Real Madrid are the biggest club in the world. According to them. They can base this on their glorious history, their relatively glorious recent one, and pretend all the stuff in the middle doesn’t really matter.
Manchester United are also the biggest club in the world. According to them. They can base this on their slightly less glorious history, their slightly more glorious recent one, and pretend all the stuff in the middle doesn’t really matter.
AC Milan are similarly the biggest club in the world, according to Silvio Belursconi, and so on and so forth and you already get my drift on this.
What all 3 clubs – and Barcelona and a couple more to boot – have in common, is that they’ve all made lots of money off being the biggest, or one of the biggest clubs in the world of football. They’ve marketed themselves brilliantly to fans, players, investors, sponsors and any old whoshemebob who knows a thing or two about football. And good for them.
Most of all that “stuff in the middle” of Manchester United and Real Madrid’s success however, was Liverpool’s success. United like domination of the League and a greater return in the European Cup during the 70s and 80s means that Liverpool have just as much claim to the glorious history title and – even despite relatively less successful recent seasons – should still have almost as much potential appeal to the whoshemebobs as the aforementioned trio. And yet they don’t, or they certainly didn’t until recently.
Liverpool’s failure to win the league during the Premiership era is a stumbling block their marketing people can’t neglect. However as worldwide brands go, they’ve still been a hugely undervalued one. Manchester United may be sitting pretty with them “on the perch” now, but when the Premier League first took off, they were no where near. Yet on the back of their first success in ‘93, they ran with it, like a demon (or perhaps a devil) possessed, maximizing every link, every romantic connection, every possible sponsorship or Stadium expansion and every opportunity until they dwarfed Liverpool in global appeal and profit. And yet even now, as Liverpool start to take advantage themselves with Christian Purslow, their managing director, clearly aware of the mine of worldwide support and potential to tap, they still sit fairly equally in standing as football clubs historically despite United’s greater value.
Liverpool’s failure to take advantage of this potential is better assessed when compared to clubs not their equal in success. Arsenal and Chelsea for example (though Arsenal clearly the more historically grand of them) have similarly capitalized on the Premier League’s appeal by increasing their worldwide profile, support and profit dramatically since their recent era success. Great players want to play for them, sometimes regardless of where they stand in the table. Winning the Premier League certainly helped, yet still neither can boast a single European Cup triumph whilst Liverpool can boast not just a recent one, but 5 in total.
Barcelona, before 2006, had only 1 paltry success in the competition, and even that coming in the 90s. Until their league success that year they couldn’t even match Liverpool’s domestic achievement of 18 titles, even in a league historically far less competitive (only 9 teams have ever won La Liga, and only 5 more than twice). And yet they remained the more glamorous club. Famous players wanted to go to Barcelona, and still do, as they do Madrid, United, Milan and Chelsea. If Madrid are the kings of aggrandizing their history then Liverpool are the paupers. They might roll out the 18-5 banners when United come to Anfield, but they don’t parade all their replica trophies on special velvet plinths when presenting new signings. But their signings are rarely that big enough to require it anyway. Whilst Madrid can get stuffed by Liverpool themselves in the Champions League, embarrassed by Barca in their own stadium and become a Schadenfreude pleasure to rival fans the world over, they can still tempt the World Player of the Year away from a club that’s the reigning World Champions and have just reached 2 Champions League finals on the trot. Their profile supercedes their success at any given time. They can tempt the Zidanes the Kakas and Ronaldos whilst Livepool can only tempt Torres, the one and only truly global foreign star that has ever signed for Liverpool at his peak.
Purslow know this. As a Liverpool fan himself and a veteran of over 500 matches (apparently) he knows better than most how undervalued the brand is. In his first interview after replacing Rick Parry as the clubs managing director he stressed the need to expand the brand. Whilst United have megastores and cafes around the world Liverpool have virtually no club sanctioned businesses outside of the city itself. However the 3 way power struggle currently embroiling Anfield ends up, the need for Liverpool to start making some serious bucks off their name alone remains. But whilst the support base and potential is there, success off the field needs to be supplemented in at least a small way on it. If Liverpool really are going to be dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century (or even the tail end of the 20th) they need a platform to jump off. In short, like with everything else at the club, it’d really help things if they eventually won the league.