October 26, 2014

LINSEY | Putting 100 Million Dollars to Good Use

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What would you do if you suddenly inherited 100 million dollars? Buy a mansion? Start a business? Maybe pay for your Cornell education? (Ha, ha.) Whatever you choose, you would definitely be much better off in some way than you were before.

However, when it comes to soccer, we’ve seen teams struggle to properly invest such large sums of money. Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool have found themselves in this position, after the 2012-2013 season and the 2013-2014 campaign, respectively. For Tottenham, it was the sale of Gareth Bale to Real Madrid, the most expensive player ever, which brought 124 million dollars to Spurs’ coffers. The Liverpudlians made 120 million dollars on Luis Suarez when he was sold to FC Barcelona.

Just to put these figures in perspective, the average Premier League team spent 65 million dollars on transfers last summer. Therefore, to make 120 million dollars on one player allows teams to spend twice as much as an average team and still be close to making a profit.

Upon the sale of these two stars, then, these two clubs have big decisions to make with the extra dough. If the club decides to immediately reinvest in players, it can either bring in one or two big stars, or seven or eight decent players. At first glance, the latter seems a decent idea: purchase players who can give you slight upgrades at all positions. Spurs owner Daniel Levy seemed to think so, as Tottenham signed seven players in the summer after selling Bale.

However, this idea didn’t work out as well as it looks on paper. Of those seven players Tottenham brought in, only Christian Eriksen had a successful year. The Dane was a constant offensive menace, driving in from the left side and creating chances for his teammates.

Midfielder Paulinho had a decent 2013-2014 season, but has struggled to start the new campaign (2014-2015.) Of the other five, Roberto Soldado came with the biggest price tag and reputation. Soldado came from Valencia, in Spain, where he had scored more goals than anyone in Europe not named Ronaldo or Messi over the last five seasons. He scored four goals all year with Tottenham, three of which were penalty shots, and spent most of the year on the bench.

Etienne Capoue, Nacer Chadli, Vlad Chiriches and Erik Lamela spent most of the year injured or playing so poorly that they weren’t fielded in the line-up on the weekends. In fact, the team even finished one place lower in the standings at the end of the year, in sixth after a fifth-placed finish a year earlier. All in all, the reinvestment of Gareth Bale funds didn’t work out for Tottenham.

A year later, this same situation has repeated itself with Liverpool Football Club. With Tottenham’s Bale replacement strategy fresh in their minds from a year before, one would think that Liverpool would not repeat the same mistakes the Spurs made. Well, that’s not the case. Liverpool also invested all of their funds from the Suarez sale in eight new players for a similar total sum as that of Tottenham’s purchases the summer before. As one might expect, Liverpool is also struggling to start the new campaign.

Eight games into the season, it’s extremely harsh to judge summer signings. Yet so far, Lazar Markovic and Emre Can look like they’ll need some time to adjust to English soccer, and Mario Balotelli looks disinterested and he’s not scoring. Rickie Lambert and Dejan Lovren have not fully integrated into the team yet after being signed from Southampton, and Alberto Moreno, who has impressed, is too young to play every week. That leaves Adam Lallana as the only one who looks like he could be an impact player this year for the Reds. (With this analysis, I’m leaving out Divock Origi, who Liverpool purchased and then immediately loaned back to LOSC Lille in France, his former club, for the season.)

It is shocking that the Reds would do what Tottenham showed does not work, especially just a year later, even if it does work out for Liverpool in the long run. It seems as if Liverpool are in for a struggle this year to finish as high as second, where they did last year.

Well then, you ask, what should a team do with 100 million dollars, if they receive such a cash influx from the sale of a world-class talent? For me, it is a three-step process. First, do your research on these players, both on and off the field. Liverpool should have realized that when AC Milan offered them Mario Balotelli for a season loan, that there was a reason Milan was trying to offload a good player. Balotelli’s attitude and commitment have been questionable at best this season, and he does not work hard on the field during games.

Second, bring in only players who can replace your worst squad members. When Liverpool brought in Lambert, no one really believed he would displace Daniel Sturridge as the club’s only starting striker. It was always questionable whether Lambert would be provided the starting role he needs to justify his big-money move. It would have been more prudent to add a goalkeepe; they are now learning that Simon Mignolet’s goalkeeping could be an Achilles’ heel this season, and backup keeper Brad Jones isn’t good enough to start in the Premier League.

Third, sign fewer players for more money; in other words, go for quality over quantity. When you sign seven or eight players in two months, evidently seven or eight players need to go out the door as well to fit with roster limits. That kind of turnover in the squad can often affect play on the field, as consistency tends to be a hallmark of winning teams.

In conclusion, I offer my solution to soccer teams who have 100 million dollars to spend. Purchase four players for around 25 million dollars each. Make one a defender, one a central midfielder, one a wide midfielder and one a striker. Sign young players who are good enough to start now with the potential to get better. Above all else, don’t make the same mistakes Tottenham and Liverpool made. History always repeats itself.