FSG return could pave way for £575m Liverpool transfer change

John W Henry attends a Boston Red Sox game with Tom Werner and Linda Pizzuti.
-Credit: (Image: Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Waving goodbye to a familiar face is rarely as exciting as saying hello to someone new. But, in terms of the transfer window, it can be just as important.

And Liverpool have this year regained the master at ensuring a lucrative farewell for those who are either deemed surplus to requirements or would prefer to chance their arm elsewhere.

The return of Michael Edwards, albeit in the elevated position of Fenway Sports Group's chief executive of football, means the Reds can once again call upon the knowledge of one of the most respected operators in the transfer market whose reputation was forged as much in selling players as it was buying them.

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It's what made Edwards such a success within the sustainable model FSG have sought to pursue since taking over as Liverpool owners almost 14 years ago, and what made the Reds' transfer approach under former manager Jurgen Klopp the envy of so many other clubs, if not always quite to the taste of supporters - and at times Klopp himself - who would rather the purse strings were loosened to push through certain moves.

While Edwards isn't back as sporting director, that close associate Richard Hughes has taken the role, assisted by former Liverpool director of loan management David Woodfine, suggests there will be no real change in the established methods under FSG.

Throughout the Klopp era, while almost £900m was spent on players, a whopping £575m was recouped in player sales. That equates to a net spend of around £40m per year on average during the German's tenure.

That, though, doesn't paint the full picture. In the last four years, that average has crept up to more than £60m, while last year the net spend was in excess of £90m.

As well as the overall increase in fees, part of that is due to the rise in money spent on players not being matched by funds brought in from sales. In the last four years, Liverpool have spent an average of nearly £120m per year on players compared to £105m the previous four years.

Last year, close to £55m was raised from outgoings, almost all of which came from Saudi Arabia making offers Liverpool simply couldn't refuse for Jordan Henderson and Fabinho. That was in keeping with the average figure for the past four years. For comparison, the average between 2016 and 2019 was roughly the same at £53m if Phillipe Coutinho's £142m sale to Barcelona - very much an outlier in Liverpool's transfer dealings - isn't taken into consideration. With it, the average over that four-year period is a whopping £88m per season.

Danny Ward (£12.5m), Dominic Solanke (potentially £24m), Danny Ings (£20m) and Rhian Brewster (£18m rising to £23.5m) remain the standout sales, often with sell-on clauses attached. None were first-team regulars.

It's intriguing to note that of the last 12 recognised senior players to leave Liverpool, only four have commanded a fee. The rest departed on free transfers - admittedly often taking with them hefty salaries off the wage bill - the most recent of which were Thiago Alcantara and Joel Matip. Adrian, who has yet to agree a new deal, could also follow.

As with every summer transfer window, new head coach Arne Slot and the recruitment team will be given a budget which can then be topped up by player sales. And it's here where the expertise of Edwards will be required.

Indeed, his influence is already being felt, with Liverpool wanting £20m for Sepp van den Berg after the centre-back's impressive season on loan at Mainz in the Bundesliga. While the player believes he is being priced out of a move, the Reds are adamant the market dictates the figure is the going rate for the player.

There could be a similar situation with Caoimhin Kelleher, with Liverpool having turned down a £15m offer from Nottingham Forest in the New Year for a player who is now valued at near double that amount.

Depending on decisions made by Slot on assessing his squad, the likes of for example Tyler Morton, Fabio Carvalho, Nat Phillips and Kostas Tsimikas would not be allowed to leave on the cheap. And should Barcelona or Paris Saint-Germain make concrete their long-held interest in Luis Diaz, they can expect to be asked to cough up in excess of £75m.

The transfer trends suggest Liverpool must now reaffirm their status of being tough negotiators when selling players. The expectation will be on Edwards to help realise that aim.