If you were asked which two teams had amassed the most Premier League points since Jurgen Klopp was appointed Liverpool manager in October 2015, you could probably hazard a successful guess without barely a thought.
To the surprise of nobody, it’s Manchester City and Liverpool. But how many points separate them over the last four-and-a-half years?
Three. Just three points. A half decent performance at Vicarage Road recently and they might be level. Granted, Liverpool have played one more game, but to be so close over 172 matches shouldn’t be underestimated when taking account of the enormous financial disparity between the clubs in the transfer market.
Looking at a club’s net transfer spend during a manager’s time in charge is not without flaws. It’s not as if a club had no players in place before the gaffer in question took charge, is it? Different teams will be at different stages of their development when a line is drawn to begin a net spend analysis too, as we’ll see shortly.
But looking at the figures – which have been sourced from Transfermarkt – in order to get an idea of club finances paints Premier League spending over the last five seasons in very vivid colours.
The most eye-catching outlay has been undertaken by Aston Villa, who have a higher net spend in 2019/20 (£139.6 million) than Liverpool have across the last five seasons in total (£107.7 million). They have tried the same method as the previous Championship play-off winners, Fulham, and with similarly disappointing results.
There are examples of other teams who’ve been promoted to the top flight within the last five years who have amassed a higher net spend than Liverpool in that time frame too. Bournemouth, Brighton and Wolves are three such clubs whose net expenditure has been between £60 and £100 million more than the Reds since the summer of 2015.
These teams are mostly battling at the opposite end of the table to the Reds though, and doing what they can to keep afloat at this level. Liverpool can offer far higher wages than those clubs too. A much more pertinent comparison is among the league’s established big six.
Except that at the top end of the five year transfer spend table, it’s barely a comparison at all. Where Chelsea and Tottenham have comparable net spends to Liverpool, Arsenal and (especially) the two Manchester clubs are far off in the distance.
Indeed, the two largest single season net spends by a Premier League club from 2015/16 onward both belong to City, and they’re the first two years of Pep Guardiola’s reign. The Citizens had a net outlay of £160 million in 2016/17 to welcome their new boss, and topped it with £203.5 million the following season. It makes Liverpool’s achievement of keeping pace all the more impressive.
And the Reds’ return on investment has been seriously impressive. Transfermarkt also have a squad value model, which uses the wisdom of crowds to assign a theoretical value to every player in the squad based on various criteria (age, position, form and so on). Like any model it’s not perfect, but it can act as a reasonable guide.
In October 2015 when Klopp took charge of the club, Liverpool’s squad was valued at £320 million, the fifth highest in the league, and some £168 million shy of the most valuable club at that time, Chelsea.
Over the past half-decade, transfer inflation has seen the average price of all players increase considerably. But Liverpool have also invested their money very wisely on the whole, and seen the value of their squad rocket accordingly.
Transfermarkt rate City’s squad at £1.14 billion currently, with Liverpool not far behind at £1.08 billion. The Reds will have cut the value gap to the reigning champions in part due to having a slightly younger squad. The value of key players like Sergio Aguero and Fernandinho is inevitably in decline as they reach the autumn of their careers.
Even so, the Reds have got a remarkable level of bang for their bucks in the last five seasons. Their net spend of £107.8 million has led to a £759.6 million increase in the value of the squad. City’s squad is worth £675.6 million more than it was in October 2015, but it has cost them a shade over £600 million in net transfer expenditure along the way.
Still, they don’t have to look far to find a team who’ve had less of an impact with their spending. Manchester rivals United have spent £484.9 million net on transfers in the last five years, but only seen their squad increase in value by £365 million. What Liverpool have achieved in the market during Klopp’s time at the club has been simply stunning by comparison.
Titles and trophies won will always be the ultimate measure of a successful football club. Nobody could seriously suggest otherwise. But to be within one win of Manchester City’s points total across the entire Klopp era in light of the financial disparity is an incredible feat by Liverpool nonetheless.