Liverpool owner John Henry has admitted he was shocked by the sky-high wage bill the club was paying for a squad suffering from a chronic lack of depth and quality when his Fenway Sports Group consortium completed their takeover at Anfield in October.
The last set of accounts released by the club showed that Liverpool paid more than £100 million on salaries — at the time, the third highest in the Premier League — for the 2008/09 season. That figure is likely to have increased by the time FSG paid £300 million to buy the club last year.
But Henry has acknowledged that the biggest concern of the group was quite how little on-pitch class that outlay had secured Liverpool.
“The worst surprise was the lack of depth in the squad,” Henry told FourFourTwo magazine. “Our biggest concern in taking on this responsibility was this issue and it was a bigger issue than we feared. There was a huge multi-year pay-roll for a squad that had very little depth.”
Solving that problem is likely to be FSG’s priority in what Damien Comolli, Liverpool’s director of football, believes will be an immensely “busy” summer of transfer activity.
Though the club’s new owners will continue to recruit after making clear their intentions in January — signing Luis Suárez and Andy Carroll as Fernando Torres and Ryan Babel departed — FSG believes the wage bill has to present better value for money.
A number of first-team squad players are expected to leave the club to balance the books, with the likes of Sotirios Kyrgiakos, Fabio Aurelio, Milan Jovanovic and Joe Cole all likely to be available, as well as Alberto Aquilani, Paul Konchesky and Emiliano Insua, all currently on loan from Anfield.
How thin the squad available to Kenny Dalglish remains, despite the club’s vast wage outlay, is highlighted by the fact that the Scot is so stretched for defenders — with concerns continuing over injuries sustained by Daniel Agger and Glen Johnson in the defeat at West Bromwich Albion on Saturday — that he is considering drafting two Academy players into his squad.
Both left-back Jack Robinson, Liverpool’s youngest-ever player at 16 years and 250 days when he came on as a substitute against Hull City last May, and John Flanagan, a teenage right-back, have been involved with first-team squads this season but both may now be handed the chance to offer the club’s supporters a glimpse of the future over the coming weeks.
With Martin Kelly and Aurelio also missing, Dalglish only has four defenders — Jamie Carragher, Martin Skrtel, Kyrgiakos and Danny Wilson — fit for Monday’s visit of Manchester City.
Henry, Comolli and Dalglish are well aware that such a dearth of resources cannot be allowed to happen again if the club are to fulfil the American’s vision of a 20th league championship in the near future.
“Our number one priority is to win the Premier League title,” explained Henry. “That is what we take with us each day to work as the force that drives us to excel. If we can accomplish that we will have put ourselves in a position to be successful on all fronts including Europe. Success is winning championships. It is nothing less than that.”