Liverpool's US owners have made contact with Andre Villas-Boas in the past two weeks, in an attempt to establish his interest in taking over at Anfield, where Kenny Dalglish was yesterday dismissed.
The Independent understands that Villas-Boas is interested and considers Liverpool to be the kind of high-profile, marquee job which would be the appropriate next step for him, following his unhappy nine months at Chelsea, where he was dismissed in March.
The exploratory call from Liverpool's owners, Fenway Sports Group, does not rule out the possibility of the Americans having higher priority targets. Wigan Athletic's Roberto Martinez, the Borussia Dortmund coach Jürgen Klopp and Marseilles Didier Deschamps, a target before FSG acquired Liverpool, may be contenders.
Liverpool's call to Villas-Boas was lodged after an approach to him from Roma, who have dismissed manager Luis Enrique following the club's failure to reach any European competition, despite the investment of American entrepreneur Thomas DiBenedetto. Sources in Portugal suggest that Liverpool may well be the more attractive proposition for Villas-Boas – and the club he considers to be the bigger name.
There was uncertainty last night about whether Villas-Boas would be free to coach another English club next season, under the terms of his severance from Stamford Bridge. Valencia also inquired as to the Portuguese's availability, though they have appointed Manuel Pelligrino. Steve Clarke, Dalglish's assistant, has also left Liverpool out of a loyalty to the outgoing manager, though it is understood he did have the option to stay
The Wigan chairman, Dave Whelan, said last night that Martinez had not been approached, although the 38-year-old does appear to meet the criteria of FSG in many ways, having introduced a footballing ethos which runs through all levels at the club. Rafael Benitez has had no contact from FSG. Despite rumours that Martinez might work in tandem with Benitez, the former Liverpool manager is not understood to consider that a realistic working arrangement.
The biggest question mark above the name of Martinez is whether Liverpool supporters would consider him a big enough name for their club. The Americans have so far been careful to take supporters' views into account before making their moves on what has been a difficult two years at Anfield.>>Kenny Dalglish sacked by Liverpool's US owners >>Kenny pays the price for Liverpool's under-achievement >>Ayre salutes Kenny Dalglish achievements >>Kenny deserved more time: Terry McDermott >>Who will replace King Kenny? >>Kenny Dalglish factfile: The Liverpool FC years >>Carling Cup final: Liverpool class denies Cardiff battlers >>Liverpool Dream Team - the greatest ever Anfield First XI
Villas-Boas' agent Carlos Goncalves said when the manager was sacked by Roman Abramovich last March that his client had "no intention of even thinking about football until the summer," though recent attempts to secure Villas-Boas' services as a media commentator for the forthcoming European Championships are understood to have been hit by the Liverpool and Roma approaches. These have put his immediate plans into a state of some doubt, according to Portuguese sources.
Liverpool's managing director Ian Ayre will today provide a fuller explanation of the reasoning behind the dismissal of Dalglish, which was confirmed at 5pm last night, after the meeting with FSG which the Glaswegian had sought on Boston on Monday resulted in principal owner John W Henry telling him of their frustration with his poor use of club resources in the transfer market.
The £110m spent on seven players did not bring the improvement FSG anticipated. A Carling Cup win came after an unconvincing display against Cardiff City in the final and after scraping an FA Cup semi final win over Everton, Henry was at Wembley to witness a poor defeat to Chelsea in the final.
The FA Cup semi-final took place several days after the Americans had dismissed director of football Damien Comolli. Liverpool's search for a replacement for Comolli – an executive who wields enough power to hold the manager to account – looks like the most significant recruitment job at Anfield, where FSG last week also dismissed director of communications Ian Cotton, another executive whose lack of authority in Dalglish's company caused the PR disaster surrounding the Luis Suarez/Patrice Evra affair.
With all three positions now vacant, FSG appear to be back where they started, in their attempt to rebuild Liverpool out of the mess they inherited from Tom Hicks and George Gillett in 2010.
Chairman Tom Werner last night appeared to characterise Dalglish's role as that of a caretaker, when he paid tribute to him. "Kenny came into the club as manager at our request at a time when [we] really needed him," he said. "He didn't ask to be manager; he was asked to assume the role. He did so because he knew the club needed him.
"He did more than anyone else to stabilise Liverpool over the past year-and-a-half and to get us once again looking forward. We owe him a great debt of gratitude. However, results in the League have been disappointing and we believe to build on the progress that has already been made, we need to make a change."
But Dalglish, who was appointed permanently on a three-year contract, will not see things that way. His friend and former team-mate Terry McDermott said last night that the 61-year-old would be "hurting deeply".
"It has been an honour and a privilege to have had the chance to come back to Liverpool Football Club as Manager. I greatly appreciate the work that Steve, Kevin, the players and all of the staff put in during my time and feel proud that we delivered the Club's first trophy in six years winning the Carling Cup and came close to a second trophy in the FA Cup Final.
"Of course I am disappointed with results in the league, but I would not have swapped the Carling Cup win for anything as I know how much it meant to our fans and the Club to be back winning trophies.
"Whilst I am obviously disappointed to be leaving the football club, I can say that the matter has been handled by the owners and all concerned in an honourable, respectful and dignified way and reflects on the quality of the people involved and their continued desire to move the football club forward in the same way as when they arrived here.
"I would like to thank all of the staff at the Club for their effort and loyalty. I said when first approached about coming back as Manager that I would always be of help if I can at any time and that offer remains the same.
"Finally, I want to put on record my heartfelt gratitude to Liverpool's fans, who have always given me and the Club their unwavering support. Without them neither the Club nor I would have achieved anything."
In his second spell in charge at Liverpool, prior to his sacking today, Kenny Dalglish experienced a number of ups and downs.
We highlight some of the main incidents.
Scottish First Division: Four titles (1972, 1973, 1974, 1977)
Scottish Cup: Four titles (1972, 1974, 1975, 1977)
Scottish League Cup: One title (1975).LIVERPOOL PLAYER
First division: Five titles (1979, 1980, 1982, 1983, 1984)
European Cup: Three titles (1978, 1981, 1984)
European Super Cup: One title (1978)
League Cup: Four titles (1981, 1982, 1983, 1984)
PFA Player of the Year: One award (1983)
FWA Footballer of the Year: Two awards (1979, 1983)LIVERPOOL PLAYER-MANAGER
First division: Three titles (1986, 1988, 1990)
FA Cup: Two titles (1986, 1989)
Manager of the Year: Three awards (1986, 1988, 1990)BLACKBURN MANAGER
Premier League: One title (1995)
Manager of the Year: One award (1995)CELTIC MANAGER
Scottish League Cup: One title (2000)LIVERPOOL MANAGER
League Cup: One title (2012)SCOTLAND INTERNATIONAL
Caps: 102 Goals: 30