Liverpool’s spending on player trades indicates owner Fenway Sports Group’s desire to return the soccer club to trophy-winning ways, according to a senior executive at the company that also owns the Boston Red Sox.
Fenway Sports’ principal owner John W. Henry, who made his fortune in hedge funds, pushed through the 300 million-pound ($485 million) acquisition of the 18-time English champion in October after lenders forced the previous owners to sell.
After stabilizing Liverpool following its worst league start in more than half a century, FSG has provided manager Kenny Dalglish, who guided the team to its last English league championship in 1990, with funds to rebuild the squad. Liverpool paid 57 million pounds for strikers Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez in January and signed midfielder Jordan Henderson for a reported 20 million pounds from Sunderland last week.
“You’re seeing the desire to win and the desire to compete in the transfer market,” Billy Hogan, managing director of Fenway Sports Marketing, the group’s commercial arm, said in an interview. “We would expect to have a couple more additions as the summer progresses.”
Dalglish, who returned to the manager’s job after a 20-year absence, and Director of Football Damien Comolli have been linked with bids for players including Blackpool midfielder Charlie Adam, Aston Villa winger Stewart Downing and Newcastle pair Jose Enrique and Jonas Gutierrez.
“Damien and Kenny have certainly been clear about the desire to add talent where they can,” Hogan added.
Players have been allowed to leave too. Liverpool sold Spain striker Fernando Torres for a U.K.-record 50 million pounds to Chelsea in January before paying Newcastle a club-record 35 million pounds for Carroll. Reserve-team quartet Deale Chamberlain, Steven Irwin, Alex Cooper and Nikola Saric were released yesterday, Liverpool said.
Suarez, Carroll and Henderson are all under 25. Hogan said that’s a sign that the team is favoring younger talent. Last offseason, Liverpool added the likes of Joe Cole, Raul Meireles, Paul Konchesky and Milan Jovanovic, who are all older than the players signed by FSG.
Hogan said the method mirrors his company’s strategy at the Red Sox.
“When the ownership group acquired the Red Sox 10 years ago, one of the focuses was to develop the youth and in particular our farm system,” he said. “That ultimately is where the Red Sox have been able to compete by bringing in what we call homegrown talent: young and talented baseball players that were grown within our minor league system. That’s certainly something that holds true across the organizations. We’re always looking for young talent.”
The Red Sox won the World Series in 2004, ending an 86-year title drought, and took the championship again in 2007.
Liverpool was the dominant English team in the 1970s and 80s and has since been usurped by Manchester United. The Red Devils added their record 19th league title last month, the 12th under manager Alex Ferguson. Liverpool finished in sixth place, meaning it will miss out on Europe’s elite Champions League for the second straight year.
Although the team’s focus will be on “winning”, setting targets publicly isn’t the way FSG does its business, Hogan said.
“We don’t like to over promise and under deliver,” he said. “Our goal is to always win.”