Liverpool's Jurgen Klopp now spending big: What's changed since his Pogba comments?
Two years ago, when Manchester United spent £89.3 million to bring Paul Pogba back to Old Trafford from Juventus, the disdain radiating from Anfield was palpable. "The day this is football, I'm not in a job anymore," manager Jurgen Klopp said. "I want to do it differently. I would even do it differently if I could spend that money."
Fast forward to the summer of 2018 and Liverpool are spending that kind of money. Having already lavished £75m on centre-back Virgil van Dijk, £54m on midfielder Naby Keita and £45m on Fabinho, the club have now agreed to pay Roma a world record £66.8m fee for a goalkeeper: Alisson Becker. There is a growing awareness at Anfield that spending big money on the right type of player brings results.
Liverpool's drive to the Champions League final is proof. The front three of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane dazzled the opposition but, though his price raised eyebrows, Van Dijk injected strength, leadership and mental toughness that proved crucial in the spring.
To compete with the best, you have to buy the best. Liverpool have spent over £250m in the past year and there is still business to be done in this window, too. Even accounting for outgoing players -- Philippe Coutinho's £142m move to Barcelona gave Klopp cash to play with -- it still represents a shift in policy from manager and board.
So what's changed? Quite a lot. There is almost invariably an element of hypocrisy and envy at work whenever a manager criticises another club's transfer spending. Taking the high moral ground gives a degree of defence against any potential failure to compete with the big spenders once the action starts.
Klopp's comments did reflect the mindset at Anfield, however. After Fenway Sports Group's takeover nine years ago, the owners came to the conclusion that they could operate in a different manner to their main rivals and achieve success through a cleverer approach to transfers that their peers.
The idea was to make Liverpool the destination of choice for the best up-and-coming young players across the globe. This, combined with what the owners considered a sharper, analytics-based approach to scouting, would give the club the edge. Results have been mixed.
When Klopp arrived on Merseyside three years ago he encouraged these sort of theories by suggesting to his new employers that he could win trophies with the squad he had inherited. That proved too difficult a task even for a man of the 51-year-old's ability.
Improvement has been steady but not quick enough for the German. The reality is simple: Klopp needed better players.
Money has not been the problem at Anfield. They do not have the sort of spending power of the Manchester clubs but FSG have always been eager to reinvest cash generated by the team. Less than 10 other clubs globally can compete with or outspend Liverpool. The issue was more about attracting the sort of player who could improve the side significantly.
When Klopp sneered at the Pogba deal, there was virtually no chance that Liverpool could attract top-class, battle-hardened talent. They had finished eighth in the Premier League in the previous campaign, behind Southampton and West Ham United. Two successive top-four finishes and -- particularly -- reaching the Champions League final have changed perceptions of the club for potential recruits. Klopp can now shop for a better class of player and is happy to pay the more inflated fees that come with the market.
The 3-1 defeat by Real Madrid in Kiev precipitated the move for Alisson. Loris Karius's two mistakes changed the tone of the final and, after initially indicating that the 25-year-old German would start the campaign in goal, Klopp saw enough after another howler at Tranmere in preseason to recognise that the team needs an experienced and dependable goalkeeper.
Liverpool are happy to make Alisson the most expensive goalkeeper in history because the Brazil international adds solidity to the team's increasingly powerful spine.
The Pogba quotes will always be used against the Liverpool manager, particularly if the France midfielder can play as consistently well as he did at the World Cup when back in a United shirt. The 25-year-old is a matchwinner and, when his price is set against what Liverpool paid for a centre-back and are willing to spend on a goalkeeper, Pogba might eventually be considered a bargain.
Klopp will not care about that if he gets a good return on his investment -- and that means trophies.
In October, Klopp enters his fourth year on Merseyside. He is aware that, for all the feelgood vibes around Anfield, progression needs to be turned into something more substantial.
Klopp will not spend time reflecting on what he said two years ago. The situation has changed for Liverpool. He will spend whatever money is available to achieve success. Words do not matter to him or, indeed, any other manager. Winning is the only thing.
Tony Evans has been a sports journalist for more than 20 years. He writes for ESPN FC on the Premier League. Twitter: @tonyevans92a.