Neymar and Lionel Messi hold keys to Liverpool takeover verdict as FSG truth must be remembered
With news that the PSG owners would ‘consider’ buying Liverpool from FSG, a look at Neymar and Lionel Messi’s fortunes in the French capital is instructive.
Since FSG put Liverpool up for sale, a whole raft of stories have come out linking the club with just about every billionaire under the sun. It was a matter of time before the PSG owners came into the frame.
Sure enough, Bloomberg reports that Qatari Sports Investments (QSI) is ‘considering’ either a full takeover or partial investment in Liverpool. It is also open to a deal involving Manchester United, and has got as far as holding conversations with Spurs.
Quite how any such deal would work remains to be seen. If QSI’s interest in any of the three English clubs is serious, they will quickly come up against the barrier of owning more than one team in the same European competition, something that is not allowed under UEFA rules, so there is plenty that would need to be ironed out.
But whether it’s QSI or someone else, there are certainly plenty of hyper-rich parties interested in having a slice of the Liverpool pie. And while FSG is not exactly the most popular it has ever been among supporters right now, a look at PSG offers a note of caution.
Pools of money don’t get much more bottomless than they come at PSG. Remarkably, transfer deals for Neymar and Kylian Mbappé remain the two most expensive of all time, despite both being agreed in 2017. The market has inflated hugely since then — not entirely coincidentally — but still those two landmarks have not been topped.
In the summer of 2021, PSG added Lionel Messi for good measure. He was a ‘free’ transfer, but it took a colossal salary to tempt him to Paris.
According to DW, QSI is a subsidiary of Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund — that would bring with it a quandary for Liverpool fans, who have spent years rallying against anything approaching state ownership.
But even putting this dilemma aside, where has the money got PSG on the pitch? Obviously, they have developed a pretty tight stranglehold on Ligue 1, Europe’s fifth-biggest division. But the Champions League, the ultimate jewel in the crown, has remained elusive.
Neymar and Mbappé have not been able to lead the side to European glory, and so far Messi has not been able to change that. The term ‘sports-washing’ has been thrown around in relation to PSG, but it is hard to know if they are even that much of a reputational asset to the owners at this point — every year, they seem to find a way to become a laughing stock.
Meanwhile, FSG has led Liverpool to three Champions League finals in five seasons, winning one of them. Their model certainly has its limitations, and fans are allowed to be frustrated with a lack of investment, but the success speaks for itself.
Regardless of the provenance of the money, new owners from the echelons of the mega-rich cannot guarantee Liverpool more triumphs. They cannot even guarantee that the current level of success will be maintained. Even if Anfield became a go-to destination for superstars like Messi and Neymar, there would be plenty of obstacles in the way of glory.
What FSG has always done so well is build a cohesive team. On the pitch and in the backroom, they have astutely identified and met needs. That process has faltered a little recently, and perhaps the American owners can be accused of being a little more accepting of a boom-and-bust cycle than the supporters, but at least Liverpool have experienced the ultimate high that PSG (and Manchester City) still craves.
And so a glance over at Neymar, Messi and the rest of them might be advisable before fans demand that FSG sell up to the richest bidder. Even if it is time for change at Liverpool, the savvy of the next owner trumps the depth of their pockets.