The Champions League final might be the biggest game in European football, but it is not the most lucrative. And while Liverpool will be hoping to come out on top against Real Madrid to become European champions in Paris on May 28, the club could also profit from ‘the richest game in football’ taking place at Wembley the following day.
A number of Reds have enjoyed success in the Championship this season with Neco Williams helping Fulham to win promotion to the Premier League as champions after joining the Cottagers on loan in January, while Liverpool pocketed a £ 250k bonus after Nat Phillips helped Bournemouth secure their own return to the English top-flight earlier this month.
And now, as the Championship play-offs get underway on Friday night, Reds bosses will be keeping a close eye on proceedings, knowing full well they could be about to profit again depending on the outcome. The Championship play-off final takes place at Wembley on May 29, with Deloitte working out in 2020 that victory in the game would prompt an increase in revenue of between £ 135m to £ 265m for the winner, depending on whether a promoted team can avoid immediate relegation.
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Luton Town host Huddersfield in the first leg of their semi-final on Friday night, but it is the outcome of the other tie which of interest to Liverpool as Sheffield United lock horns with Nottingham Forest on Saturday, a couple of hours before the Reds’ FA Cup final clash with Chelsea.
After Jurgen Klopp’s side suffered a defensive injury crisis in 2020/21, they brought in Ozan Kabak on loan from Schalke and Ben Davies from Preston North End for an initial £ 500k, in a deal which could have eventually been worth £ 1.6m thanks to add-ons, on January transfer deadline day.
The Turk would play 13 times for the Reds before injury ended his season prematurely and Liverpool opted against signing him permanently. Meanwhile, Davies, whose North End contract had been due to expire in the summer of 2021, failed to make an appearance for the Reds and, following the return of Virgil van Dijk, Joel Matip and Joe Gomez from season-ending injuries, along with the £ 36m signing of Ibrahima Konate, was sent on loan to Sheffield United back in August.
Liverpool received an initial loan fee of £ 500k from the Blades when sending the defender to Bramall Lane, already making back what they had initially parted with to sign Davies from Preston in the first place eight months earlier. But should the 26-year-old help the Sheffield club win promotion to the Premier League, the Reds will double their money.
This is because they included a further promotion bonus of £ 500k when loaning out their January signing, with United also covering all of the player’s wages during his time at Bramall Lane. As a result, while signing a player who would then not play for your club might look like bad business, it’s actually proven to be a rather shrewd deal for Liverpool.
Davies is expected to leave Anfield again this summer, with the Reds set to make further profit on a player who reportedly remains under-contract with them until 2025. However, if that does come to fruition, North End will be entitled to 20% of any profit due to a sell-on clause in the deal, though Liverpool are unlikely to have paid anything beyond their initial £ 500k investment for the defender, given how dormant his Reds career has been and when considering an England international cap clause was one of add-ons included.
But before then, the defender will look to win promotion to the Premier League with Sheffield United hosting Nottingham Forest at 3pm on Saturday 13 May before traveling to the City Ground for the semi-final second leg on Tuesday 17 May. Overcome the Tricky Trees and they will have booked their place in ‘the richest game in football’ against either Luton Town or Huddersfield Town at Wembley on May 29.
Davies has made 23 appearances for Sheffield United, scoring one goal, as the Blades recovered strongly under Paul Heckingbottom to qualify for the play-offs following a slow start under former manager Slavisa Jokanovic. However, the Liverpool loanee was an unused substitute for their final four games of the season, with it unclear whether they would be interested in signing him permanently whether they win promotion to the Premier League or not.