THE Premier League is rightly hailed as the best in world football, but that status is under threat from Manchester City.
There is a very good reason why the league containing the two best sides in European football was over by Christmas – and it’s all down to the ridiculous financial advantage Manchester City have on all of their rivals.
City manager Pep Guardiola is a fine manager and he has taken advantage of the lopsided financial landscape he is working in to win trophy after trophy.
Yet the reality is City have been operating under different rules to every other team in England for a decade and more – and now they have foundations in place that make them hard to stop.
In my view, UEFA and the Premier League should have stepped in long ago to rein in City’s spending hundreds of millions of pounds on new players every summer, as they were blatantly pushing the Financial Fair Play rules to breaking point.
Nothing was done when it should have been – and now they have a stranglehold on the English game that could remain in place for a long time.
The only way I see City being knocked off their perch at the top of the table is if Guardiola leaves and his successor makes a mess of it, but it’s hard to fail when you are playing under different rules to your rivals.
While Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has to balance the books in the transfer market, Guardiola can just spend, spend and spend until he gets it right.
It is the dream position for any manager, but only Guardiola finds himself working with an open cheque book.
We have seen City making so many mistakes in the transfer market in recent years, but it’s not a problem for Guardiola, as gets another £200m from the club’s owners from Abu Dhabi to try again.
Remember when City bought keeper Claudio Bravo and he was not up to the job?
Well, it wasn’t a problem because they went and bought Ederson to replace him.
They had problems with their defence after Vincent Kompany’s retirement, so Guardiola was handed a few hundred million to sort it out by signing a world-class performer.
Then last summer they spent £100 million to buy Jack Grealish, and were willing to pay another £100 million to get Harry Kane out of Tottenham.
This is money no other club in England can find and the end result is City are going to run away with the Premier League title year after year.
Liverpool would have won another two or three titles if everyone was playing to the same rules, but you look at Klopp’s net spend since he arrived at Anfield and compare it to Guardiola’s spending at City and the gap is enormous.
Guardiola went through the €1 billion mark for spending at City when they completed the Grealish deal last summer.
Compare that to Klopp and his net spend over the last five years is around €30m-a-year, which is what City would pay for their third-choice left-back!
With that in mind, you have to say Liverpool produced a miracle by winning the Premier League a couple of years back, but I see City throwing away their lead at the top this season, even after their 1-1 draw at Southampton.
Liverpool are in action at Crystal Palace today and a win is needed to give them any chance of closing the gap on City after their slip-up last night, but the gap is still massive.
City’s ridiculous financial advantage has given them a chance to build such a big squad and even if they have injuries or issues with Covid, they can make changes and keep winning.
In truth, Liverpool are doing well to keep their ship afloat in the absence of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, who are away on international duty at the African Cup of Nations.
I’m sure Klopp would love to have six world-class forward players in reserve for moments like this, but he has to find a way to get a win today without that luxury – and, for me, he needs to make a change to the team now that I have been advocating for some time.
Liverpool's Diogo Jota celebrates scoring his second goal against Arsenal. REUTERS/Ian Walton
Roberto Firmino has been fantastic for Liverpool in recent years, but Diogo Jota showed against Arsenal on Thursday night that he needs to play in the central striker role.
Firmino brings different qualities to the team when Salah and Mane are coming in from wide positions, but Jota is the one player in the Liverpool team who looks likely to score goals consistently, and that’s why he needs to play in the lead striker role.
He showed his qualities against Arsenal as his two goals fired Liverpool into the League Cup final with a great win at Emirates Stadium and they will need him again today.
Palace is a tricky place to go and Patrick Vieira has got them playing some decent stuff this season, so Klopp would take a scrappy 1-0 win from a set-piece if you offered it to him right now.
The key for Liverpool is getting through this period without Salah and Mane and when the big two return, they want to be in a position to have a real go at the two domestic cup competitions and the Champions League.
The great teams cement their legacy by putting trophies in the cabinet every season and on that score, this Liverpool team are short at the moment.
They have one Champions League, a Premier League and a couple of European trophies, but they are good enough to have eight or nine in the bag by the time Klopp leaves.
Winning the Premier League is going to be tough so long as City hold all the financial power, but Klopp is good enough to get the better of Guardiola in one-off matches and I’m sure the blue half of Manchester will not want to face Liverpool in cup games over the next few months.
So even if the Premier League title is out of reach this season, Liverpool will always have a chance to win trophies so long as Klopp is pulling the strings.
And I don’t want to think about what happens when he calls time on his Anfield career in a couple of years.
Pep’s spend twice that of rival Jurgen
IT has been the enduring rivalry of this Premier League era, yet the bank statements for Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola and Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp make for contrasting reading.
Klopp took over at Liverpool in October 2015, with Guardiola sweeping into power at Manchester City the following summer.
The duo have dominated the Premier League title race, but closer examination of the transfer balance sheets at both clubs highlights the scale of Klopp’s achievements.
City’s signing of Jack Grealish last summer took Guardiola’s spending to the brink of the £1bn mark, to £963.3m and a net spend of £580.1m when player sales are added to the financial mix.
Klopp has spent £512.1m in the transfer market, shrinking to a net spend of £151.7mi when player sales are added.
So Liverpool have been operating with an annual net spend in the transfer market of around £25m during Klopp’s tenure, with Guardiola’s annual net spend almost four times that figure at £96.6m.
Klopp has won four major trophies as Liverpool manager, including the 2019 Champions League and Guardiola has brought in eight trophies, including three Premier League titles.
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