18 Dec 2007

110m wasted on cut-price 'creative' cack - The real reason LFC haven't won the title for 17 years

A dispiriting policy of buying cut-price, inferior creative players is the principal reason Liverpool have not won the league title for 17 years.

An examination of Liverpool’s ‘creative’ signings since Kenny Dalglish left reveals a disturbing tendency to buy cheap, substandard squad-fillers. This is indicative of the decline of the club’s attacking philosophy, and until this changes, Liverpool will not win the league.

In the 70s and 80s, one thing remained constant in Liverpool's unparallelled success: Top class creative players and fearless attacking philosophy. When Ian Rush left in 1987, Kenny Dalglish didn't waste money on dross - he went out and bought the best creative players within Liverpool's budget: John Barnes, Peter Beardsley and John Aldridge.

It’s a sad thing to acknowledge, but since Kenny Dalglish left in 1991, the attacking philosophy of the club has slowly been eroded and replaced with an increasingly defensive-minded approach.

This was painfully apparent again in the recent home defeat to M******** U*****, where Liverpool’s woeful attacking play was exposed again as the team failed to create a single goal-scoring chance.

It's a trite observation, but League titles are won by the SCORING AND CREATING OF GOALS. Defensive stability is obviously important, but goals win games, and without the quality to consistently break down stubborn defences and create/score goals, it is impossible to win the league.

The plain fact is this: Every Liverpool Manager since Dalglish has squandering MILLIONS on mediocre creative players. For far too long now, there has been a maddening unwillingness at the club to spend big money on top class attacking wingers and link men.

The huge list of pedestrian 'creative' signings over the last 17 years reveals the following:

1. Too many low grade creative players bought on the cheap.
2. An unwillingness to invest in proven creative talent.
3. A preference for young, unproven creative talent, most of whom inevitably fail.
4. A preference for tireless workhorses who run all day but are short on craft and guile.
5. Misuse of genuinely creative players who could have made a difference.

Below is a list of so called ‘creative’ players bought over the last 17 years.

Sean Dundee (1.8m)
Nigel Clough (2.2m)
Erik Meijer (Free)
Karl-Heinz Riedle (1.8m)
Dean Saunders (2.9m)
Paul Stewart (2.3m)
Mark Walters (1.2m)
Oyvind Leonhardsen (3.5m)
Michael Thomas (1.5m)
Titi Camara (2.6m)
Danny Murphy (1.5m)
Hakur Ingi Gudnasen (150k)
Mark Kennedy (1.5m)

23m (approx)

Emile Heskey (11m)
Vladirmir Smicer (3.7m)
Bolo Zenden (Free)
Bernard Diomede (3m)
Salif Diao (4.7m)
Antonio Nunez (1.5m)
Bruno Cheyrou (3.7m)
Florent Sinama Pongolle (3m)
Anthony Le Tallec (3m)
Craig Bellamy (6m)
El Hadji Diouf (10m)
Mark Gonzales (1.5m)
Fernando Morientes (6.3m)
Harry Kewell(5m)
Jermaine Pennant (6.7m)
Dirk Kuyt (9m)
Ryan Babel (11.5m)
Andriy Voronin
88.5m (approx)

In my view, none of the above were/are good enough to be first team regulars for Liverpool. Many of them were not even good enough to be mere squad players. The club needed to invest in proven creative talent, not squad-filling journeymen.

Players like Danny Murphy and Craig Bellamy may have had their moments but when it comes to creating a team capable of winning the league, such players are far below the creative level needed to consistently mount a league challenge.

It’s even more depressing if you contrast the players above with the club’s purchases in the 70s and 80s, or the creative players bought by Arsenal, Chelsea and Man United over the same time period.

The list above represents over 100m of money wasted, with Gerard Houllier and Rafael Benitez the biggest culprits, wasting almost 80m on cut-price dross.

Just imagine if Liverpool had Managers who were truly focused on attacking football, and went out and bought smartly - choosing the best attacking players they could find for the budget.

It’s no secret that Gerard Houllier turned down the chance to sign Cristiano Ronaldo and Rivaldo amongst others. Who knows how many other great creative players were turned away in favour of dross creatively inept players like Emile Heskey and Bruno Cheyrou?

Houllier’s aversion to creativity can also be found in Rafael Benitez, who has wasted millions on creative players who were just not good enough or just didn’t perform.

Roy Evans made his fair share of mistakes (Sean Dundee anyone?) but, in his defence, Evans’ teams were a joy to watch, and played the best attacking football in the country during the mid 90s.

Liverpool under Evans had superb attacking players like Steve McManaman and Robbie Fowler mixed in with the brilliance and experience of Ian Rush and John Barnes. Defensive frailty was the team’s problem, something Houllier and Benitez fixed at the expense of Liverpool’s attacking play.

The club has, in my view, bought only 7 worthy, effective creative players in 17 years:

Patrik Berger (3.2m)
Stan Collymore (8.5m)

Luis Garcia (6m)
Milan Baros (3.2m)
Peter Crouch (7m)
Fernando Torres (20m)
Yossi Benayoun (5m)

Two other notable players who could have made a difference were Jari Litmanen and Nicolas Anelka, both of whom were brought in for free. Both were fantastic acquisitions with bags of quality, superb technique and real ‘Liverpool type class’.

Of course, they were scandalously wasted by Houllier, who preferred the technically inept likes of Emile Heskey. Milan Baros was another exceptional player who had the creativity choked out of him by Houllier and later Benitez, who persisted in playing him as a lone striker.

Rafa has at least brought in Fernando Torres, but El Nino alone is not enough. Liverpool need 3 or 4 creative players of similar quality if they are going to seriously challenge for the premiership.

Liverpool are lucky to have been blessed over the years with homegrown creative talent like McManaman, Fowler, Owen and Steven Gerrard; take them away and the last 17 years looks even bleaker.

And where are the homegrown creative stars of the future?! There are none, because Houllier and Benitez have invested in cheap rubbish instead of developing homegrown talent.

Liverpool need a complete change of philosophy and emphasis; attacking football and creativity needs to be the priority, and the club needs to go out and buy the best creative players within the budget AND start PROPERLY developing academy players who show creative potential.

Spending 17m on Javier Mascherano - another defensive minded player - is ridiculous, and is yet more evidence of why Rafael Benitez is not the man to drive through the necessary change. The team should be built around ATTACKING players and an attacking philosophy. At the moment, the team is shaped around defensive players...this has to change.

Ultimately, it's simple: If the transfer ineptitude of the last 17 years continues, and Liverpool persist in buying cheap/ineffective creative players, the Premiership will remain out of reach.


  1. I still shake my head in despair with off-loading of Litmanen. What a waste? He was on my wish list for years and I thought the time had come and gone for him to join. Then my dream came true and he joined. When he played, the team was in awe of him. When any of the team received the ball, they couldn't think of anything else to do but look for Jari, Gerrard included. He was *the* best player since Kenny Dalglish or John Barnes, and we gave him the cold-shoulder. That was when I doubted Houllier's credentials.

  2. Completely agree aiyic! Jari was a dream signing - a real Liverpool-type player and was definitely the best player since Barnes, Dalglish and Beardsley to play for Liverpool.

    He was one of those special players that you really get excited about watching. And what did Houllier do? Treated him with a scandalous lack of respect and completely wasted a rare talent.

    But that is Houllier - and Rafa - all over. Stick with pedestrian players like Heskey and Kuyt and ignore the truly special, skilful players.

    To this day it still makes me angry the way Houllier wasted Litmanen.

    I swear to god, if Houllier and Rafa had the likes of Barnes, Beardsley and Dalglish in their squads they'd all be playing out of position and/or ignored in favour of inferior players.