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Liverpool owners to scrutinise club's transfer committee after misplaced spending

By Ian Herbert

Published 21/05/2015

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 15: Mario Balotelli and team mate Raheem Sterling of Liverpool warm up for a during a training session ahead of their UEFA Champions League group B match against PFC Ludogorets on September 15, 2014 in Liverpool, United Kingdom. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 15: Mario Balotelli and team mate Raheem Sterling of Liverpool warm up for a during a training session ahead of their UEFA Champions League group B match against PFC Ludogorets on September 15, 2014 in Liverpool, United Kingdom. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

The jobs of two key members of Liverpool’s transfer committee are the most vulnerable ahead of the imminent end-of-season review in which the club’s American owners will seek explanations for a disappointing campaign.

With Brendan Rodgers’ position thought to be under no immediate threat and no preliminary soundings having been made to alternative managerial candidates, the fiercest scrutiny is thought to be falling on the club’s head of recruitment Dave Fallows and Michael Edwards, the director of performance analysis.

Their statistically driven approach to recruitment has been a key factor in a transfer market strategy which saw the club spend £110m last summer on players who have not materially improved the squad.

Rodgers has always been supportive of the idea of a transfer committee, which Liverpool opted for after the Northern Irishman made it clear he would not operate under a director of football. Liverpool were making representations to Louis van Gaal to fill that role when recruiting a replacement for Kenny Dalglish in the summer of 2012.

Fallows was recruited from Manchester City, where his role entailed assigning scouts to targets, preparing recommendations based on their work and building a database of scouted players. Edwards was hired at Liverpool as ‘head of analytics’ by Damien Comolli, the director of football who was released in April 2012 and had worked alongside the Frenchman in a role as head of performance at Tottenham

The two men running the player acquisition department and chief scout Barry Hunter - whose own track record at Manchester City included a role in the purchase of David Silva, Sergio Aguero – do not take sole responsibility for the disastrous summer of spending. Other members of the six-man transfer committee – Rodgers, chief executive Ian Ayre and Mike Gordon, the Fenway Sports Group (FSG) president who will undertake the review of the season, have ultimate sanction. But taking a statistical approach in the transfer market has not secured the thriving, cheap assets FSG had anticipated.

The relaxation of Financial Fair Play rules which is anticipated last month removes one of the foundations on which FSG’s purchase was built – a knowledge that the owners Chelsea and Manchester City could not outspend them with their personal fortunes, while Liverpool’s untapped global revenue generation potential could give them a competitive advantage over those same clubs.

FSG are thought to feel the same point of principal applies to the retention of Raheem Sterling at Liverpool as when Luis Suarez was agitating to leave two summers ago. It is understood that the owners are prepared to make Sterling a marginal part of the next campaign, on his current £35,000-a-week salary if necessary. But while Suarez’s desperate desire to play football ensured that he knuckled down to his last season, the owners could not be as certainty about any such ethic being seen in 20-year-old Sterling.

The loss of Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard from Anfield is becoming clear. There would be at last some prospects of either of them pointing out to Sterling that regular first team football would not be guaranteed to him at most of his potential elite suitors, Jordan Henderson would hold infinitely less sway with the youngster if he is appointed as captain for the next campaign.

 

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