Big Summer Ahead
It's been two weeks but for many Liverpool fans, losing the title race still rankles. So near and yet so far -- and with other clubs getting stronger and extra games in the Champions League having to be navigated, one wonders if Liverpool will get a better chance to win the Premier League in the coming seasons.
There was some amusement to be gained from reading and listening to everyone connected to Manchester City trying to weave around the cash-stuffed elephant in the room after winning the league. A club that has gone from mid-table mediocrity in 2008 to two titles in three years trying to palm it off on ingenuity and talent.
Such self-deception can't have been helped by UEFA sanctions over financial fair play immediately afterwards. True, it was pretty much a slap on the wrist but you sense there is a stand-off to come.
Something's got to give but most cynics will expect UEFA to bark more and bite even less. Liverpool fans tempered their gritted-teeth "congratulations" to City by archly adding "you get what you pay for" but football has other problems that need solving -- problems that have existed for decades.
Men like Matt Busby and Bill Shankly operated in an age of a largely level playing field. They were allowed to build their clubs into the giants they are today, free from the interference of super-rich vultures hovering over their stadiums whenever they had a decent young player capable of being the next superstar.
A club like Southampton are seemingly about to be picked apart, leaving only the carcass. Lest we forget, Liverpool will be one of those hovering vultures if the stories about Adam Lallana and Dejan Lovren are true. UEFA will never address this kind of financial bullying. As long as their flagship tournament remains so compelling, the continuing domination of domestic competitions by the few is no concern of theirs.
The fans can make all the comments they like about City but had the Dubai deal of 2006-07 gone through, few would have questioned the massive spending that would have followed. As it was, despite ending up with sugar daddies that were decidedly saccharin, Liverpool still paid an extraordinary amount of money to bring in a steadily decreasing amount of talent.
The bitter irony on the final day of last season was that the Reds were utterly dependent on West Ham springing a major surprise at the Etihad, largely focussed upon two players that cost Liverpool 55 million pounds but that the Londoners snapped up for less than half that. Such waste is only the tip of the recent iceberg, offset by the almost supernaturally rich rewards from the Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge deals and by the improvement in others thanks to Brendan Rodgers' coaching.
Something similar will be needed next season, as last year's 35 million pounds outlay on Mamadou Sakho, Luis Alberto, Iago Aspas and Tiago Ilori failed to pay off. Lallana is reportedly worth around 25 million pounds but I don't quite see him in that category.
In the light of Real Madrid's Decima perhaps they will be gearing up to sign another Galactico which might spell bad news for Liverpool. Clubs will always feel that such ludicrous amounts can go towards adding half a team of great talent if spent right, but given what Tottenham have done post Gareth Bale and what the Reds could be like without Suarez it's an extremely high-risk venture.
It feels like the entrenched biggest clubs want to keep the very top table all to themselves and after years of smaller clubs' development almost being strangled at birth it's no wonder the fiscal shortcut of the modern era has taken hold. UEFA are right to want limits, though. Perhaps there should be a time scale where clubs get to spend what they like and when that limit runs out they have to play by the same rules as everyone else?
Liverpool fans can be a bit whiny but on the whole they are fair. When they see their club operating at 100% efficiency on every level -- business, players, coaching and yes even the supporters themselves -- they will know it. If the Reds ever hit their heads on that glass ceiling and still can't compete meaningfully, then and only then will they start searching for their own sugar daddy.
With huge TV revenues, the return of Champions League football and the much-delayed ground extension finally rubber stamped, this tiny envy of City's triumph may well prove to be a temporary blight on an otherwise proud giant. Liverpool can become successful again without outside assistance.