LIVERPOOL: The Kop has always been suspicious of foreign owners. Liverpool, traditionally, had been owned by local businessmen. But in the brave new financial world of the Premier League that model could not endure.
When the Moores family finally sold up in late 2006 they accepted the worst possible offer from American businessman Bill Hicks and George Gillett. The pair’s interest was solely in lining their own pockets. Eventually they finished up at war, not speaking and taking each other to court with the club teetering on the brink of bankruptcy.
During their tenure, until October 2010, Liverpool lost four valuable years while the likes of most bitter rivals Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal all powered ahead in terms of revenue generation, sponsorships, stadium facilities, expensive superstar players and – most important of all – trophies.
The takeover, five years ago, by Boston-based Fenway Sports Group, was a relief. More Americans but Americans, at least, with a solid corporate track record in terms of the sports franchise business as owners of baseball’s Boston Red Sox and the Rousch motor racing team.
Yet still Liverpool boast only two trophies in the last 10 seasons, one FA Cup (2006) and one League Cup (2012).
John W Henry, principal owner of FSG, is a rare sight at Anfield. He has assigned the day-to-day leadership to partner and club chairman Tom Werner.
FSG’s original but flawed blueprint for success was based on the concept of employing a young, up-and-coming manager. Brendan Rodgers fulfilled all the criteria. Also, he was willing to work with a controversial ‘transfer committee’ which decided on new player purchases.
The restrictions and complications were illustrated by Steven Gerrard in his newly-published autobiography. Rodgers told him one day: “Good news and bad news. Good news: we’ve got a new striker. Bad news: it’s Mario Balotelli.”
Klopp, accustomed to what is described as a ‘continental system’ is not expected to find the transfer committee as irksome an imposition as did Rodgers who always yearned for total control.
Last Thursday night Werner presided over the formalities, along with chief executive Ian Ayre, as Klopp put pen to paper at the city’s Hope Street hotel after arriving at John Lennon airport in a private plane from Dortmund.
He has been described as “a last throw of the dice” for FSG which is expected to begin quietly looking around to sell – at a handsome profit – once the long-awaited £114m expansion of the main stand has been completed.
FSG was not reaching into the dark just because Klopp – conveniently – happened to be out of work. Twice before, in vain, they had sought to lure him from Dortmund. Third time lucky. He is surely FSG’s last chance to repair the club’s profile and Champions League status . . . and sale value.