Liverpool cast net wide as all clear given for Roberto Martinez talks with plans to sound out Pep Guardiola and Fabio Capello
Liverpool moved rapidly to replace Kenny Dalglish yesterday with plans to approach at least eight managers from across Britain and Europe, including Wigan Athletic's Roberto Martinez, Swansea City's Brendan Rodgers, and even an ambitious bid to ascertain Pep Guardiola's interest.
Fenway Sports Group's determination to cover all options available to them makes an approach to Fabio Capello, also currently out of work, quite possible. It is understood that Andre Villas-Boas is also among the managers approached on the continent, with initial contact having come through his agent. He is believed to be receptive to the idea, though Roma provide competition, having approached him first. Guardiola is the most intriguing name and Liverpool possess a link to him through his brother Pere, the agent of Luis Suarez. That approach is highly speculative, though, and unlikely to yield a result after the Spaniard's decision to step down from Barcelona.
The Wigan chairman, Dave Whelan, has granted Liverpool permission to speak to Martinez, though as of early yesterday evening Swansea had not provided clearance for FSG, Liverpool's owners, to speak with Rodgers. Chairman Huw Jenkins has a record of being a formidable negotiator. He made it difficult for Martinez to leave Swansea for Wigan and would demand every penny of Rodgers' £5m compensation clause.
Liverpool's problem may be convincing managers on their wishlist that they are a big enough for them. Though the CV of Borussia Dortmund's Jürgen Klopp – two Bundesliga titles with minimal outlay on wages or transfers - is impeccable, the view from Germany last night was that it would be profoundly difficult to attract him to Anfield. The 44-year-old is under contract until 2016, totally wedded to the club and next season's Champions League campaign, and Dortmund would not release him for any price. As The Independent reported yesterday, Villas-Boas would be far easier to attract. So would Marseilles' Didier Deschamps, after a tough year at the club, the fans' desire to see him gone and his own aspiration to manage in England. Deschamps has two years left on his contract but is not the team player Liverpool seek, having been unable to work with Marseilles' director of football José Anigo.
The Americans have hired unnamed external consultants to aid their pursuit of a manager. Ayre would not disclose details, nor confirm whether they had experience of Premier League football. "They are sufficiently experienced enough to be in a position to advise," he said, and had not been involved in the decision to dismiss Dalglish. It is understood that FSG have also engaged London-based management consultants for assistance on the appointment of a chief executive and the creation of what one source describes as a player-development fund.
On a day which revealed fascinating evidence of FSG's determination to hollow out much of the top management at Liverpool and initiate a restructure, Ayre disclosed that Damien Comolli, former director of football, will be replaced by two senior personnel, within the next two weeks. It seem that one will handle the technical director portfolio and another will deal with the football administration side. Those two appointments will be announced quickly because Liverpool are keen to avoid undermining a new manager by appointing them after him.
Another surprise comes with the appointment as communications director of Jen Chang, senior football editor at Sports Illustrated, who has written extensively about the Premier League. Ayre revealed yesterday that his own contract as managing director has been extended, with a replacement for the former commercial director Graham Bartlett, who recently left the club, also about to join.
Ayre admitted that Dalglish would have been dismissed even if he had delivered Liverpool the FA Cup, because the club cannot afford the continued loss of Champions League revenue which is allowing other clubs to power ahead of them financially. In a clear break with the club's past, Ayre said cup success was no longer enough to sustain the club in the modern era.
"The Carling Cup and the FA Cup don't generate the revenue and the success that is needed to keep investing," Ayre said. "If you want to be successful, you have got to keep investing. People don't want to hear that football is a business. They don't. They want to see us put lots and lots of money into the football team and win lots of trophies and games. But you have got to have both. You have got to have continued progress in the league. If you don't do well in the league and you don't get into the Champions League, you are writing cheques from your own pocket, aren't you? That is not a sustainable way, going forward."
He did not dispel the idea of Dalglish's successor losing his job if he failed to deliver the owners' targets. "It will be about a set of measurements that are expected to be achieved. I'm sure if they are not, we would make a change – wouldn't you?"
To the question of whether prospective managers would feel the allure of Liverpool, Ayre said: "I think that if you lined up some of the big names you are alluding to, Liverpool still gets everyone excited and interested. If you are a manager at that level or you are a manager aspiring to get there, I still think this is one of the biggest jobs in world football."