Conflicting stories about Liverpool’s potential investment were common prior to the news that Dubai International Capital (DIC) were taking an official look at the books, and it seems the conflicts will continue until any deal is completed.
Stories that the deal is actually much closer to completion than most people believe are tempered by stories that the details of the deal are far from settled. According to the Norwegian-based Liverpool FC fansite liverpool.no there is still an issue over how many of David Moore’s shares DIC are expecting to buy – and how much they want to pay for them. The Norwegian site is usually very much on the ball when it comes to news from inside the club. It does seem highly unlikely that so much of a fanfare would have been made unless the various sides in the deal weren’t happy that they were close to an agreement.
The agreement is close enough for the potential new owners to meet with the man who’ll be charged with bringing them the success on the field that is so important to a club like Liverpool. The DIC chief executive Sameer Al Ansari met Rafael Benítez after the Fulham win, but with the formalities still being worked through there were no revelations to Rafa about how the deal will work. Or at least he wasn’t letting on about anything; he was no doubt sworn to secrecy about anything he was told.
Rafa said that although he didn’t get details, he got a good feeling about the possible new bosses: “I have spoken to the people. It was a very nice meeting, but we didn't talk about the details of the takeover. They've made it clear they want to do the right things for Liverpool in the future and this will not be a short term deal. Their idea is to make Liverpool a success in the long-term.”
It’s not likely that the deal will be finalised before January, meaning that Rafa’s not likely to be buying star names that were previously out of reach in this particular transfer window. Come the summer though and it’s hoped by all that the new money will include a significant lump added to the transfer budget.
Liverpool have the rare luxury of no midweek game this week, their next game being against Charlton in the league this weekend before facing Arsenal in the League Cup next week. And the Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has been talking of his fears about how Arsenal could be left behind if the big clubs keep being bought by people with big money. Chelsea’s owner Roman Abramovich is having great fun spending his wealth on buying silverware for Chelsea and now Wenger is worried that the Reds will be next.
Arsenal’s move to their new 60,000-seater stadium was made possible thanks to investment and should ultimately lead to more money for the club to compete with. However Wenger fears that the kind of investment Chelsea have got and Liverpool look set to get could mean money being spent on transfers that doesn’t meet the financial return any success brings. He said: “Once the financial potential of the club goes above their natural resources by far, we (Arsenal) will be in trouble because we don't have that. At the moment the income is basically the gates, television and sponsorship.” He is worried that other clubs are going to get other income: “If their income is gates, television, sponsorship plus private gifts then we cannot compete. At the moment we can do it because only one club has those resources. But once three or four have that, are you dead?”
It seems that Wenger hasn’t paid much attention to how the new Liverpool deal is perceived as working. If Liverpool are going to get cash in the early days of the deal the hope is that this will ultimately be paid back by the success it brings. There will obviously be a length of time that the investors are prepared to wait before seeing a return, but as investors and not sugar daddies they won’t wait forever.
Wenger went on: “The pressure on the salaries will be too big. Today the player says: 'OK, I earn less than at Chelsea but it's only one club.' But once that becomes the price of the market then you are in trouble because you cannot compete.” Arsenal aren’t exactly poor, (although their fans are now after seeing ticket prices raise sharply) but Wenger has decided that it’s time now to get the excuses in: “If you have a club where every year they say: 'It costs £100m more? OK, I'll put that in,' then you cannot compete.”
Liverpool fans don’t expect to be in that position though – and Rafael Benítez isn’t likely to court player who want ridiculous wages either, he wants players who have the desire to play for the club. One reason Liverpool need to be able to consider this potential offer from DIC is that there aren’t that many people willing to invest patiently in a club like Liverpool. Wenger senses this, and worries about Arsenal having missed the boat: “If today you go into football and think: 'I have £100m available to put into Arsenal Football Club and want to make £200m,' it looks to me very dangerous, both for football and for the club. If you say: 'I have £100m and I want to enjoy it and be inside the club and help the club to develop' it's OK. But to find people who put £100m, £200m, £800m into a club and are prepared to lose their money, you must be lucky.”
Wenger also spoke of a worry that there will be no patience from big-money owners with their managers. He thinks that they will all have no sporting knowledge whatsoever and will assume that big investment brings big results, quickly. He took the opportunity to have a dig at Chelsea as he explained his theory: “You can buy a super player and he can look disastrous for three, four, five months. If you buy a super machine, if you buy a Ferrari, from the first day it goes well – unless it's a Russian who buys it and it breaks in two. But with a player, it's not the same. Sometimes you need to be patient.”
From listening to comments from people like Kenny Dalglish on how David Moores and Rick Parry would have been evaluating bids, it seems unlikely that Liverpool’s new owners will be impatient with their manager.
Also yesterday came an announcement from Tranmere Rovers dismissing the talk that they were set to be bought by DIC also as a feeder club for the Reds. They issued a statement pointing out some problems with that idea: "It is essential that the club has its own identity. Furthermore, feeder clubs are not permitted under Football League rules. We would welcome new investment from a credible interested party and therefore would always be prepared to enter into discussions. The club has received inquiries from time to time and will continue to welcome talks with interested parties."