Liverpool FC have taken a massive step forward by announcing that they will merge the Academy and First Team training facilities into one site, catapulting them into the twenty first century at last and achieving a long-term goal, first mentioned several years ago.
Manchester City lead the way in this country in terms of training complexes; the Etihad Campus contains the Etihad Stadium and houses all age groups of the Academy as well as the women’s teams. Tottenham, Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal also have top-class facilities, whilst rivals Everton have had the Academy and First Team merged since 2007 when they moved into Finch Farm.
Across Europe, top teams like Barcelona, who have the La Masia setup, perform in the same way.
Until now, Liverpool have used Melwood training facility for the First Team, with the Academy based in Kirkby. From 2019, the club have decided to transform the Kirkby site into one fit to house both, creating a much more modern format, and bringing together the two parts, allowing for an easier transition for players.
Melwood will be sold off – potentially generating much of the funds for the cost of move – and used for new houses. Whilst some will be sad to see it go, it must be acknowledged that that is simply the price of progress.
The new facility was something that Brendan Rodgers wanted to take place a number of years ago, and has been recently pushed forward by Jurgen Klopp. That both were so keen for it to happen shows just how important it is.
James Pearce, of the Liverpool Echo, who broke the story on Tuesday, has described the plans for the new facility as “state-of-the-art”. Whilst it might not seem that significant to some, the development is a huge step for the club. Until now, the standard and size of the facilities available was very limited.
Off the back of investing in the new Main Stand at Anfield, Fenway Sports Group, no matter what people might criticised them for, have committed to spending approximately £50 million on the facility. They will make more than that back, of course, in time, but the infrastructure within Liverpool has undoubtedly been transformed completely over the last twelve months.
More than that, Liverpool’s Academy will be given a massive boost. For the existing players in the youth system, arriving at training and rubbing shoulders with names like Philippe Coutinho and Adam Lallana will be inspiring and can only be beneficial.
In addition, players with a choice of which team to join will be able to look at Liverpool’s facilities and see them in the same light, or better, than the rest of the competition. Manchester City at the moment have a major advantage in the North West, but that will not be the case when the new facility opens. Liverpool’s facilities, designed by the same architects that created Tottenham’s, will be able to match them.
Couple the facilities with Klopp’s keenness to promote youngsters as soon as they are ready for the First Team, and Liverpool suddenly becomes one of the most attractive propositions in the country for young players and their parents.
Fenway Sports Group are savvy businessmen, and they know that the investment in the new facility will likely be paid back in time. Liverpool only have to attract one player to the Academy of the calibre of someone like Raheem Sterling, and the initial investment is covered.
It is likely that a sponsor for the complex will be found, which will offset some of the costs too. Manchester United’s training facilities, for example, are sponsored by AON, bringing in around £15 million per year.
Manchester City offer tours of their complex, bringing even more money in, although there is no guarantee Liverpool will opt to follow suit – the tour forms part of the stadium tour since it is on the same site, but in Liverpool that simply is not possible.
When you think of Liverpool’s biggest steps forward in recent times, appointing Jurgen Klopp, a man seemingly the perfect fit for the top job, and improving Anfield with the Main Stand redevelopment, this announcement deserves to be right up there.
Make no mistake, Liverpool have just made sure that they have keep pace with the rest of the top six when it comes to off-the-field matters.
Time will tell whether that can transfer onto the field, culminating in a top-four finish this season and more beyond, but it will certainly not harm their chances in future.
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