It’s not been a great season to be a Liverpool fan. Sure, there were some undoubted highs, including an extraordinary 7-0 demolition of a certain rival. However, it’s been a season where the Reds have only performed in flashes. And more often than not, there have been poor performances.
Still, despite there being no possibility of silverware, Liverpool can still salvage something this season – a Top 4 finish, and the subsequent entry into the Champions League next season.
Indeed, it’s worth noting that the media has largely picked up on this narrative, suggesting that it is imperative for the club’s short to medium-term success. Of course, all fans want to be in Europe’s elite competition. Moreover, given Liverpool’s record in the competition, they will likely be among the favourites in the Champions League betting should they finish in the Top 4. However, there is arguably an even money chance that Liverpool will not be in the Champions League. But the doom-mongers arguing that it will be disastrous for the club are exaggerating.
Yes, we know that the Champions League offers two benefits in terms of sustaining a club. The first is the money generated by being in the competition. The second is the ability to attract players who want to play in the Champions League. As an example, the much-talked-about transfer of Jude Bellingham to Liverpool might go a little smoother if Jurgen Klopp can offer the English midfielder Champions League football next season.
Financial dependency on UCL is overblown
However, while those two factors are important, they are also largely overblown by the media and pundits. Champions League money is significant, sure, but it only represents a portion of the overall revenue for a club, and it can certainly be absorbed in a single season. The money adds up over the longer term, of course, but it’s only a relatively small hit in the short term. Moreover, many of those who point out that Liverpool could miss out on £60million-£80 million usually overlook the fact that the team could make at least half that back with a decent run in the Europa League. It’s not a zero-sum game.
As for players refusing to join due to not getting the chance to play Champions League football, that, too, can be exaggerated. You might argue that players are more interested in long-term projects than short-term glory. Consider the arrival of Casemiro – undoubtedly one of the world’s best midfielders – at Manchester United last summer. United could not offer the Brazilan Champions League football, but he was convinced by the project. Fans should have faith that a young player like Jude Bellingham buys into the vision for Liverpool. Much depends on the manager, sure, but if a player like Bellingham was to be so myopic that they can’t see the bigger picture, i.e., becoming a central figure for one of the world’s best football clubs, then it is their loss.
Players can buy into long-term projects
Of course, you might argue that the United example is a bad one, given that the club somewhat famously overpays for players in both transfer fees and wages. But if you listen to the words of Casemiro, then you’ll surely be convinced that it was not all about money. Being a prestigious club counts for a lot in football. Do you think that some kids who spent all their lives dreaming of playing for Real Madrid would give up on that dream should the team miss out on Champions League football for a season? There are players out there who feel that way about Liverpool.
It remains to be seen whether all this becomes a moot point. After all, Liverpool have a fighting chance of making it to the Top 4 – it certainly would not be a shock if they did. However, if they do not manage to make it, we should not think it’s the end of the world. Liverpool can – and will – bounce back if the worst happens.