Jurgen Klopp was in conversation with the press ahead of Liverpool’s Premier League opener against Norwich City when the subject of summer signings was raised.
More specifically, the question was focused on the acquisitions made by the Reds’ rivals for the Premier League title: Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea.
“We all know the situation of Chelsea and City and Paris Saint-Germain,” Klopp replied. “What United are doing, I don’t know how they did it.
“We have our own way to do it. We are allowed to spend the money we earn, that we always did. This year we spent before we earned money with [Ibrahima] Konate because after last season, just to be clear, we cannot take any risk in this position at all.
“I’m never surprised about the financial power of Chelsea, City or United, I’ve been here long enough to know they always find a solution to these things.”
Given the rivalry that exists between Liverpool and Manchester United, the focus after the press conference was naturally on Klopp’s not-so-subtle dig about how United were able to finance deals for Jadon Sancho (£73million) and Raphael Varane (£42million) this summer
His comments on Chelsea and Manchester City were largely brushed over. Clubs with rich owners spend money, what is there to talk about?
Well, there is a marked difference between the two sides and how they operate in the transfer market. To lump them together – and with PSG added into the mix – does a disservice to the work done by those at Stamford Bridge over the past decade.
Let’s get this out of the way: the Chelsea of today is the direct result of Roman Abramovich’s investment. And were it not for the Russian’s purchase of the club in 2003, there’s a chance it may not have remained afloat given the debt that had been built up.
What followed was, for Chelsea supporters at least, thrilling. Abramovich funded big-money signing after big-money signing. Jose Mourinho followed a year later and Premier League success was delivered. There were domestic trophies claimed too.
Yet after those lavish early years, the Blues slowly changed their ways. Splurges in the transfer market remained frequent, but Chelsea developed an ability to sell players at a profit. The loan system created by the club played its part in this, but just as big a factor was their in-house talent production line: the academy.
Per transfermarkt, Chelsea have generated almost £700million from player sales since the start of the 2015/16 campaign. That is £200million more than any other Premier League club.
There have been notable first-team squad departures in that time – Eden Hazard to Real Madrid, Alvaro Morata and Diego Costa to Atletico Madrid, Oscar to Shanghai SIPG – but the total is boosted by several sales of academy graduates and players who never came close to making an appearance for the club.
Over that same six-year period, Chelsea have spent close to £1billion on new players. It’s an eye-watering figure but when broken down works out at a net spend of less than £50million a season. For a club with the ambitions of Chelsea, that is far from outlandish.
For context, Manchester City’s net spend, again Per transfermarkt, since the 2015/16 campaign stands at around £760million. Broken down per season, it’s £125million. It doesn’t require a maths degree to recognise the difference between how the Premier League champions and Chelsea operate.
This summer alone encapsulates why Klopp was wrong to place the two clubs in the same bracket. Chelsea spent £98million to bring Romelu Lukaku back to Stamford Bridge but have, through the sales of several academy graduates and a couple of fringe players, raised £93million.
City, meanwhile, have committed in excess of £100million on the signings of Grealish and young Brazilian Kayky, yet have recouped less than £40million.
PSG, meanwhile, signed Achraf Hakimi from Inter Milan for £55million before committing to a contract worth £75million to bring Lionel Messi to the Parc des Princes. The money the Ligue 1 giants have generated via sales this summer currently stands under £10million.
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The way Chelsea gatecrashed top-level football will never be forgotten. Many still use it as a stick to beat the club with, some still argue the success achieved is hollow because it came with the help of an extremely rich benefactor.
Yet the Blues have long moved away from being the rich kid at the party throwing around £50 notes at any passing player. There is now far more structure to how Chelsea work in the transfer market, far more nuance than Klopp gave the Blues credit for.
Chelsea do not operate like Man City in the transfer market. Nor so PSG. Their strategy is, somewhat ironically, closer to Liverpool: money will be spent as long as it’s also being earned. Quite simply, the days of reckless spending at Stamford Bridge are long gone.