What Prompted Michael Edwards to Return to Liverpool and Why He Wants Richard Hughes as His Sporting Director

Fenway Sports Group (FSG) has officially announced Michael Edwards as the CEO of Football, solidifying their decision on Tuesday.

In his new role, Edwards will assume a prominent position within Liverpool Football Club, while also taking on broader responsibilities. These duties extend to the acquisition and management of a second club, marking FSG’s expansion into a multi-club framework.

So what prompted Edwards to return to Liverpool after leaving at the end of an 11-year stint back in 2022? What does this mean for their sporting director vacancy? Will stars on expiring contracts be more likely to stay under this new regime?

Newsnow Liverpool have got you covered in this article…

Why Liverpool Wanted Edwards Back

Liverpool initially appointed Edwards as their chief analyst in November 2011, transitioning from his previous position at Tottenham Hotspur where he held a similar role. In 2013, he assumed the title of head of methodology, which then evolved into the technical director role by 2015, before ultimately ascending to the position of sporting director in 2016.

During his tenure, Edwards played a pivotal role in orchestrating Liverpool’s recruitment strategy, earning widespread recognition as a transfer expert. His astute decisions led to the acquisitions of key players such as Mohamed Salah, Virgil van Dijk, and Sadio Mane, contributing to the team’s success in clinching several prestigious titles, including the Champions League in 2019 and the Premier League in 2020.

In 2022, Edwards made the decision to step down from his role at Liverpool, citing the need for a hiatus before embarking on his next venture. Subsequently, he assumed the role of non-executive director at Ludonautics, a sports advisory firm co-founded with former Liverpool colleague Ian Graham.

Following his departure from Liverpool, Edwards fielded numerous offers to return to the footballing realm, including an enticing proposition to serve as CEO of Football at Chelsea in 2022. Despite the allure of the opportunity, Edwards deemed the timing unsuitable. More recently, Manchester United also expressed interest in securing Edwards’ services.

How Liverpool Went About Edwards’ Return

Jurgen Klopp notified the Liverpool board of his decision to depart in November, although he only made this announcement publicly towards the end of January. Simultaneously, the club was aware that Jorg Schmadtke, the short-term sporting director, would step down at the close of the January transfer window.

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FSG acknowledged the onset of a new era but aimed to institute change while maintaining continuity. To achieve this, they initiated discussions with Michael Edwards, recognizing his strong connections with key figures like Dave Fallows and Barry Hunter. FSG insiders characterized rehiring Edwards as a return “back to the future.”

Liverpool initially approached Edwards to reclaim the role of sporting director in early January, preceding Klopp’s official confirmation of departure. Although Edwards initially declined, Liverpool remained persistent in their pursuit.

Maintaining composure, Liverpool arranged face-to-face meetings with Edwards, even coordinating with his attendance at a conference in Boston, Massachusetts. During these discussions, Edwards emphasized his desire for a more substantial role, whether through equity or a higher position within FSG.

Ultimately, three crucial factors led Edwards to accept FSG’s proposal: the opportunity to assume the role of CEO of Football, his familiarity with and positive relationships within the organization, and the prospect of overseeing recruitment.

Additionally, the challenge of expanding FSG’s portfolio by acquiring a second club played a pivotal role in Edwards’ decision. He expressed enthusiasm about the chance to invest in a new club, as stated in FSG’s official announcement regarding his return.

Edwards’ Obsession with Hughes

Former Bournemouth technical director, Richard Hughes, is set to be officially announced as Liverpool’s new sporting director in the forthcoming days, with all terms already agreed upon.

Liverpool had foreseen Hughes as the primary candidate for the role, with Michael Edwards, the outgoing sporting director, inclining towards his appointment, almost making it a bundled deal. In the event of Edwards declining a return, Hughes would likely have pursued opportunities elsewhere.

Fortunately, the scenario favored all parties involved, leading to a dual hiring, thereby enabling Liverpool to swiftly shift focus towards securing their next manager.

Having shared a friendship spanning almost two decades, Edwards and Hughes first crossed paths during their time at Portsmouth, where Hughes was still an active player.

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Their long-standing relationship is founded on mutual trust, with Edwards firmly believing in Hughes’s suitability for the position, given his extensive experience and insight.

Hughes’s background as a Premier League player and his prior involvement at directorial levels further enhance his credentials. Additionally, his bilingual proficiency, stemming from his upbringing in Italy, adds another dimension to his skill set. Coincidentally, Liverpool’s top managerial prospect, Xabi Alonso, shares the same agent as Andoni Iraola, whom Hughes facilitated in joining Bournemouth as the new manager last summer.

The First Jobs for Edwards and Hughes

According to a 90min report last month Liverpool’s intention to finalise their sporting director situation before proceeding with appointing a successor to Jurgen Klopp, signaling the initiation of these plans. Bayer Leverkusen’s manager, Alonso, emerges as the frontrunner for the position.

Edwards and Hughes, responsible for managerial decisions, face the task of determining the futures of key players as their contracts near expiration. Among these players are captain Van Dijk, vice-captain Trent Alexander-Arnold, and star forward Salah, whose contracts expire in 2025.

Van Dijk has remained noncommittal about his future, likely waiting to observe Liverpool’s ongoing evolution before making a decision. However, there is speculation that he may not be ready to part ways with the Reds just yet.

Salah, despite entering his thirties, is anticipated to attract significant interest from the Saudi Pro League this summer. Al Hilal are reportedly prepared to offer over £100m for his services, a figure close to the £150m package proposed by Al Ittihad last summer.

Securing Alexander-Arnold, whose prime years lie ahead, is deemed a top priority. His situation is particularly intriguing, as a new manager like the tactically versatile Alonso could potentially offer him a different role within the team, presenting a fresh pitch for the young talent to consider.

In other Liverpool news, Virgil van Dijk Could Get Ideal $65m Defensive Partner Soon as Liverpool Watch Ahead of Summer

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