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What top-four failure would mean for Liverpool's finances, their Bellingham bid and Klopp's future

8:00 AM GMT 06/11/2022
Jude Bellingham Jurgen Klopp Joe Gomez Liverpool GFX
Jurgen Klopp's side are already out of the title race but of greater concern is the fact that they're eight points off a Champions League spot.

It may not quite be a must-win for Liverpool, but it’s certainly a must-not-lose.

Sunday’s Premier League trip to Tottenham could have major ramifications for Jurgen Klopp’s side, whose poor start to the campaign has left them with their backs against the wall.

Twelve games in, the Reds are already 15 points behind league leaders Arsenal. Having competed for the title in three of the last four seasons, they can forget about the idea of doing so this time around.

More concerning, though, is the fact that they are already eight points adrift of the top four, and that a defeat in North London this weekend would leave them facing an uphill struggle to secure Champions League qualification, even at this relatively early stage in the campaign.

Were they to miss out, it could have serious consequences, both in the short and long term.

Here, GOAL takes a look at the grave situation facing Klopp and his team...

  • Salah Napoli Champions League

    The Money

    It’s impossible to start anywhere else, really. The Champions League may be the most prestigious competition in club football, but it’s also the most lucrative.

    Liverpool earned more than £100 million ($112m) from their run to the final in 2021-22, and have already pocketed over £33m ($37m) this time around, having qualified with some comfort for the last 16. Were they to make it all the way to the final again, they could add a further £37.5m ($42m) in prize money alone.

    Add in the ‘coefficient payout’, which will earn the Reds close to £30m ($34m) on account of their third-placed ranking on the list, and the broadcast revenue, of which 50 percent is paid to national federations with 50% paid out in proportion to the number of games each club plays in the competition, and the financial incentives are obvious.

    “That (a top-four finish) is always our goal at the start of the season,” Reds chief executive Billy Hogan told BILD earlier this year. “Of course, qualifying is important because of the turnover we can make in the Champions League.

    “But the way we run the club is to make sure we're as sustainable as possible. You can't automatically count on Champions League qualification.”

    Still, Liverpool have been able to count on Champions League football – and Champions League revenue – in each of the last six seasons, and that has played a huge part in the club’s growth, with revenue having reached £487m ($546m) in the latest published accounts, and projected to push past £600m ($673m) in the next set.

    To lose such a lucrative source of income, even for just one season, would have a big impact.

    We have seen the difficulties clubs such as Arsenal and Manchester United have faced after falling off the Champions League gravy train, and the fear is that having contested three of the last five finals, Liverpool, too, could find themselves back on the outside looking in, where Europe’s top table is concerned.

  • Jude Bellingham Dortmund 2022-23

    The Transfer Targets

    OK, so what about the football side of things, then? There is no doubt that, whatever happens between now and May, Liverpool’s squad is in need of significant surgery, and that there should be a significant turnover of players during the next few transfer windows.

    The likes of Roberto Firmino, Naby Keita, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and James Milner are all, as it stands, out of contract, while Joel Matip, Jordan Henderson, Thiago Alcantara and Virgil van Dijk are all well into their 30s.

    Steps have been taken to lower the overall age of the squad, with Darwin Nunez (23), Luis Diaz (25), Diogo Jota (25), Ibrahima Konate (23), Fabio Carvalho (19) and Calvin Ramsay (19) all brought in since 2020, and the aim is to continue that policy in the coming windows, with midfield a particular area of focus.

    Having missed out on Aurelien Tchouameni (22) last summer, the No.1 target in that area is Jude Bellingham (19), but Liverpool already face a battle to convince the Borussia Dortmund star to join, with the likes of Real Madrid, Chelsea and Manchester City all likely to make strong attempts to sign him.

    Trying to land a player like that without Champions League football, surely, would be close to impossible.

    The same goes for alternative targets, such as Declan Rice or Nicolo Barella, who do not see their futures in the Europa League – or worse, the Europa Conference League.

  • Joe Gomez Liverpool Leeds 2022-23

    The Sales

    And what about selling players? Liverpool’s recruitment in recent years has been underpinned by a strong loan policy, where players retain value elsewhere before eventually being sold.

    The likes of Neco Williams, Rhian Brewster, Harry Wilson, Marko Grujic, Ryan Kent and Taiwo Awoniyi all earned the Reds good money despite being nowhere near the first team, but how many real assets do they have left?

    Nat Phillips, for example, has had no permanent takers in any of the last three windows, and it is unlikely that the likes of Sepp van den Berg, Leighton Clarkson or Tyler Morton – all of whom are out on loan this season – would move the dial in terms of a transfer fee.

    Players such as Keita and Oxlade-Chamberlain, who may once have commanded decent money, look set to leave for nothing, and is Klopp ready to give up on the likes of Joe Gomez or Curtis Jones, squad players who would attract interest from elsewhere, but who would definitely need replacing in the squad?

  • Jordan Henderson Liverpool Champions League 2018-19

    The Prestige

    Ignoring the trophies for a second, perhaps Klopp’s greatest achievement at Liverpool has been re-establishing them as one of Europe’s truly elite clubs.

    They were a long way from that when he took over. They were playing Europa League football, and were the kind of club that rested players for Champions League group matches (Real Madrid, 2014) because they didn’t think they could win them.

    Klopp has changed that. He returned them to Europe’s premier competition in his first full season on Merseyside, and since then they have contested three out of five possible finals, winning one, and reached the knockout stages six years in succession.

    To lose that would be hard to take, especially with the likes of Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea ushering in new eras, Newcastle likely to improve at a rate of knots and Manchester City firmly established at the top of the Premier League tree.

    Falling out of the top four now could be especially bad timing.

  • Jurgen Klopp Liverpool 2022

    The Manager

    There have been suggestions in some quarters that if Liverpool’s struggles were to continue, and in particular if they were to miss out on the Champions League, that Klopp’s position as manager could come under scrutiny.

    That seems highly unlikely, given his achievements and given the fact that in April he signed, to widespread joy, a two-year contract extension which will tie him to the club until 2026.

    His agent, Marc Kosicke, made it clear this week that Klopp has no intention of walking away from Liverpool.

    Fenway Sports Group, Kosicke told German media, were aware that there might be challenges this season, and both they and Klopp are full committed to working through them and building a successful future.

    Klopp himself dismissed the idea that he might be “tired” in the job recently, insisting he will “fight with all I have, and if possible more” to bring glory at Anfield.

    We should take him at his word.

  • Luis Diaz Liverpool 2022-23

    The Fix

    So, what can Liverpool do to reduce the risk? The January transfer window appears to be the first opportunity, and there will be pressure on FSG to back the manager by bringing in at least one new signing.

    They did that last season, and what a difference Luis Diaz made to the team in the remainder of the campaign. The same applied in 2018 with Virgil van Dijk, and before that with Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho in 2013.

    Something similar is needed this time around, even if the likes of Diaz, Keita, Diogo Jota and Joel Matip should be fit and available after the World Cup, and even if the general expectation, internal and external, is that Liverpool will naturally improve in the second half of the campaign.

    There has been a serious downturn in mood at the club since the start of the season, with Klopp talking repeatedly about injuries and fans bemoaning a perceived lack of investment in the squad. Liverpool will have their plans for the summer, but they’d be wise to bring forward a signing or two if they can.

    It could make all the difference.