One of the most effective scenes in the film Moneyball takes place between Billy Beane (played by Brad Pitt) and Peter Brand (Played by Jonna Hill) where they discuss the departure of Oakland A’s star player Johnny Damon. What follows is a beautifully crafted speech by Oscar winner writer Aron Sorkin about the possible positive side of losing your star player. Replace the name Johnny Damon with Rahem Sterling and buying runs to buying goals and you’ll see how relevant that scene is for Liverpool F.C at the moment.
“Okay. People who run ball clubs, they think in terms of buying players. Your goal shouldn’t be to buy players, your goal should be to buy wins. And in order to buy wins, you need to buy runs. You’re trying to replace Johnny Damon. The Boston Red Sox see Johnny Damon and they see a star who’s worth seven and half million dollars a year. When I see Johnny Damon, what I see is… is… an imperfect understanding of where runs come from. The guy’s got a great glove. He’s a decent leadoff hitter. He can steal bases. But is he worth the seven and half million dollars a year that the Boston Red Sox are paying him? No. No. Baseball thinking is medieval. They are asking all the wrong questions. And if I say it to anybody, I’m-I’m ostracized. I’m-I’m-I’m a leper. So that’s why I’m-I’m cagey about this with you. That’s why I… I respect you, Mr. Beane, and if you want full disclosure, I think it’s a good thing that you got Damon off your payroll. I think it opens up all kinds of interesting possibilities.
The Moneyball method in football has been misunderstood by many. It doesn’t mean not spending money (sometime a lot). It doesn’t mean not buying older players. Cutting it down to the bare bones it’s an idea to find value in a place where others do not (or do not value a player as much you do). For Liverpool the likely transfers of Milner, Ings, Bogdan, Gomez and Nathaniel Clyne see great ‘value’ when you look at the likely departures. Milner, 29 in for Gerrard, 34 for a free transfer and on similar if not lower wages, is great business taking into account the five year age difference and the longevity Milner can have over the next three to four years. Ings , 22 will replace Borini, 24 for a similar transfer fee, though their ability may only be a marginal difference for now, arguably Rodger’s sees no future in Borini but potential for Ings to improve the squad while covering the home grown quarter of English players. Anyone who’s seen Liverpool over the last five years can see the benefit in replacing Brad Jones, 33 with Adam Bogdan, 27 which is also still relatively young for a keeper. Joe Gomez, 19 comes in with bags of potential which means LFC will make money on the probable signing of Coates 24, to Sunderland at 4 million including a likely drop in wages. Glen Johnson has long been reported as one of Liverpool’s highest earners over the last few years to the surprise of most and his contribution to Liverpool has been on the wain for a few years, replacing him with another English fullback who has the potential to not only play for Liverpool for the next ten years but England and would be on half of Johnson’s wages seems like a no brainer.
I believe Liverpool’s early transfer dealings improves not just the squad but the first team for a relatively low outgoing, when you include the wages they save from big earners like Gerrard and Johnson. Taking all of this into account and the possibility of Sterling moving on for 50 Million to Manchester City when his position can be covered by the likes of Ibe, Markovic, Lallana and Coutinho, this surely leaves them open to “all kinds of interesting possibilities”.