Dalglish 'responsible for all signings' as Liverpool fire Comolli
Kenny Dalglish last night said he accepted full responsibility for the £112m worth of signings that have led to Liverpool's director of football, Damien Comolli, losing his job on the eve of their biggest game of the season – tomorrow's FA Cup semi-final with Everton.
The Liverpool manager was given a vote of confidence by the club's chairman, Tom Werner, who also sacked the head of sports science, Peter Brukner.
"We have great confidence in Kenny and we feel the team is going to make great strides in the future," Werner said. Nevertheless, Liverpool have won only five league games at Anfield this season; two fewer than when Liverpool were relegated in 1954.
Werner and the Liverpool owner, John W Henry, have been angered both by performances on the pitch and in the transfer market. Dalglish has sanctioned all the players who have arrived under his management, save for Luis Suarez. Comolli to negotiated fees and contracts. Johan Cruyff, who left the Ajax board this week, is a name in the frame to replace him.
"I have brought every player here," said Dalglish. "End of story. I have made the decision on every player who has come here and I will continue to make the decisions. I don't need any reassurance from the owners. I have got a big game on Saturday against Everton which is the focal point for us."
Although Liverpool are on course to win both domestic cups, for the third season running they will fail to reach the Champions League, which Fenway Sports Group considers unacceptable.
When the initial announcement was made, it was presented as being made "by mutual consent". Comolli said he was "happy" to go back to France for "family reasons". However, a subsequent interview with Werner on the club's website revealed that it had been FSG's decision to get rid of Comolli.
"I would say we have the resources to compete with anybody in football," Werner said. "We feel there is enough talent on the pitch to win and we have been dissatisfied with the results so far. We are talking about the future. We have a strategy we want implemented and we felt that Damien was not the right person to implement it."
For many observers the timing of Comolli's departure – with the implication that some of the players who will start the FA Cup semi-final with Everton have not delivered value for money – seems extraordinary.
"I don't think there is ever a good time for anyone to lose their job," Dalglish said. "The timing of this cannot be used as an excuse for us not to be fully focused for the game on Saturday."
Comolli was one of the first appointments made by FSG after its takeover at Anfield and his successes were the transfer of Suarez from Ajax – the bulk of negotiations for which were done while Roy Hodgson was manager – and a reduction of the wage bill.
Some of Liverpool's highest earners – Fernando Torres, Alberto Aquilani, Christian Poulsen and Milan Jovanovic – have been moved on while Joe Cole was loaned to Lille. However, the fees paid for Andy Carroll, Stewart Downing and Jordan Henderson – a combined £75m – were thought excessive. Both Newcastle and Sunderland considered the amounts Liverpool offered for Carroll and Henderson far too good to turn down, although this was a consequence of Dalglish's desire to invest in expensive British talent, of the kind that had won him the title at Blackburn.
"Damien was never involved on the training pitch," said Dalglish. "He was involved in scouting, sending scout reports in – a lot of administration work such as getting [goalkeeper] Peter Gulacsi back from Hull in time for the semi-final. There were Premier League meetings, things that seem mundane but were very important to the running of the football club. Part of his job was to go and negotiate for the players we wanted to bring in. It's a huge job. I had a really good working relationship with him and a good personal relationship as well.
"I have spoken to the owners but do you think I am going to sit here and tell you about the conversations I have had? Damien has not gone in any way, shape or form because of a problem with myself. Unfortunately, the guy has lost his job. That is not a pleasant day for anybody."
The relationship between Comolli and Dalglish had been the subject of discussion at Anfield. Dalglish's closest friend in the game, Alan Hansen, has always argued that a director of football is a divisive appointment "unless he is appointed by the manager". Comolli was not. Dalglish had worked unsuccessfully as a director of football at Blackburn but he was not even aware of the club's decision to sell Alan Shearer to Newcastle in 1996. He left shortly afterwards.