Rodgers to get £40m war chest to bolster Reds
Strengthening defence the priority as Liverpool look ahead to Champions League
LIVERPOOL will allow Brendan Rodgers a net outlay of £40m in the summer transfer market – more than any other Anfield manager – as the club seek to build on their qualification for the Champions League.
Liverpool believe that automatic qualification for Europe's elite competition will give them an edge in the market, having spent last summer battling to keep Luis Suarez at the club because of his desire to play in the competition.
Sales of players could mean Rodgers has as much as £60m to spend, with the challenge for the Northern Irishman being how to build and strengthen a squad, which is clearly not deep enough to cope with the European dimension that was missing this season.
Central defensive reinforcements look the most essential commodity, while a renewed bid for the £12m-rated Ukrainian winger Yevhen Konoplyanka is thought likely.
But at a time when Manchester United are seeking to persuade their own targets to disregard the club's absence from the Champions League and join them, Liverpool's managing director Ian Ayre said that the club had learned from painful experience that they could not trade on their name – and that life outside Europe's elite club competition made securing the best players much harder.
"Absolutely (you can't trade on your name). You get a little bit of that, but there is definitely a challenge. That's the reality," Ayre said.
Liverpool, who could take a huge stride to clinching the Premier League title if they beat Chelsea at Anfield on Sunday, know spending brings no guarantees.
Rafael Benitez's net spend over two transfer windows in 2006-7 was £34m, as he brought in £20m Fernando Torres and £11.5m Ryan Babel, only for Liverpool to finish fourth.
Kenny Dalglish brought in £16m Jordan Henderson, £20m Stewart Downing, £8m Sebastian Coates, £7.5m Charlie Adam and £6m Jose Enrique in 2011.
The net spend of his two transfer windows was £40.8m and Liverpool were still unable to regain their Champions League status.
But the club believe that the reputation they and Rodgers have built – resulting in automatic Champions League qualification which almost went unnoticed at Norwich last Sunday – will help them build their squad.
"It has always been tougher in the transfer market when you are not competing at the highest level," Ayre said.
"We had the issue with Luis (Suarez) last summer because he wanted to play in the best games and against the best players. That is always a factor.
"We have always been fortunate to be able to bring great players here despite that but there is no question it opens up a few doors for us and makes it a little bit easier.
"Even when you step through that door, there are still a lot of others trying to get the same players.
"It is fairly obvious that we set out with an ambition to get into the Champions League. It will cost what it costs when we decide who the manager wants to buy.
"There is no question we always expected that the squad we need for next season will be very different to the squad that we have needed for this year when we were not playing in Europe.
"What we achieved last Sunday was massive. This isn't just about getting in the qualifiers.
"We are guaranteed Champions League football. It is an unbelievable achievement from where we were.
"It is what we set out for, but if you were taking bets at the start of the season, you would have said fourth place would be a great achievement.
"Now we are guaranteed third and we are determined to push on. It is all-important for what we are trying to achieve."
Returning to the European elite for the first time since 2009 was the immediate priority this season – another major step taken in restoring the club's historic status.
In real terms it is worth an estimated £30m in UEFA revenue to the club, although the costs associated with qualification – including players' bonuses – will swallow much of that sum before a ball is kicked.
Liverpool anticipate they will make around £20m from their participation, which they are vowing to reinvest into the squad ahead of next season. (©Independent News Service)