Jurgen Klopp has transformed Liverpool – replacing him is FSG’s toughest test

Cody Gakpo hugs Jurgen Klopp the head coach / manager of Liverpool after he is substituted during the Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Manchester United at Anfield on March 5, 2023 in Liverpool, United Kingdom
Jürgen Klopp's popularity with players and fans has been immense - Getty Images/Robbie Jay Barratt

Fenway Sports Group hit the jackpot when they recruited Jürgen Klopp as Liverpool manager.

Whether it has been bringing back the club’s glory days on the field or the feelgood factor off it, no-one has done more to transform the Premier League pacesetters during FSG’s ownership.

That has included turbocharging Liverpool’s value from the estimated £300 million their American owners paid for it in 2010 to around £4 billion today.

For, without Klopp’s trophies, brand of football and rock-star charisma, would FSG’s investment really have paid off as spectacularly as it has?

Just look at the numbers.

In 2010-11, Liverpool’s turned over £184 million and lost £49 million. Come their Quadruple-chasing year of 2021-22, their revenue had more than trebled to £594 million, including a profit of £7.5 million.

In the Deloitte Football Money League, they jumped from ninth spot to third, behind only Manchester City and Real Madrid.

John W Henry with Linda Henry Pizzuti and Tom Werner owner's of Liverpool at the end of the Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Wolverhampton Wanderers at Anfield on May 12, 2019 in Liverpool, United Kingdom
FSG hit the jackpot with Jurgen Klopp - Getty Images/John Powell

Even when accounting for Klopp joining only midway through that period back in 2015, the club’s turnover the previous season was still just £297.9 million, half that of their record year.

Klopp’s exploits have also seen investors clamouring to purchase a stake of their own in Liverpool.

After the club finally won the Premier League title for the first time, their parent company secured a £533 million investment for an 11 per cent shareholding from RedBird Capital Partners – the same group fronting the controversial Abu Dhabi-backed bid to buy the Telegraph.

That was followed in September last year by a reported £78 million-£156 million injection from New York-based firm Dynasty Equity in Liverpool alone that has helped fund the redevelopment of Anfield, the construction of a new training ground, and summer transfer spending.

It is no exaggeration to state that in recruiting Klopp in 2015, FSG got the single most important decision of its ownership of the club 100 per cent right, the appointment proving a marriage made in heaven from start to near-finish.

It has also given the owners enough credit in the bank when it has come to the fallout from their more unwise moves, from raising ticket prices, to joining the doomed Super League – as well as to supporter anger over a perceived lack of investment.

And it has arguably allowed Liverpool to withstand the exit of key players – Philippe Coutinho, Sadio Mané and Roberto Firmino to name a few – and staff including long-time sporting director Michael Edwards and now the two most recent holders of that role, Julian Ward and Jorg Schmadtke.

With Schmadtke’s departure this month also announced on Friday and Klopp leaving in the summer, Liverpool’s senior leadership has suddenly found itself exposed like never before.

No-one more so than principal owner John W Henry, who has been the face of FSG for Liverpool supporters – good and bad – ever since that memorable day in October 2010 when he freed them from the clutches of the hated George Gillett and Tom Hicks.

He and club chairman Tom Werner, Henry’s long-time business partner, will have the ultimate power of veto on Klopp’s successor and will be the ones to face fans’ ire if they make the wrong call.

FSG president Mike Gordon, who spoke for the owners in paying tribute to Klopp after Friday’s announcement, will also play a significant role in selecting the new manager.

All three will be acutely aware their next move is one that could define the Americans’ Anfield legacy.