It was confirmed on Wednesday afternoon that Liverpool’s current sporting director Micheal Edwards will leave Merseyside at the end of this season when his current contract expires.
Liverpool owners Fenway Sports Group had apparently been trying to convince the highly respected figure to extend his stay with the club but Edwards declined, reportedly looking to start a new chapter elsewhere, leading to the inevitable being officially confirmed by the club’s official website.
Speculation will likely now begin on where the 42-year-old will land next after such a successful period alongside Jurgen Klopp that has taken Liverpool to a Premier League and Champions League title.
Edwards very quickly ruled himself out of contention for the vacant Newcastle United sporting director role, which former Chelsea director of football Micheal Emenalo is tipped to take.
Chelsea have yet to properly replace Emenalo since his 2017 departure from Stamford Bridge, with club legend Petr Cech being announced as the new “Technical and Performance advisor” in 2019 after he ended his playing career with London rivals Arsenal.
Cech has clearly had a hand in the club’s transfer recruitment, with his admiration for Edouard Mendy at Rennes leading to Chelsea signing the 28-year-old keeper in September 2020. It was also noted during the amazing 2020 summer spree of arrivals that Cech’s influence, alongside then-head coach Frank Lampard who was key in convincing the likes of Timo Werner to join from RB Leipzig.
It is fair to say Chelsea’s transfer strategy since the 2019 transfer ban imposed by FIFA has been pretty successful, mostly acquiring some of Europe’s most exciting young talent helping to upgrade the quality of the squad. Vindicated by the Champions League triumph in May where Kai Havertz, the £62m addition from Bayer Leverkusen the previous window, netted the winning goal against Manchester City.
There is also the reality of the varying hierarchical structures of Liverpool and Chelsea.
Edwards has been praised for his key negotiating skills to secure major deals to bring Virgil van Dijk to the club in 2018 from Southampton which transformed Jurgen Klopp’s defence. At Chelsea, the chief negotiator is Marina Granovskaia, who runs the club’s day to day operations for Roman Abramovich.
The tags of the “iron lady” in transfer negotiations, or the “most powerful woman in football” have regularly been banded about to praise her work on the business side of things. But what those tags speak to is the level of influence Granovskaia has at Chelsea and why a traditional sporting director may have not been recruited after Emenalo’s departure.
The Telegraph’s Matt Law spoke to the misconception over Emenalo’s level of power whilst at the club, detailing how the Russian-Canadian still remained the most influential figure.
“At Chelsea, he never had full responsibility in the transfer market, not even close”. Law told Chelsea podcast London is Blue.
“There’s a myth about his role at Chelsea. He was involved in it but Marina was still sort of boss. And obviously going back a bit further, Roman was a lot more involved than he sort of is now.”
So Edwards potentially arriving at Chelsea – if the club even desired to fill that role – would require a compromise for the Liverpool transfer guru of likely filling a position that is more relevant to talent identification than the tough negotiating Granovskaia is famed for.
It is in this aspect Edwards has thrived for Liverpool, the two most notable examples being his vocal support for former Chelsea player Mohamed Salah over Klopp’s preference for Julian Brandt from Bayer Leverkusen. Salah returned to the Premier League thanks to Edwards advice for £43m and has turned into one of the league’s great goal scorers.
Or his ability to spot the talent of Andy Robertson from Hull City in 2017 who had just been relegated from the Premier League, singing the Scottish fullback for £10m, another player who has become vital for Klopp’s success since. You can add to that his hand in the additions of defensive midfielder Fabinho in 2018 from Monaco and Diogo Jota from Wolves in 2020.
The “hidden gem” signings that have proved so beneficial to Klopp’s cohesive Liverpool outfit are part of what has made the German’s tenure at Anfield so transformative.
Chelsea’s singings for Mendy and Ben Chilwell can maybe be viewed in similar lights due to their overwhelmingly positive impact on the club since their arrivals, however, their still a sense Chelsea’s financial muscle means they will still target the grandest names, most demonstrated by the £98m return of Romelu Lukaku from Inter Milan.
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Though what figures like Edwards can bring is a level of continuity between the various head coaches who pass through elite clubs, maintaining a consistent vision throughout to make sure a coach departing doesn’t dismantle everything.
Whether this is something Roman Abramovich’s Chelsea are looking to pursue over a longer-term period remains to be seen, given the fact the club are current European Champions and top of the Premier League, things at the current moment are not going too bad, are they?
Wherever Edwards turns up next, it will likely be a coup given the shrewd intelligence he has shown for Liverpool.
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