By Brad Hubbard @bradhubbard
Liverpool Football Club was one of most historic clubs in all of soccer. It was less than a decade ago when they were champions of Europe in one of the most stunning comebacks in all of sport. Now the only hope they have for a trophy this season is by having another stunning comeback in the Europa League Cup against Zenit St. Petersburg.
So how did Liverpool fall so far so quickly? Several reason but the main one has to be a lack of leadership. They’ve had two sets of American owners over the last 6 years with the new owners taking over in 2010. They’ve also gone through 3 managers with the current manager Brendan Rodgers taking over this past summer. Meanwhile other major clubs in England have been the model of consistency (Chelsea’s revolving door of managers not withstanding).
English football is run a little bit different then North American sports. Buying and selling of players is key. The academy system is hugely important as well as scouting. While the academy system has provided some of Liverpool’s greatest stars over the years (Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard) it has lacked over recent years to produce premier talent. Some of the player moves over the past 6 years have been questionable at best. While purchases of players like Luis Suarez and Dirk Kuyt (who has since moved on to Fenerbahce in Turkey) were excellent and the potential of young players like Jordan Henderson, Raheem Sterling and Jonjo Shelvey may turn out to be excellent as well there have big even bigger misfires.
Robbie Keane made the move to Liverpool in 2008 from Tottenham only to be sold back to the club 6 months later for a financial loss. Then there is Andy Carroll. A player with a lot of unrealized potential that Liverpool purchased from Newcastle United for £35 million making him the most expensive British football player transfer ever. He is currently on loan with West Ham United.
Poor financial decision hurt a club just like a person or a business. Getting up and coming players at a lower price is the Holy Grail. Liverpool’s lack of leadership from the top have allowed other clubs to catch up and pass the famed club.
What Liverpool needs to do is stick with current Manager Brendan Rodgers for at least the next 4 years and let him build a team that will fall into his philosophy on and off the pitch. Make smarter purchases of players and, here’s the tough part, sell some players before they become ineffective. Liverpool legend Carragher is retiring at the end of the season and while it may sting a whole lot to sell keeper Pepe Reina and Gerrard, it may be for the best. Selling ‘Captain Fantastic’ Gerrard may be impossible for the American owners considering the recent past so phasing him out into a position with a club may be the only option left.
Liverpool has a long road ahead but it’s not impossible. The key may just be not giving into public opinion and staying the course. These however are always easier said than done.