Manchester United are stuck with players on big salaries as a result of Alexis Sanchez’s deal, and Liverpool won’t break a wage structure loaded towards bonuses
There is a simple truth hidden in the latest reports about Sadio Mane emanating from Germany, and it asks a huge question about the future direction of Liverpool.
Various media outlets close to Bayern Munich are suggesting the German club are prepared to pay around € 20million (£ 17m) a year to secure the forward on a three-year contract, which equates to around 5 325,000 a week. And really, that would fit with his situation at Anfield. There is little doubt Mane would have signed a new contract with Liverpool, if they had offered what he felt he was worth.
Mane’s case is very similar to that of Mohamed Salah. Both are 30 this summer, and with time running down, both see their next contract as the biggest and most important of their career. Both feel they are now in the elite bracket of the likes of Robert Lewandowksi, Kevin De Bruyne, Cristiano Ronaldo, Antoine Griezmann, David De Gea and Luis Suarez, who all earn £ 350,000 a week-plus.
It is understood both Mane and Salah set their figure at around £ 400,000 a week in talks with Liverpool, which would put them alongside some of the world’s biggest stars, but still behind the likes of Messi, Neymar and now Mbappe. The reasoning was simple enough, they are as valuable to Liverpool as De Bruyne is to City, so deserve a commensurate salary.
But Liverpool were never going to reach those figures, and here’s where the simple truth comes in.
Bayern, Real Madrid, PSG and several English clubs are able to offer more than Liverpool right now in terms of basic salary. Studying Liverpool’s wage bill is actually far more complex than simple base figures, because they load their payments with bonuses for success.
So when Virgil van Dijk is said to be the highest earner at Anfield on £ 220,000 a week, that does not include his bonus payments… and they would have been astronomic if the Reds had pulled off the quadruple they were a couple of goals and a couple of inches away from. But the fact remains, Liverpool are not willing to break their pay structure, even if they ARE willing to offer bigger bonuses for trophies. For very good reason… .they only have to look down the road to Manchester to see what problems that brings.
United are loaded with so many players now that they are on eye-watering salaries – with De Gea’s near £ 400,000-a-week a prime example – because they paid Alexis Sanchez a ridiculous £ 500,000-a-week.
It is an escalating scale, with each important star wanting parity every time their contract is up for renewal, and sometimes, clubs have to try not to blink in negotiations. Liverpool did that with Emre Can and Gini Wijnaldum, and have not paid a heavy price for letting both go on a free as their contracts ran out. In fact, on both occasions, many would argue they dodged a bullet in not keeping them on massive salaries.
But Mane and Salah are different, because they are both – undoubtedly – amongst the top five in the world right now. And that is where the simple truth comes into play. Other clubs recognize their quality, and are prepared to pay the global going rate – up front – which is why Bayern can get close to Mane’s demands. So can PSG and Real Madrid for that matter, and Barca if they want him enough. City could easily, United and Chelsea too. And this is where the huge question about Liverpool’s direction comes in. Can they afford NOT to pay those wages to their biggest stars?
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It is a delicate, almost impossible balancing act. They got away with letting Wijnaldum leave, because they gave Thiago £ 200,000-a-week as his replacement. Can could go because he wasn’t good enough, as his time at Juventus proved. But if they lose Salah and Mane, how do they replace both? The club has brilliant analytics and scouting departments, and Klopp and his staff including Pep Lijnders have a real eye for emerging talent.
Yet it takes time to develop that young talent into greatness. Salah and Mane are better players now than when they arrived at Anfield, and it took maybe two or three years for them to be truly world class consistently, and certainly more than one summer. So while Liverpool are evolving, whoever signs those players are moving forward. Moving past Liverpool potentially.
That asks questions about what club they want to be. It is all very well – and certainly prudent, sensible, wise even – to set salary caps, but where does it leave the club? It is a risk, and one based on the ability of Jurgen Klopp, who seems to have the Midas touch wherever he goes. But do not forget, after twice winning the Bundesliga with Dortmund, he could not repeat that feat in his final three years with the club. In fact, his only success in his final three years were two DFL Supercups.
That is because Dortmund operated a policy of allowing big players to leave (usually for big fees) rather than give them massive new contracts, on the premise they would find the talent to replace them. But how do you replace Lewandowski, Mario Goetze or Mats Hummels? Dortmund never did. And the same question can be asked of how to replace a Salah, Mane or van Dijk?
It is a fraught situation: go too far in contract offers, and you could be set back five years like Manchester United have been, or even end up like Barcelona now, or Leeds in the past; don’t go far enough, and you could end up like Arsenal or Spurs, who many feel have been set back by too much caution and pragmatism with their finances.
It is a simple truth, raising complex questions.