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OPINION: Billy Hogan has Liverpool boost after surprising and disappointing Julian Ward decision

 

Julian Ward’s exit leaves Liverpool facing a new direction in the transfer market.

 

On the pitch itself, Klopp’s Reds find themselves looking up at a seven-point deficit to the coveted fourth Premier League spot and face an almighty battle to ensure they don’t miss out on next season’s Champions League after an opening three-month period that has largely lurched between ordinary and awful.

And further lack of surety behind the scenes extended with the shock news on Thursday that sporting director Julian Ward is to leave the club at the end of the campaign.

 

Anfield sources have indicated that the decision was a surprising one and one that was understandably met with disappointment given the high regard the long-serving Ward is held within the ranks.

 

Liverpool went to great lengths to try and make Ward reconsider but it’s believed that recent changes to how the leadership structure works within the club – such as Billy Hogan widening his remit while Gordon assesses the offers – have played a huge part in the decision from a sporting director who is barely six months into the role, officially.

 

Having served at the club for 11 years, Liverpool will be losing a valued and trusted member of the team who rose from the ranks of being a European scout to a position that, behind Gordon and Klopp, is the third most influential on the football operations side at Anfield.

 

The ECHO understands that Liverpool have already begun a process that will identify the best possible model for them to use going forward with Klopp playing a pivotal role in what comes next. It’s one that could yet be a considerable shift from the FSG one that has underpinned so much of the success since 2019, but one that has, often, left many fans muttering and lamenting about net spends.

 

 

Liverpool aren’t anticipating anything to alter in the immediate future but the looming January window, like so much of the longer-term landscape, poses so many questions for supporters keen to see investment.

 

Klopp has taken on greater responsibility in terms of player recruitment over the past year or so. While the manager has always been explicit that he has the final say, much of the squad who have been superstars at Anfield were often brought to the shortlist by the exhaustive work of Edwards and his data analysis team like director of research Ian Graham – another who is reportedly considering his options.

 

For example, there were some within the ranks who had reservations earlier this year about Darwin Nunez’s suitability for Liverpool. The Uruguayan striker was making a name for himself at Benfica during a 34-goal campaign last term, but it was only when Klopp and his analysis team studied the powerful frontman further ahead of the Champions League tie in April did the club think seriously about a move.

 

The manager was said to have been so enamoured by Nunez in those analysis meetings that Liverpool’s recruitment department were asked to try and bring him to Anfield. That, during the peak years of Michael Edwards’s spectacular stint as sporting director, was unlikely to have been a regular occurrence.

 

Ward’s eventual ascension was nailed on when he was officially pronounced as Edwards’s assistant on Christmas Eve in 2020. That pointed towards the well established continuity that existed throughout the club but the landscape has changed almost beyond recognition since.

 

Having watched Ward operate impressively in his short tenure to date – he was integral in both securing Mohamed Salah’s new contract and signing Nunez – the club will now be searching for the third sporting director in barely 12 months when the end of the line is reached for the Aintree-born scout.

 

It leaves the ownership group with a significant role to fill just at a time when they felt confident enough to look away from all things at Anfield and implement the soft launch of their exit strategy.

 

CEO Hogan will be involved in the process of identifying Ward’s replacement, but it is Klopp’s presence that is perhaps most reassuring just now for a bewildered fanbase trying to get their head around the dizzying developments of November 2022.

 

With the vaunted German barely six months into a brand-new contract, he at least offers the kind of cohesion that is evidently absent in other key areas of the club right now.

 

 

 

 

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