By Carl Markham, PA
Liverpool’s assistant manager Pep Lijnders insists the staff and players have not been distracted by talk of a potential sale by club owners Fenway Sports Group.
A report on Monday suggested the American-based owners had produced a sales deck and investment banks Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley were assisting the evaluation process.
FSG admits it is open to accepting new shareholders but has not gone as far as to say the club as a whole is on the market, although it has not definitively ruled it out.
Lijnders, manager Jurgen Klopp and his other staff and players were made aware of the current situation regarding FSG up to 10 days ago and so it had not come as a surprise.
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“Everybody who knows us as a club knows we have a strong relationship with the owners,” said Lijnders, ahead of the club’s defence of their Carabao Cup title at home to Derby.
“I always knew the owners acted in the best interests of the club and always have done. The statement was very clear.
“How did it distract us? To be honest, this is what I like about our club, that we are so focused. There was a small discussion, a talk between Jurgen and me, and then we start focusing on a big game coming up.
“We thought it would not come out now but it’s all fine. We focus on what matters and what matters is preparing for Derby.”
Lijnders was asked when he and Klopp signed their new two-year contract extensions earlier this year it had been on the basis of a continued working relationship with FSG.
“Of course. You sign a deal with LFC and the owners, but we are not naive to think that things (won’t) change in football. That’s how it works,” he added.
“But as I said, our relationship with them is very good. I respect them so much, you have no idea.”
Pressure has been growing on FSG, led by principal owner John W Henry, this season as indifferent results have left Liverpool well behind their rivals in the Premier League.
Only last month Klopp spoke about the difficulties keeping pace with Manchester City, admitting the club could not compete with their financial might and had to find other ways of staying in touch.
FSG has not been adverse to seeking additional resources and in April last year, to help mitigate losses due to Covid, it sold a 10 per cent stake to RedBird, a private investment firm, for £533million.
But this season the owners have been criticised for a lack of investment in the squad this summer.
“For me, they are good owners: first, they tied down one of the best managers in the world for seven-plus years. That says a lot.
“Second, they tied down the best players in the world. The difference between European or world top (club), and sub-top, is that you have to sell your best players. They tied down Mo Salah’s contract.
“They invested in the academy, they invested in one of the best training grounds in the world.
“Then of course the Main Stand, the new (Anfield Road) stand. They made a lot of good decisions.
“It is always a balance. Do people want to see one, or two, three or four more players? Of course. Everybody wants to see that in the outside world.
“But we prefer to have the right one and to really work and give time to young ones, to renew the team and make it younger, to give talent a chance, and also buy the top one who can immediately influence the first XI, like Luis (Diaz), (Diogo) Jota or Ibou (Ibrahima Konate).
“If they were not good owners, we would not be sitting here. In the end, we won a lot of cups, a lot of national and international prizes.
“I believe they are acting in the best interests of the club to take it further.”