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Liverpool’s sporting director search: What we’re hearing

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The search for a new manager is not the only challenge Liverpool’s owners are dealing with right now.

Fenway Sports Group are also looking for a new sporting director to help guide the club’s football masterplan in the coming years, having been without one since Jorg Schmadtke — a stop-gap appointment last summer — left at the end of January. 



So how is the search progressing?



How has this happened?

The new sporting director will be the fourth person to hold this title at Liverpool since 2022, when Michael Edwards officially departed the club.



In truth, his assistant Julian Ward had acted as the de facto sporting director since Edwards announced his intention to move on in the autumn of the previous year.

After he had negotiated his way through Mohamed Salah’s contract impasse, a few months later Ward decided to leave as well.

Ward led the recruitment of Alexis Mac Allister from Brighton & Hove Albion before Schmadtke, a 59-year-old German, took over in mid-summer, helping the club seal deals for Dominik Szoboszlai, Ryan Gravenberch and Wataru Endo.

Michael Edwards with Jurgen Klopp (John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)

That Edwards and Ward were able to navigate significant notice periods reflects the understanding the pair had with Liverpool’s ownership group, Fenway Sports Group.

Yet both had arrived at similar conclusions.

Krosche, meanwhile, was believed to be more of an FSG figure, someone who would have complemented Gordon.

Ultimately, the appointment of Schmadtke, who shares an agent with Klopp, as a stop-gap confirmed Liverpool as a manager-led operation.

Given Klopp’s achievements as well as the length of time he’s been in charge, perhaps it is inevitable that Liverpool would arrive at a point such as this.

Nevertheless, strategists such as FSG would surely have wanted to avoid such a situation: one where a hugely popular manager leaves, and the owners need to fill the two most important football roles at the club at the same time.

GO DEEPER

Why Klopp decided he had to quit Liverpool - and what FSG does now

What kind of sporting director are they looking for?

It is the role of the sporting director to protect the medium and long-term strategy of the club, allowing the manager to offer a sharper focus on what is happening in the short term.

This means the role doesn’t just relate to recruitment; there are also responsibilities around staffing. 

While Klopp will depart with his inner circle that includes Peter Krawietz, Pep Lijnders and Vitor Matos, he has also been influential in the hiring of key figures in areas that would ordinarily be described as “club staff”.

The futures of fitness specialist Andreas Kornmayer and nutritionist Mona Nemmer are yet to be disclosed in public, for example.

Andreas Kornmayer (left) has an uncertain future at Liverpool (Mark Robinson/Getty Images)

Any sporting director, however, is judged on how successful they are in trading players.

The weekend after it was announced that Klopp was leaving, Gordon contacted the club’s former sporting director about coming back in a more senior role.

The timing of this conversation not only reflects the condition of Edwards’ relationship with Klopp, it shows where Liverpool are in this process.

Edwards, however, is happy in his role at Ludonautics, the sports advisory company founded by Ian Graham, Liverpool’s former director of research, who handed his notice in during the summer of 2022.

Who is leading the search?

Gordon is the key person in all of this.

Beneath Hogan, Jonathan Bamber, Liverpool’s former solicitor, has become increasingly involved in the day-to-day running of the club following his appointment as director of football administration in 2022. 

Liverpool chairman Tom Werner (left) with FSG president Mike Gordon (Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)How does Klopp’s impending exit complicate things?

Given the value FSG has placed on this role in the past and given they also knew about Ward’s departure towards the end of 2022, it seems incredible that they are still waiting to appoint his full-time replacement. 

Until Klopp’s exit became a public matter, it would have been difficult for FSG to make much progress in sourcing a new sporting director and therefore, a new manager.

Any conversation with potential candidates for each of the roles would have inevitably revealed one of the biggest sports stories of the year and Liverpool, therefore, would no longer be in control of it.

FSG might reflect it would have been better for the organisation to announce Klopp’s departure sooner.

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