In Depth

25 years without a title: who to blame for Liverpool's demise?

How transfer mistakes and a lack of ambition led to the end of an era at Anfield

Liverpool Anfield Kop

It is now 25 years since Liverpool claimed their last English football title, but manager Brendan Rodgers has insisted that he is the man to lead the Reds to an elusive 19th title, despite another season of disappointment.

A 2-1 victory over QPR at Anfield on 28 April 1990 secured Kenny Dalglish's side a tenth title in 15 seasons, and few would have believed that it would prove to be their last.

Asked about the anniversary Rodgers attempted to put a positive spin on it. "It's a mark of how the club has moved forward that there's such disappointment that we weren't challenging [for the title] this year," he said. "It's been disappointing. But I have absolutely no doubt it will happen."

But as the quarter of a century mark passes by others are wondering how Liverpool let their domestic domination slip away.

Writing in the Liverpool Echo, former Liverpool striker John Aldridge, who left the club before their final title-winning campaign, says: "If you'd have told me then that the club would fall away as it did, I'd have said you were off your head.

"Liverpool, at that point, was a machine. A winning machine. We thought that success would last forever."

So what caused Liverpool's demise?

Transfer woes

Aldrige believes that the club's recruitment policy is what caused the decline. He describes bad transfers as the "single biggest reason why Liverpool fell off their perch, and the main reason they have been unable to get back on there".

Since 1990 Liverpool have made 190 signings and spent £770m, calculates the Daily Express. And the Daily Mail says that is a telling statistic. "From the £1m signing of Ronny Rosenthal in 1990 to Brendan Rodgers' questionable decision to bring in £16m flop Mario Balotelli last summer, Liverpool have struggled to bring in the players they need to consistently challenge for the Premier League title," says the paper.

Managerial mistakes

Transfers were key says the Express, but there may have been mitigating circumstances. "The transfer power of Liverpool's rivals has to be factored in," says the paper. "[And] the quality of the managers who followed Kenny Dalglish."

When Dalglish resigned midway through the following season it marked the beginning of the end of the 'boot-room' era. Ronnie Moran took over temporarily, but was replaced by Graeme Souness. He was replaced in 1994 by the last of the boot-room graduates Roy Evans. But in the eight years Souness and Evans were in charge Liverpool won one FA Cup and one League Cup.

Gerard Houllier and Rafa Benitez were more successful, but could not re-establish the Reds as England's dominant team in the face of Manchester United's resurgence.

Rivals rising

Everyone knows the tale of Alex Ferguson promising to knock Liverpool "off their f****** perch" when he arrived at Old Trafford, and Liverpool's demise coincided with Manchester United's resurgence. With United establishing a stranglehold on English football there was no way back for Liverpool.

The club's owners

"How the past towers over the present, deriding its impotence with the gilt-edged nostalgia it prompts," muses Tony Barrett in The Times. The decline of Liverpool (and also their Merseyside rivals Everton, who are 28 years without a title) offers "a lesson in how a chronic absence of vision can cause even the mightiest to fall".

The game has been changed by "sheikhs and oligarchs" but Liverpool's owners have too easily accepted the mantle of underdogs and in failing to redevelop Anfield have allowed Liverpool to slip down the pecking order.

"More than anything else, it is ambition, a lack of it or a failure to realise it, that continues to keep Everton and Liverpool in their place," says Barrett. "While their supporters aspire to be the best, the masters of their destiny show no signs of being able to deliver it."

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