Max Morland gets you up to speed on what you need to know about Liverpool’s new Sporting Director.
Four years on from the controversial sacking of Damien Comolli, Liverpool finally seem to have abandoned their infamous transfer committee, in favour of the newly-promoted Michael Edwards, who will step into the role of the Reds’ Sporting Director.
The 37-year-old comes into the role having been involved at Anfield behind-the-scenes since 2011, when he was appointed by Comolli, initially as the club’s Head of Analytics.
Who is he?
In his playing days, Edwards was a fullback, although he ended a short career with Peterborough United at a young age, due to a lack of first team action. Afterwards, he began working with Harry Redknapp’s Portsmouth in 2003 after completing degrees in business management and informatics at the University of Sheffield.
At Fratton Park, he was head of performance analytics, relying on the football analysis system ProZone to obtain match data and track each player. Edwards remained with Portsmouth throughout their years in the Premier league, departing in 2009 when Tottenham, who were also managed by Harry Redknapp, appointed him in the same role.
Since joining Liverpool in November 2011, Edwards has had a number of different roles at the club. The 37-year-old began life at Anfield as the club’s head of performance and analysis, before gaining more responsibilities after Damien Comolli departed in 2012. Prior to his recent promotion to sporting director, Edwards was Liverpool’s technical director, a role fairly similar to the one he has recently taken up.
What impact will he have on Liverpool?
After current chief executive Ian Ayre announced his departure from the club at the end of the season, there was plenty of speculation amongst fans as to who would be his successor. There were numerous suggestions, although Edwards’ appointment has demonstrated that FSG are willing to change their methods to satisfy the club’s needs.
A major factor in Liverpool’s appointment of the 37-year-old could have stemmed from Jürgen Klopp’s. The pair are reported to have formed a good relationship since the German was appointed last October.
In his 7 years at Borussia Dortmund, Klopp and his team rose from a mid-table side to a team that won consecutive titles within 4 years of his appointment, however, similarly to Leicester last season, a huge part of the team’s success was due to their recruitment strategies. During Klopp’s tenure, he worked closely alongside Michael Zorc, the club’s sporting director. Together, the pair managed to unearth some fantastic bargains, such as Robert Lewandowski, Mats Hummels and Ilkay Gundogan, all for under £5 million.
As a result of Klopp’s previous successes when working with a sporting director, FSG may have felt that, in order to truly get the best out of the German, he needs to work with a sporting director. Klopp had already illustrated his proficiency in the transfer market with the shrewd signing of centre-back Joel Matip from Schalke.
Klopp himself seems to be very supportive of Edwards’ appointment, giving this statement in his press conference on Friday:
“It’s no secret I like the concept of a sporting director and having worked under this model previously I have found it to be nothing but positive and forward thinking. Michael is absolutely the right person for this. He has the knowledge, expertise and personality to flourish in the role and I was delighted when he told me he would be accepting the position.
Importantly, he also has a fantastic team of people around him, who have all played a significant role in putting together the talent we currently have in the first team, development squad and at even younger age levels.”
The German clearly sees Edwards as a man who can improve and implement positive changes at the club, and perhaps even replicate some of the successes which he and Michael Zorc enjoyed at Borussia Dortmund.
What will his job Be?
It is no secret that FSG have favoured the model of having a sporting director, since they bought the club in October 2010. When Comolli was sacked in 2012, the American owners were supposedly keen on replacing him with another person to fill the same role. In spite of their intentions, however, Brendan Rodgers reportedly talked FSG out of the idea, as he wanted sole responsibility over the club’s transfer dealings.
In terms of his responsibilities, Edwards will likely be responsible for all football-related activity around the club, which will include identifying potential transfer targets and spearheading the Reds’ negotiations between Liverpool and other clubs.
Essentially, Edwards will take full responsibility over everything which was previously under the control of the various members of the transfer committee.
Despite all of his optimism towards the new sporting director, Jürgen Klopp did also add that he will still have the final say on all signings, which may come as a relief for fans, given the club’s recent history of poor acquisitions.