“Come on, you can’t be serious.”
Khaldoon Al-Mubarak didn’t quite swing a tennis racket through Manchester City’s corridors of power, but he certainly put in a decent performance fighting the fee Liverpool were willing to pay for Virgil van Dijk. Filmed as part of the All or Nothing documentary in 2017/18, the club chairman was seemingly stunned by the final £75 million price tag.
Shortly after Jürgen Klopp got his man, Pep Guardiola added Aymeric Laporte to the ranks for a cool £57million. It is clear that the extra £18million for the best central defender in the world was way too far for Manchester City. About 20 percent of that difference was spent on Jack Harrison during the same period in January – he has since left without playing a single game for the club.
More pertinently, Guardiola has since broken through that £75million barrier, spending £100million last summer bringing Jack Grealish to the club. Manchester City’s biggest strength has usually been the sheer amount of big spend, rather than particularly huge one-off deals, but bringing in the Aston Villa man for a British record sum took away even this last veneer of parity with Klopp’s transfer model. . and Liverpool.
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For some context, Manchester City have spent at least £45 million on a player 13 times, 11 times under the current manager. Liverpool have done it three times, two of which were effectively financed by the departure of Philippe Coutinho. The ‘can’t be serious’ £75 million spend was always a red herring. But now Guardiola has lost even that dubious high ground – he can have no apologies, with Klopp’s perfect effort of Divock Origi against Everton, which has left the Belgian ahead of Grealish for goal involvement this season.
Origi is the perfect example of how Klopp has worked with the tools at his disposal and improved players beyond recognition. It has enabled him to compete on an equal footing with a team that has had net spending over £500million over Liverpool over the past ten years. After successfully competing with a £45million star-studded team, he will soon have to prove his genius even further.
There is already news that Guardiola will bring in Erling Haaland for £63million. This will put the Norwegian in the top three most expensive self-employed purchases at the Etihad before his dazzling pay package is even considered. But the era of consistent mega-transfers would really be marked by another deal, one that could see Manchester City break the £100m mark for a second time.
According to the Mail, Man City are poised to compete with Manchester United to take Declan Rice for £100million. Even this figure may not be enough as David Moyes claims the chance to get this ‘bargain’ has passed, but Al-Mubarak and the club owner are reportedly ready to back Guardiola heavily this summer.
The logic behind getting Rice apparently is Fernandinho leaving. Still, the 36-year-old has already been effectively replaced, with Rodri gradually taking over his responsibilities. Further up the field, where the West Ham man can also play, there are İlkay Gündoğan, Kevin De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva and Phil Foden. As with Grealish, spending £100million in this area would be a complete luxury signing.
At the moment, Klopp is covering Fabinho with a mix of Tyler Morton, a 36-year-old James Milner and Jordan Henderson who is out of position. It’s a pretty safe bet that Liverpool won’t drop £100m in the summer to solve that problem.
Simply put, Klopp should not be able to keep up with Guardiola and Manchester City. It is being spent in full and the magnitude of the inequality is still increasing. In any case, Haaland will address an obvious “weakness” point, in comparative terms – the addition of Grealish and the possible signing of Rice, on the other hand, are pure expressions of financial muscle.
But even if Rice and Haaland both arrive, it seems likely Klopp will remain a ‘pain in the back’ for Guardiola, fighting on every front. The Catalan’s respect for his rival says it all: he knows he’s never had a formidable competitor. Manchester City’s ruthless excesses may have denied Liverpool quite a few trophies over the years, but it has only served to highlight their manager’s brilliance. And that’s dead serious.