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Liverpool continuously beating the odds: a triumph of perseverance and sporting excellence

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One of the crowning moments in the rich history of Liverpool FC was their 2020 Premier League title. This was a momentous breakthrough for the club. It broke a run of three decades since the club had last been crowned champions, way back in the old English First Division.

Bringing the Premier League title to Merseyside for the first time in the new era of the English top flight was the culmination of the Reds overcoming some major challenges. They had to go a long way to climb to the summit and had to defy some big odds along the way.

The road to the top is rarely a smooth one. Liverpool faced struggles both on and off the pitch in between their domestic league titles, and very nearly didn’t survive at all.

Identity fades

Liverpool were arguably the crowning jewel of English football before the 1990s. Through the 1970s and 1980s, they were a juggernaut. From 1980 to 1990, Liverpool won the First Division title seven times, such was their dominance.

On the continent, they also brought home the European Cup four times in those two decades, making them one of the most successful clubs in the UEFA competition. But then along came the new era of English football and fortunes rapidly changed.

Was Liverpool ready?

The new Premier League era was ushered in for the 1992-93 league season. Liverpool were part of that new setup, and their spate of recent titles should have seen them hit the ground running in the new top flight.

But they couldn’t adapt. It was almost as if they were caught on the hop by what was brewing over at their great rivals, Manchester United. Liverpool finished sixth in the inaugural Premier League season as Manchester United won the title by 10 points.

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It was a similar story that would play out across much of the 1990s. Liverpool, by their high standards, were floundering. A desire to cling to their identity and history was ultimately the thing that saw them start to lose a grip on it.

They couldn’t get a handle on the way that the modern game had shifted.

The catalyst

The new Premier League era broke the mold. More money than ever flooded into the game. The commercialization of soccer teams became bigger than it had ever been before. Sponsorship deals grew and the transfer market became a much more competitive, open-border place.

Manchester United were doing it all correctly. They jumped on the commercialization bandwagon early and rapidly pushed their status. The new television deals that came with the launch of the Premier League put teams in front of more people’s eyes than ever. Those were the eyes of consumers, and Manchester United banked.

Liverpool, in contrast, stood still, but their legacy wasn’t going to bring them financial competitiveness. Years of poor ownership and decisions at the start of this new era hit Liverpool hard. They weren’t as quick to sell their brand. They weren’t as keen on developing their stadium as other clubs had done.

Because Liverpool quickly became uncompetitive, it became harder for them to grab the higher-quality players. More and more foreign investor money was pouring into the clubs ahead of them in the title races, and something needed to change at Liverpool. It did. Tom Hicks and George Gillett took over in 2010.

 

Administration looms

Instead of improving the situation, Liverpool almost fell into administration under the new ownership. The debts piled up, interest was sinking the club, and unbeknown to most, Liverpool were more than £450 million in the hole to creditors.

The relationship between Gillett and Hicks fell apart to the point they didn’t sit together at Anfield on match days. There was a reluctance by them to sell the club, because at the time of their deepest troubles, the stated valuation of the club meant that the duo wouldn’t make a profit.

It was a troubled time, but there was a white knight on the horizon as the Fenway Sports Group (FSG) came in and purchased the club in 2010. The complicated takeover was completed just hours before the deadline for the club to go into administration.

Change takes time

On October 17, 2010, Liverpool lost a league match to their city rivals, Everton. The result left them second from the bottom of the table under manager Roy Hodgson, who had replaced Rafa Benítez because of a poor start to the season.

It was the sacking of Hodgson that ultimately saw the club get up off the canvas. Kenny Dalglish followed and brought some success back to the club with a League Cup title. Subsequently, under Brendan Rodgers, Liverpool once again looked like title contenders.

Almost.

Things still weren’t quite clicking. Liverpool’s dream of EPL success was still failing to become a reality. Competitiveness wasn’t equating to titles. So FSG made a big call. They dipped into their analytics and came up with the name of their new head coach – Jürgen Klopp.

Klopp the resurrector

The analytical data selected Klopp as the right man for the job at Anfield. His work at German Bundesliga club Borussia Dortmund had put him on the map. The data proved to be right.

Klopp immediately took Liverpool to successive European finals, which culminated in them winning their sixth European Cup/Champions League title in 2019. The following year came the Premier League title.

With a dynamic style of football and player management, Klopp’s presence has indeed been game-changing. But Liverpool’s success also highlights how harmonious things have to be behind the scenes, building a foundation for success. It’s a finely tuned machine at Anfield now, a long way from the fractured scenes of Gillett and Hicks.

The management trust Klopp, who is now the Premier League’s longest-serving manager. There’s almost a sense of democracy, as Klopp with his infectious personality doesn’t run the show as an autocracy.

He has listened to staff and to sporting director Michael Edwards over major transfers like Mo Salah and Alisson Becker. Specialist nutritionists and throw-in coaches have all made marginal gains, and the club is a modern marvel of sporting excellence.

Smart decisions in the transfer market and a positive philosophy on the pitch have helped bring back the best times. Liverpool, thanks to that all-important first Premier League title, are once again one of the top destinations for players. Klopp, quite simply, gave Liverpool their identity back.

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