Do Liverpool still need this system in place?
After a season of disappointment in the league, the boardroom at Anfield was reminiscent of the final scene of The Godfather, where Michael Corleone orders a hit on the heads of each of the Five Families and Moe Green. Each person working at the club that was deemed surplus to requirements was given the boot in a toned-down Merseyside version of The Knight of the Long Knives, only with less, you know, purging and book burning. Prime among was Damien Comolli, the club’s Director of Football, who paid the price for a season of underachivement back in April. However since the unveiling of new manager Brendan Rodgers, an element of confusion still persists about the issue, do the club still want a Director of Football or not?
Comolli became Director of Football in March 2011, effectively taking on many aspects of a chief executive’s role, though focused solely on the business of the football side of the club and was heavily involved in bringing the likes of big-money buys Luis Suarez, Andy Carroll and Jordan Henderson to the club.
He was originally brought to the club in November 2012 under the title Director of Football Strategy and was tasked with the recruitment side of the club, before latterly moving into the aforementioned role. Straight away, it appears as if his role was never clearly defined, which points to a lack of clarity and leadership from above on FSG’s part. Rumours persisted after his sacking that FSG felt they had rushed his initial appointment in the first place upon taking control of the club back in October 2010, which is hardly a ringing endorsement for any prospective future employers of the Frenchman.
Liverpool chairman Tom Werner had this to say back in April after Comolli’s sacking: “We’ve had a strategy that we have agreed on. There was some disconnect on the implementation of that. That strategy is a strong one and it will continue. We’re still confident the structure we’ve discussed is the right structure. That doesn’t mean we won’t look at tweaking it, but we feel a collective group of people making football decisions is healthy. The debate is healthy. Part of the reason we made this decision now is because we want to start the process of finding an excellent replacement.”
This would appear to indicate a preference for a Director of Football still at the club, and that the idea hadn’t yet been abandoned entirely, but that they were open to adjusting the parameters of the post. FSG were thought to want to pioneer a new system dividing Comolli’s role into three – one executive to oversee statistics, another whose role would be to conduct negotiations and a third ‘football man’ with contacts within the game, with the new boss also operating under managing director Ian Ayre. It seemed a hugely bloated, contrived and overly fussy system from the ouset.
Txiki Begiristain, formerly Director of Football at Barcelona, is one name that has been linked with a senior role, while Pep Segura, currently technical manager of the club’s academy is widely expected to be promoted, with Louis van Gaal for a time in the frame for a position. FSG clearly want to spread the workload out and implement a new system that allows the manager to focus solely on footballing matters, but whether the manager wants that is another point entirely.
Confusion still reigns and I can’t help but thinking that the issue has been glossed over for the sake of happy families for the time being, like sweeping a fight under the carpet with the missus for the sake of an easy life in the short-term and it has the potential to go seriously wrong further down the road. At Brendan Rodgers unveiling during his first press conference as Liverpool boss, the situation still looked muddled at best.