Liverpool have paid out more than £9m – the price of the second striker they could not afford last summer – on agents' fees in the past year, a figure eclipsed only by Chelsea, as the Anfield club tackled the legacy of previous manager Rafael Benitez.
The amount spent by all Premier League clubs on agents in the year from 1 October 2009 to 30 September, a period taking in transfer windows in January and last summer, was more than £67m, only £3m less than the previous year despite a general reduction in transfer activity.
While Manchester City vastly reduced their figure from £12.9m to £5.9m – the appointment of Brian Marwood as football adminstrator was designed to deliver in-house expertise – Liverpool's outlay soared to £9.03m because of the sheer turnover of playing staff. Coincidentally, manager Roy Hodgson failed to secure West Ham's Carlton Cole as a second striker on the summer transfer deadline day because the club's £9m bid proved insufficient.
Liverpool's new owners, New England Sports Ventures, have made the pursuit of better value in the transfer market a priority. But as the club seeks to ship out many of the players that Benitez had on the books, their payments to agents may not look much better when the Premier League publishes its next table of sums paid to agents in a year's time.
Hodgson, who has complained publicly that Benitez bequeathed him an "unbelievably overstaffed" club, has sold Diego Cavalieri, Javier Mascherano, Damien Plessis, Albert Riera, Krisztiá* Nemeth, Yossi Benayoun, plus Lauri Dalla Valle and Alex Kacaniklic, makeweights in the deal which brought in Paul Konchesky from Fulham. Each has incurred agents' fees and so, too, the loan deals including Philipp Deggen, Alberto Aquilani, Nabil El-Zar and Emiliano Insua.
Hodgson did not choose to sell Mascherano and Benayoun, but he and his former managing director, Christian Purslow, mandated agents to find new clubs for some of the players they were desperate to shed. The substantial effort put into keeping those stars that Liverpool do not want to lose has brought new contracts for Fernando Torres and Pepe Reina, from which their agents also take a cut.
The incoming players have been Brad Jones, Fabio Aurelio, Konchesky, Christian Poulsen, Joe Cole, Danny Wilson, Jonjo Shelvey and Raul Meireles. A concern for Liverpool must be how to sell some of those players currently out on loan whom they do not want back: Aquilani has impressed at Juventus but Insua, also on a season's loan, is currently not a starter at Galatasaray. Agents may be called in to help secure deals which will spare Liverpool their salaries.
The new director of football strategy, Damien Comolli, also has his ideas about whom he wants to bring in – and it is little wonder that Liverpool are so desperate to do something about their academy's dire record in nurturing players of Premier League standard. In the past decade, only three Anfield academy graduates have played 40 or more games for a Premier League club.
Manchester City are also relying on their academy to reduce a £133m annual wage bill which risks leaving them in breach of Uefa's Financial Fair Play regulations, while chief executive Garry Cook's determination to cutting the influence of agents at Eastlands has seen their agent-payment outgoings fall to a figure only slightly above the £5.36m paid out by Tottenham Hotspur, the club who pipped them to fourth spot last season.
Manchester United, where Sir Alex Ferguson has resolved to develop the club through investing in youth, have paid only £2.3m to agents, which is considerably less than Bolton's £3.5m. The Wanderers' figure reflects the wage bill which led chairman Kevin Gartside to warn last month that players may need to be sold in January. Blackpool's £40,000 figure reflects their over-performance.
Liverpool's announcement yesterday that Jamie Carragher needs surgery for a dislocated shoulder, and may be out for up to three months, increases the prospect of a centre-half being signed. The France international Adil Rami, one of a number of Lille players that Hodgson has watched recently, has a physical strength which suggests he is cut out for the Premier League. But Lille will want ¤15m (£12.5m) for the Moroccan-born player – and then, of course, there will be the agents' fees.
Club payments to agents
The table shows the total paid by each Premier League club to agents involved in transfers and loan deals in the period 1 October 2009 to 30 September 2010.
The amounts include payments made by clubs on behalf of players.
Aston Villa £2,279,536
Birmingham City £1,518,529
Blackburn Rovers £1,623,232
Bolton Wanderers £3,549,316
Manchester City £5,952,261
Manchester United £2,312,726
Newcastle United £2,417,776
Stoke City £2,196,968
Tottenham Hotspur £5,361,229
West Bromwich Albion £614,195
West Ham United £3,419,089
Wigan Athletic £2,461,500
Total (of all 20 clubs): £67,138,040