Brendan Rodgers admits it may take four years for Liverpool to compete for Champions League places and suggests he may have left the club before the work he puts in place reaps trophies.
The new Liverpool manager appeared to have secured his first signing late last night, when sources in Italy indicated that his move to buy striker Fabio Borini from Roma had proved successful. The Serie A side's agreement of a fee with Liverpool has seen them move rapidly to buy forward Mattia Destro from Siena.
But Rodgers grimaced when he related how he had been asked about Liverpool's title prospects for the new campaign and he questioned whether the kind of domination the club enjoyed in the 1970s and 1980s could be repeated. "The challenge is immense," he said. "The club and where it was at over the years – will any club ever do that again? That's a big question. But I certainly think with a club of our status and value to the football world that we can go again. It's going to take time. And whether it will be in my time, I'm not so sure.
"Being competitive – that is the most important thing for me. To build a group that challenges. I know what we want to be in the next three or four years. We want to be up there challenging for Champions League places, but I'm not going to commit to any stupid statements now. It's about the real world. The club finished sixth, seventh and eighth over the last three seasons. Someone asked me the other day if we thought we could win the league … you know what I mean?"
Though Liverpool supporters will aspire to a fourth-place finish this season, it is unlikely that the club's owners Fenway Sports Group will hold him to that kind of target, which the principal owner, John W Henry, had said was his expectation last season. Rodgers has made it clear he believes an entire renewal of the football philosophy is required, restoring the club's style to what he called "the Liverpool way" and assembling a squad with the discipline –"courage," he calls it – to deliver the immense work rate attached to a playing system in which individualism is sacrificed for the team ethic.
Rodgers will be granted a further season outside the top four by supporters if the side's performances pick up, though the Northern Irishman's shrewdness has been evident in the way he has been rooting himself in the city and in the club's past, building credit with supporters. Taking Ian Rush and Robbie Fowler on the tour of North America when the team departs for Boston on Monday is wise, as was Rodgers' appearance in the city-centre Garlands bar at the weekend. "It's important. I'm someone of the people really," Rodgers said. "I'm someone who respects people and understands that this is a way of life here."
It is unlikely that Rodgers will try to take Joe Allen from Swansea, since the player recently signed a four-year deal and Rodgers would be unwilling to breach his agreement with his former club to take players.
He said of Liverpool's challenge: "The finances now involved in the game means its not just one or two clubs [competing for fourth spot] You look at the top six or eight clubs and financially what they have got. They are some of the superpowers of world football and we are competing with that. But it's not all about money." It is about foundations, for now. "That's why I'm here. I want to systemise it - and that's more important for me than trophies."