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Imagine Being a Liverpool Supporter

Music from the famous DJ Calvin Harris, fireworks, red confetti, smoke and the smell of flares colored the sky of Liverpool on May 29 2022. Adults and children packed the streets. Not a few of them stood on the roofs of houses, climbed street lights and bus stops. Everything was dissolved in Liverpool’s successful parade of winning the FA Cup and English League Cup 2021/22.

In fact, the day before, coach Juergen Klopp’s squad had just lost 0-1 to Real Madrid in the Champions League Final. The defeat at the Stade de France, Saint-Denis seemed to complete Liverpool’s “failure” which certainly failed to win the Premier League in the last week (one point difference with Manchester City).

Compared to the two trophies won, the two lost trophies are indeed more prestigious. There is no higher award than the Premier League for Liverpool as an English club and the Champions League as a European club. From dreams of quadruple perfection, ending with two trophies of the lowest level.

Rival club supporters underestimate the Liverpool trophy parade, which seems like nothing more than a consolation ceremony. However, for Liverpool and its supporters, this is still a celebration.

“This parade is for the fans and not for us. They deserve it. Celebrating life, after all the difficulties we went through during the pandemic,” said Liverpool coach, Juergen Klopp, as quoted by The Athletic.

What Klopp means in relation to the difficulties of the pandemic is not only about the failure to celebrate the 2019/20 Premier League title with his supporters. Understandably, when Jordan Henderson lifted the trophy he has been waiting for for 30 years in the stands at Anfield Stadium in July 2020, England (and the world) were facing one of the biggest medical challenges in human history. The British government banned all forms of gatherings, including the championship parade.

Klopp’s point regarding the difficulties of the pandemic is also about the hard blow COVID-19 has had on the lives of Liverpool residents. In the same place as the celebration of the 19th Premier League title, about four months earlier, Liverpool hosted Atletico Madrid in the second leg of the Round of 16 of the Champions League.

Before the match, there was already anxiety regarding the threat of the spread of COVID-19. Incidentally, right on March 11 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced the status of a pandemic. On the same day, it was discovered that there were 1,646 positive cases in Spain and 782 of them were from Madrid.

UEFA as the owner of the competition has full control over the security and safety protocols for matches. They said they “received no input or requests from local authorities to hold matches without spectators”. Incidentally, the day before, Boris Johnson as the British Prime Minister, also said that the UK was ready for COVID and “allowed the disease, as before, to be among the people”.

The match was held, Liverpool lost 2-3 to Atletico and were eliminated 2-4 on aggregate. It was the last football match to be held in England. Exactly 11 days later, the UK announced a nationwide lockdown.

Based on a report by The Athletic, there were only six positive cases in the city of Liverpool on match day. This number increased to 262 cases as of April 2. About a month later, 303 people were reported to have died from COVID-19. When football in England resumed without spectators on 17 June 2020, Liverpool became the city with the highest number of deaths outside London.

As a result of the government’s indecisiveness, the Liverpool vs Atletico game became one of the epicenters of the spread of the virus. “Two weeks after the Cheltenham Festival (horse racing) and Liverpool’s game against Atletico Madrid, we are seeing an increase in the number of people reporting COVID symptoms and these two areas have become hotspots in the UK,” said epidemiologist Professor Tim Spector from King’s. College London to Sky Sports.

The British government itself, through a report released in October 2020, acknowledged that 37 people died in hospital after the match. And, no one is responsible for it. Overall, based on reports from the Liverpool city government, a total of 28,933 people were positive for COVID and 988 of them died throughout 2020. In the same year, it was reported that 3,334 businesses in the city of Liverpool had to go out of business.

“If people out there don’t understand (the reason Liverpool fans celebrate the closing parade for the 2021/22 season), I think I’ll enjoy it more because, to be honest, it’s just for us. If people don’t understand how special the club is I can’t help them,” said Klopp.

At the same moment, the man from Germany also expressed his optimism for the 2022/23 season. “Yes, we did lose two trophies, but these guys don’t forget (with the team struggle). They know very well the hard work of the players. This is a boost for us for the future,” he explained to LFCTV.

“The difference with 2018 is that now I can see us competing (fighting for the title). In 2018, I was expecting it but I don’t know (what will happen). This season didn’t end the way we wanted but this club is in a moment which is good. We are back to fighting,” he said.

This optimism is reasonable. They competed in four competitions to the finish line and only lost by slim margins. Perhaps it never occurred to Klopp and Liverpool fans that when the year changed, they were in a tricky position.

The two trophies that Liverpool won last season have certainly disappeared from their grasp. They were eliminated by Man City in the Quarter Finals of the English League Cup and Brighton and Hove Albion in the Fourth Round of the FA Cup.

Mohamed Salah et al only got 39 points after 24 Premier League matches. It was his lowest points tally since 2015/16, Klopp’s first season as coach to replace the sacked Brendan Rodgers in October 2015.

In the Champions League, the Reds are trailing champions Madrid 2-5 on aggregate in the round of 16. It feels fair to say they need a miracle to end the season with a championship title.

The question is, how did Liverpool, who barely a year ago had the chance to get a quadruple, get to this point? At a time when they should be able to build a dynasty after winning the 2019 Champions League and 2020 Premier League, why is Klopp’s squad a few steps behind the Manchester duo (City and United) and Arsenal?

It must be admitted that the squad’s ‘readiness’ is an important factor in Liverpool’s decline in performance. The injuries to several key players, such as Luis Diaz, Diogo Jota and Virgil van Dijk, had disrupted the team’s performance. This is a strong illustration that they do not have a suitable coating.

The absence of backup players can certainly be seen as a failure of the club’s transfer policy. However, this is not a matter of the amount of spending alone.

If we look at Liverpool’s spending on buying players from 2010/11 to 2020/21, they spent a total of £1.168 trillion. This amount is the fourth highest in the Premier League (only losing to Man City, Chelsea and Man United).

During this time, Liverpool’s two biggest expenses occurred in 2018 (£195 million) and 2019 (£223 million). That happened? Liverpool won the Champions League in 2019 and the Premier League in 2020.

Meanwhile, this season, Liverpool ‘only’ spent around £116 million to bring in Darwin Nunez, Cody Gakpo, Fabio Carvalho, Calvin Ramsay and Arthur Melo (on loan). This amount is down 20 million Pounds compared to last season and puts Liverpool in the 12th place in the Premier League club’s 12th biggest spender for 2022/23.

That is, Liverpool is quite behind in terms of aggressiveness in the transfer market. In fact, they have just recorded a revenue record in the history of the club with a total of 594 million Pounds Sterling in 2022.

Based on the Deloitte Money League report, Liverpool is the club with the third highest income (only Manchester City and Real Madrid) worldwide in 2022. The biggest income comes from broadcasting rights, especially the Champions League. Out of a total of 266 million pounds, 118 million of which came from Liverpool’s success in reaching the final.

In fact, looking back, Liverpool’s revenue growth was the most of any Premier League club since 2016 (up £292m). Then, where did the money run?

Most of the money was used by Liverpool’s owners, Fenway Sports Group (FSG), for infrastructure development. They spent £110 million developing the main Anfield Stadium stand in 2016, followed by £80 million developing the Anfield Road stand and increasing the stadium’s capacity to 61,000. The FSG is also spending around £50 million on the construction of new training facilities.

For the most part, this money is used to pay player salaries. As of 2021/22, Liverpool need a total of 368 million Pounds for the salaries of their players. This amount is the second highest in the Premier League (only losing to Man United, 384 million Pounds).

Overall, Liverpool are very healthy financially. Since FSG took ownership of the club from 2010 to 2021, they have recorded a profit of around £56 million (before tax). It is the third highest in the Premier League (lost only by Spurs and Man United)

Is this a bad thing? From a club’s financial perspective, of course not. But if you compare with other clubs who dare to lose money in order to strengthen the squad, then we can say that FSG is a winner.

On 5 March 2023, Liverpool will host Manchester United at Anfield. Compared to their second meeting last season, the situations of the two teams were much different. At that time, the hosts were competing with Man City for the Premier League title. Meanwhile, Man United, which is handled by interim coach Ralf Rangnick, is struggling to fight for a position in sixth place.

A banner reading “imagine being us” (imagine being us) fluttered on The Kop and Man United came home with a 0-4 defeat. This time, the position is relatively reversed. It is Liverpool who are struggling to penetrate the top four. Meanwhile, Man United is enjoying the cold hands of Erik Ten Hag (who knows how long it will last).

After imagining myself being a Liverpool fan, I can say unequivocally that, in the end, we are all the same: football fans who are sometimes on top and sometimes on the bottom; while continuing to pray that your favorite club has an owner who wants to take it seriously and make the interests of the club a priority.


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