The sporting director is one of the most pivotal roles in football. The person that takes over this post manages the budget, deals with the transfers, has a long-term vision of the team’s development, organises everyday life, and even has a say in hiring and sacking coaches. The power of such a man is enormous and although he’s subject to the assessment of the higher-up, he can do more and gets a big vote of confidence, much bigger than a coach who’s here today and might not be here tomorrow. The role also involves planning the development of the team for several years ahead, so one, two, three below-par months do not necessarily put the position into jeopardy.
The idea of creating this role in football was to relieve the managers of off-field duties. Wenger’s influence on the functioning of the club extended beyond the pitch. The Colney training centre which was also the training ground for Arsenal players, was sub-leased from University College London. The Frenchman sought the construction of a completely new place, which he personally supervised. During that time, his work also involved dealing with logistics and many other aspects of the team’s functioning.
Having the right man to land world-class assets and take the club back to where they belong is crucial. Liverpool have had two sporting directors over the course of last decade and their third one stepped to the plate on June 1st this year. Michael Edwards and Julian Ward took their own decision to step down from their roles. The former was the man behind Virgil van Dijk, Alisson Becker and Mohamed Salah transfers. He also worked his magic to negotiate Coutinho’s 142 million GBP transfer to FC Barcelona.
However, he arrived at a decision to make way for Julian Ward, who only a few months later gave notice from his role as reported by “Goal.com”. Several factors have reportedly influenced his choice including fatigue and changes in organisational structures. The board tried their best to convince him to stay, but he was relentless and refused to talk about his future as his decision was definitive. Luis Diaz, Darwin Nunez, Calvin Ramsay and Fabio Carvalho were all brought in at Anfield under the guidance of Edwards. He also had his part in the negotiation talks over Mohamed Salah’s extension that eventually tied the Egyptian down to a new three-year deal.
Given the circumstances, Liverpool seems to be a stable environment to work in without applying pressure into a rushed decisions.
"“No amount of pressure will force Liverpool Football Club to make a decision quickly for a wrong reason” – a former Liverpool Managing Director Ian Ayre once said."
Even though his words referred to the stadium plans back then, they are still accurate to the current vision of the club. The Merseysiders don’t act impulsively. The fact that both Edwards and Ward left their posts wasn’t down to the club. Having handed in their resignations, they were in charge of their own fates.
Now, it’s time for the Jorg Schmadtke era. A man, who retired in January, has been confirmed by the club as a new Liverpool sporting director. Liverpool faithful might have been taken by surprise to hear that Jorg Schmadtke put pen to paper on a short-term deal. Schmadtke has more than 20 years of vast experience in football and spent his whole career in Germany. In the past, he worked in Aachen, Hannover 96, FC Koln and recently in Wolfsburg. Jurgen Klopp knows the 59-year-old very well from his stay in his homeland and hopes he will fit the bill.
"“Our cooperation is initially planned for three months. I’ll start on 1 June. After three months we review the cooperation. If we like each other, we can work together beyond the transfer period. Let’s see. Then we continue or not” – he told Sport1 in Germany."
Schmadtke joins a highly demanding and a fast-paced environment, where he will be tasked with helping construct a squad that under Jurgen Klopp has won the Premier League, Champions League, UEFA Super Cup, FIFA Club World Cup, FA Cup and Carabao Cup, but faded last season and needs immediate rebuilding. Perhaps, the most apparent difference between the former sporting directors and the German is his eagerness to provide interviews. Whereas, Edwards and Ward preferred to stay away from the spotlight.
Last season was a source of constant pain for Liverpool supporters. Toothless, the reds were knocked out of both the Carabao Cup and the FA Cup in the early stage of the competitions and dumped from the Champions League by Real Madrid. Finishing fifth in the Premier League table behind Manchester City, Arsenal, Manchester United and Newcastle means Liverpool have dropped into the Europa League for the first time since 2015/16. The middle of the pitch was certainly a cause for alarm and would have caused Jurgen Klopp several sleepless nights throughout 2022/2023 season. If a team can’t influence the proceedings in the central area of the pitch, even the best defenders and strikesr in the world won’t win games. James Milner, Naby Keita, Arthur Melo and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are four midfielders, who left Anfield at the end of their contract. Additionaly, Roberto Firmino, who forged a formidable relationship with Salah and Mane also decided to leave Merseyside.
An almighty job is ahead of Jorg Schmadtke. But, the process of finding players that fit the Liverpool mould has already started. He seems to be the right man to address the issue and bring the club back to the glory days. Patience will be key during the summer transfer window as Jurgen Klopp won’t want to repeat the story with Arthur Melo, who joined the English club on a loan deal on the deadline-day and spent the overwhelming majority of his stint in the treatment room. Here are the areas of the pitch where Liverpool could address.
Liverpool boast one of the best goalkeeper between the sticks in Alisson, but the future of his understudy Caoimhin Kelleher is in doubt. The Republic of Ireland international has largely been limited to game time in the last season and according to “The Athletic”, he would ‘jump at the chance’ of becoming a No 1. The board needs to set their sight on his potential replacement in case of his departure.
Liverpool conceded 47 goals in the Premier League last season amd the defensive issue was a recurring theme. Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joe Gomez, Ibrahima Konate, Joel Matip and Virgil van Dijk all lowered their standards. The Dutchman was a commanding aerial presence, an excellent distributor of the ball and a leader on the pitch in his heyday, but throughout the last campaign he was a shadow of his former self.
The central area of the pitch has been on all Liverpool fans lips since the start of the last pre-season. The club is grearing up for a major overhaul of their Midfield formation, but this won’t be the first time Jurgen Klopp has taken on this task.
James Milner, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Naby Keita have already made way for new arrival. As per “Football Insider”, Alexis Mac Allister is on the verge of joining the reds troops. His release clause has reportedly been activated and the fee is said to be between 55-60 million. But one transfer in this area won’t make wonders. More arrivals will be needed to fix the issues in the centre and hopefully the jovial German, Jorg Schmadtke can get the job done and done quickly.