July 31, 2021

Champions League: Liverpool-Tottenham, two economic models of English football

Forget Brexit, Europe has a strong English accent this weekend.

Three days after a 100% London final – won by Chelsea against Arsenal – in the Europa League, the 2019 Champions League final, the peak of the European football season, will also pit two Premier League clubs, Liverpool and Tottenham, against each other this Saturday. to Madrid.

The two clubs have in common their exceptional career in the competition, marked by spectacular twists and turns in the semi-finals. They also share financial strength. Earlier this year, Liverpool announced record profits for last season, at 106 million pounds (120 million euros). A figure beaten in April by Tottenham, which generated profits of 113 million pounds (132 million euros).

“Reds” (Liverpool) and Spurs (Tottenham) dominate Europe, in every sense of the word. But they owe their presence at the top to very different strategies. The final this Saturday evening will devote one of these two models: on the one hand, spend more to earn faster, on the other, wait and rely on past investments to shine.

In Liverpool, resources commensurate with impatience

If he is not the biggest spendthrift of European clubs, Liverpool is, in the eyes of Tottenham, an ogre on the transfer market. The Reds, however, have come a long way: on the verge of bankruptcy in 2010, the Mersey club may then fall into the hands of its creditors if it does not pay off its debts.

It will even take a court decision for John Henry to become, without the agreement of the previous owners, the new boss of the Reds for 300 million pounds (340 million euros) and recover the club at the end of a fully economic transition. successful.

At the time, the billionaire already owned the Red Sox, the Boston baseball franchise, with which he wanted to hit hard and fast. A less obvious impatience with Liverpool, at first, despite stated ambitions.

Liverpool owner John Heny (third from right) also owns the Red Sox baseball franchise and the “Boston Globe”.Paul ELLIS/AFP

Via his holding New England Sports Ventures (NESV, ex Fenway Sports Club), John Henry certainly achieves some major shots (center-forward Andy Carrol and Luis Suarez, for 41 and 26.5 million euros), but his investments are also dedicated to the long term, notably with the renovation of the legendary Anfield stadium.

The Reds on equal terms with PSG and Real

The change took place at the end of the 2013-2014 season, when Liverpool failed two points from the coronation behind Manchester City. While he had spent “only” around 56 million euros in the previous summer transfer window, Liverpool released the heavy artillery, aided by the inflation of TV rights negotiated that year by the English league of football for the period 2013-2016 (around 6.7 billion euros to be shared between Premier League clubs over three years).

Since then, the Reds have soared: 149.4 million euros in the 2014 offseason, 113.5 million in 2015, nearly 80 in 2016 then 173.6 million in 2017 and 182.2 million in 2018… Less than Manchester City or Chelsea, but on equal terms with Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid. And especially well far in front of Tottenham.

Sumptuous spending that does not prevent the finances from being in good shape, like those of many Premier League clubs. But Liverpool are doing particularly well, driven by their good career in the league, full ticketing, well-negotiated player sales, juicy sponsorship contracts and international marketing revenues. Riddled with debt in 2010, he is the seventh richest club in the world, according to the 2019 Deloitte report.

The most expensive defender in the world

There remains the sporting consecration. Returning to the front of the stage, the Reds have however still not won major titles since the Champions League 2005.

The Mersey club has yet acquired a framework worthy of the best European teams, embodied by his trio of striker Firminho (recruited 41 million euros), Sadio Mané (41.2 million) and Mohamed Salah (42 million), but also by Virgil Van Dijk, whose transfer to 84.6 million euros makes him the most expensive defender in the world since 2017.

Even the gatekeeper position, less affected by the inflation of spending in the transfer market, is the object of an exorbitant investment. Scared by the defeat in the final of the Champions League 2018, marked by the double ball of its goalkeeper Loris Karius, the club decides in the following transfer window to recruit one of the most highly rated in Europe for this position, Alisson Becker, for 62.5 million euros.

To be convincing, Liverpool also exploded its payroll, the second largest in England (see below). Efforts that have not yet paid off, as evidenced by the small point that separates Liverpool from a Premier League title this season (second behind Manchester City, again) when the club has lost only one match. More than frustrating.

In the event of victory this Saturday evening, the Reds would put an end to the famine. Enough to devote a management model, and above all to satisfy the impatience of John Henry and the red people.

In Tottenham, patience and length of time

Tottenham is a special case in the Premier League. His recent Premier League results – Chelsea runner-up in 2017, third in 2016 and 2018, fourth this season – make them one of the most successful clubs in the English league and have lifted them to the top 10 highest earners in the world. last season, but he’s not playing in the same league as his main opponents financially. A position he owes above all to its president, Daniel Levy, the oldest in office to date in the British elite.

At the helm of Spurs since 2001, the businessman has a reputation for being a fierce negotiator and very careful with spending. In 2008, iconic Manchester United coach Sir Alex Ferguson even said talks with him over Dimitar Berbatov’s transfer had been “worse than [son] hip operation ”.

A character that contrasts with the earthy owner, billionaire Joe Lewis. Except that he is not very interested in football, and leaves free rein to Daniel Levy. The boss of the Spurs, it is him.

Within his club, this translates into a much lower payroll than other big English clubs. Last season, it was estimated at 148 million pounds (168 million euros), far behind Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United, whose payrolls range from 240 to 296 million pounds. (from 272 to 336 million euros).

A colossal stadium at 1 billion euros

This logic of moderation is also found in Spurs’ strategy on the transfer market. Where their competitors – especially the two Manchester clubs – are snapping up the biggest stars in the world, Tottenham operates on a very different dynamic and instead targets aspiring stars, that is to say young players with high potential, to make them progress over time.

Dele Alli, one of the symbols of Tottenham's strategy on the transfer market.

Dele Alli, one of the symbols of Tottenham’s strategy on the transfer market.Tim Ireland/AP/SIPA

The sixteen players who have played more than five Champions League games this season have been at the club on average for 5 years – compared to three and a half at Liverpool. Tottenham paid a total of 246 million euros to offer them, according to the Transfermarkt site. They are now valued at 731.5 million euros, nearly three times their purchase value. Examples of Dele Alli, bought in 2015 for 6.6 million euros and listed at 100 million euros today, Christian Eriksen, bought for 13.5 million euros in 2013 and listed at 85, and Harry Kane, trained at the club and listed at 150 million euros, are particularly revealing.

Added to this long-term tactic are the limits linked to the colossal investment made by the club for the reconstruction of its White Hart Lane stadium. Inaugurated in April and renamed Tottenham Hotspurs Stadium, the venue has seen its capacity increase from 36,000 to 62,000 seats.

Tottenham's new stadium cost more than a billion euros.

Tottenham’s new stadium cost more than a billion euros.AFP / Emmanuel Dunand

Enough to guarantee significant ticketing revenue over the coming seasons and amortize the billion euros swallowed up by the operation.

But this huge expenditure has also greatly reduced the purchasing capacity of the club, which has not registered any more since the Brazilian Lucas, in January 2018. The club almost lost its coach, Mauricio Pochettino, annoyed by this forced immobility . The Argentine has stayed and now has a chance to offer his club the first Champions League in its history.