Next, monopolies never last. The Premier League had started to look like a comfortable cartel, with the title swapped from Manchester United, to Manchester City, to Chelsea, with the occasional detour to Arsenal. Leicester crashed the party once, but that was a fluke. Like all oligopolies, success reinforced itself. More trophies meant more money, which meant more trophies, just as a bigger market share means more money for investment, which in turn means yet more of the market.
And yet, competition always finds a way to reinvigorate itself, and even the most impregnable businesses get out-fought eventually. Anyone with shares in Apple or Facebook might want to think about that. They may have done brilliantly over the last 15 years. They might seem to have a secure lock on their market. But sooner or later, someone is going to knock them off their perch. It is only a matter of time.
Thirdly, acquisitions count, but only if they are the right ones. Under Klopp, Liverpool have not been scared of spending money. Virgil van Dijk was the most expensive defender in the world (and worth every penny, as it turned out). But Klopp’s net spend is a mere £74m, compared with more than £400m for Manchester United over the same period.
The important point is this. Acquisitions count, but you can’t bank on them. You still have to deploy the money wisely because no one ever spent their way to success. In the FTSE, nothing better illustrates this than contrasting fortunes of the drugs giant AstraZeneca and GSK: the merger of Astra and Zeneca created a world-beating company (which may well have the first Covid-19 vaccine), while Glaxo’s acquisitions of Wellcome and SmithKlineBeecham have produced only a decade of lumbering mediocrity.