ownership deal, and he eventually ended up in the Bundesliga where such arrangements hadn't been made illegal.
Fast forward to Tuesday, when numerous outlets reported differing transfer fees for Liverpool's successful landing of Roberto Firmino. The numbers were so wide of each other that it immediately raised eyebrows as to whether there was a errant swapping of pound and euro symbols taking place, or if something more sinister was afoot.
@jas0nmcbride They're only reporting the money due to Hoffenheim. He's third party owned.— Tony Barrett (@TonyBarretTimes) June 23, 2015
Third party ownership deals are not uncommon for Brazilian players, with Neymar's and Barcelona's current legal entanglements being a well publicized example of such an arrangement. FIFA announced a ban on third party ownership in late December, and starting on May 1 no third party could buy a player's rights on any future tranfers.
Existing third party ownership deals seem to have been grandfathered in, though, and as the Premier League has already banned them Liverpool would have been forced to buy out Firmino's third party in order to secure his rights. Hoffenheim's fee is indeed only £18m, which means that Liverpool are shelling out the remainder — a whopping 38% of the total fee — to cut ties with the remaining owner.
It's a lot of cash to splash on what feels like a very large inconvenience fee, but both Liverpool's willingness to pay it and their ability to negotiate their way around a complicated transfer situation speaks strongly to the club's ability to get the players they want this window, something that will reassure everyone except the most ardent adherents to Everything's the Worst.