As a Liverpool fan I want a trophy, us fans of the Merseyside club are used to winning trophies. 18 League trophies, 7 FA Cups, 5 European Cups, 7 League Cups and 3 UEFA Cups in its history. We haven’t however won anything of significance since the FA Cup in 2006, over three and half years ago, and although we have been in another Champions League final since then and come close in the Premier League last season, a trophy for Rafa Benitez has found to be elusive. An early exit from the Champions League this season does however provide an opportunity, in the form of the Europa League.
It is a much maligned competition which has been founded from the ashes of the UEFA Cup, and makes those who enter the competition from the first round play six more games to win the trophy than even the Champions League. So why should Liverpool go for what appears to be such a minor trophy? The long and short of it for me is that it still is a European trophy. Bill Shankly never won the European Cup but won the UEFA Cup, why should current Liverpool supporters be snobbish about a competition which has seen so many great names, including our own, win the trophy?
I believe that winning the Europa League would be a tremendous tonic for not winning either the Premier League or the Champions League, and although I grant you it is still a consolation prize, it is the best we can hope for this season, along with the FA Cup, and the greatest hope of ending of what will be a four year drought.
There are however, complications to committing ourselves to the Europa League. The amount of games that the competition expects its participants to play in may hamper Premier League form. Liverpool’s record of winning games after mid-week trips in Europe has not always been great and more slip-ups in the Premier League may risk the Reds falling away from the top four. Especially with the current financial situation at Liverpool, a top four place has to be high on the priorities. Not finishing in the top four would risk Liverpool having to cut back on players as well obliterating funding for new players next season.
The Liverpool owners and the Managing Director, Christian Purslow have no doubt budgeted next season to be in the Champions League, and any veering away from this path may lead to big budget constraints being put on Benitez. Liverpool start a new shirt sponsorship deal with Standard Chartered Bank next season worth £20m a season. Purslow has already committed this money to be available for transfer funds next summer but if they are out of the Champions League places in May, this money will no doubt disappear from the manager’s pockets.
The facts are, if we risk going all out for two trophies while disregarding and dismissing our Premier League position, we may just miss out competing on the big prizes of the Premier League and Champions League next season. I personally would like us to compete equally on all fronts but for Benitez and the club it is a difficult dilemma to contemplate. Risk too much and you might find yourself out of pocket, risk too little and you’ll end the year with nothing to show for it, in another barren season for a club that expects trophies.