With a new stadium to fund and just a slim chance of Champions League cash, are Liverpool's big spending days over?
“We have not had any discussions about funds. I wouldn't know. Someone else is in a position to discuss that with them and then they will come back and say there's the budget.”
Those were the words of Kenny Dalglish this week, as he considered Liverpool’s spending plans for the summer. He quickly went on to suggest there is “no clear picture yet of what we want”.
The Liverpool manager also insisted he will be in no rush to get rid of members of the current squad, after the job they have done this season in twice getting to Wembley.
Put those three statements together, and if there is any clear picture emerging about future transfer policy, then it is one of prudence, rather than the bold approach taken last year when the new manager was given a transfer fund in excess of £100million to rejuvenate the Anfield squad.
A little more than a year into their tenure on Merseyside, Liverpool’s American owners have some fairly serious financial calculations to make. With their team still in seventh in the Premier League table, it seems increasingly likely they face a second year without Champions’ League football.
In fact, given they exited that competition early the last time they were in it, it will be three years without significant European income should they fail to reach the top four (remember, the Europa League isn’t lucrative unless you reach the final). There is only so long clubs with the ambition of Liverpool can go without that sort of money.
On top of that, the American owners have still to resolve the ongoing headache of the new stadium. When they bought the club, they did so in the belief Anfield could be redeveloped sufficiently to provide the extra capacity and corporate facilities needed to significantly increase revenue streams.
Yet the complexities of the British planning laws and local politics have confounded them to the extent they have virtually given up on the idea of a redesigned Anfield. Instead, they are now looking at ways of financing a new build.
Of course, that doesn’t come cheap. At the last count, it was £400million and rising. To find that sort of money they will be forced to borrow heavily or secure a record-breaking naming rights deal. Both are rather difficult in the current economic climate.
Which leads us back to Dalglish’s opening statement. It is little wonder there haven’t been any discussions yet about funds for the summer, because they will surely be heavily dependent on the (increasingly unlikely) pursuit of a Champions’ League place.
Without the promise of that money, then it is more likely the most recent transfer window will be the template for Liverpool’s summer spending, rather than the two prior to that. And that will bring its own problems.
Chelsea will surely not be as bad next season as they have this, and Arsenal will surely get a better start to the campaign than their flirtation with the relegation zone in the opening months. Should Tottenham hold off those two pursuers, then they will have Champions’ League money again, and that will make them even stronger.
It is inconceivable United or City will get weaker, so without the money from a top four finish, Liverpool could next season find themselves facing five opponents who are significantly stronger, while they go into it with more or less the same squad.
That will put a lot of pressure on Dalglish. He has invested heavily in the promise of youth, and while that has begun to pay dividends already with the promise of FA Cup glory to follow the Carling Cup final triumph, he may not get the breathing space to develop his squad naturally.
Lack of European money, and subsequent lack of investment in players swiftly becomes a vicious circle, meaning patience and long term thinking becomes a difficult concept. There is little doubting Liverpool have talent in their squad, but that talent will have to be nurtured swiftly if the minimum requirement of a top four finish is to be achieved next season.
There is another answer though. If there are limited transfer funds from the owners, then Dalglish could raise them himself, but that would require another sale like that of Fernando Torres, which facilitated the purchase of Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll.
There are no prizes for guessing the identity of the player most likely to raise those funds, but would the manager be willing to sacrifice someone he has invested so much faith in? It is an interesting question, though very much still hypothetical at this stage.
Read David Maddock's exclusive Liverpool column every Wednesday on MirrorFootball.co.uk.