Could Anfield January spending plans be out the window?
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When John Henry and his New England Sports Ventures investment vehicle took over Liverpool in October of this year it was met with relief and cautious excitement amongst Liverpool fans. They looked at the success that Baseball’s Red Sox had enjoyed since being taken over by the same company in 2001. The team had suffered an infamously long wait to win the World Series, waiting from 1918 until the NESV backed victory in 2004. This was followed by another championship in 2007. Due to the nature of the divisional lay out that Major League Baseball is based around, the Red Sox have to compete in the same 5 team division as the world famous New York Yankees, a team with twice the potential budget of any team in baseball. The Yankees are baseball’s equivalent of Manchester United and Real Madrid, where the Red Sox are more similar to Arsenal. They have always been able to spend money but have preferred not to spend on the same level, and have produced a number of home grown starlets. They also share many similarities with Liverpool themselves. Both teams play in argueably the most historically rich stadia in their league and revel in their individual identity.
The Red Sox have been able to compete well in recent years, but in the 2010 season they finished 3rd in the American League East having struggled to keep pace with the Yankees. This brought a strong reaction from Boston, and they have surprised other teams and baseball media with an extraordinary spending spree to start the off-season. The baseball free agency period is the equivalent of the Bosman rule in football, with players allowed to move freely between clubs when their contract expires. The Red Sox’ Fenway Park is known in America as a ‘hitter’s park’ meaning players who can hit home runs are at a premium. They immediately traded for premier first baseman Adrian Gonzalez from the San Diego Padres who hit 31 hime runs last year and was responsible for 101 runs batted in. This is the equivalent of Liverpool going out and accquiring a player like Carlos Tevez, who both scores and creates goals. The problem for Liverpool; Gonzalez is due to sign a seven year contract worth $150million.
The Red Sox weren’t finished with Gonzalez. On Wednesday, they added Carl Crawford from their divisional rival Tampa Bay Rays. Crawford was thought to be the best available batting free agent, and as such, the Red Sox had to pay a heavy premium to sign him. Crawford is a speed player who does not bat with the same power as Gonzalez, but has a skill for getting himself onto the bases, and is amongst the best in the league at stealing bases. You can’t score runs if you aren’t on base, and stealing them gets you nearer to scoring, and this puts Crawford’s skills at a premium. His batting would the footballing equivalent of Cesc Fabregas, he creates chances for others to capitalise on, but Fabregas with Walcott’s pace. A premium which has cost Bostom $140million over 7 years.
These means that over the last week Boston, and by extension NESV, have spent over $250million on just two players. The transfer rumours in England are beginning to flow, and Liverpool seem to be attracting the most interest. They have been linked with, as is usual at this time of year, a whole variety of players. Recently they have had to deny they are close to signing Ronaldinho, Luis Suarez and Ashley Young, and have also been linked with Dimitri Payet of St. Etienne, and Adil Rami of Lille. The question is, where is the money for these transfers coming from?
Ashley Young would seem to be an excellent addition for Liverpool, adding pace and trickery that they currently lack. He would however, cost around £15million. Suarez would add goals and pace and could form a devastating partnership with Fernando Torres, but would cost at least the same as Young. Positive signs for Liverpool in terms of attracting these two are the recent departures of Martin Jol from Ajax and Martin O’Neill from Villa due to financial constraints, and hence they may be able to secure deals for them. The money required to sign these two, or whoever Roy Hodgson and Damien Comolli decide they want may be there but there will be an awful lot less of it potentially.
Liverpool fans may worry about the spending in America taking away from them, but it should also reasure them. Hicks and Gillett not only didn’t spend on Liverpool, they didn’t spend on their American teams, and neither does Manchester United owner Malcolm Glazar on his Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Although NESV’s spending on the Red Sox could give cause for concern, it should also encourage Liverpool fans to believe that their American owners are willing to spend so extraordinarily to help their team win.
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