Villarreal – Liverpool: Michael Edwards, the secret architect of Klopp’s Liverpool

If they could, Liverpool fans would erect a statue of him. The problem: they don’t really know what it looks like. But they are aware of what they owe him. The myth of Michael Edwards was thus built around Anfield: discretion, modernity, hard work and success. If Jürgen Klopp is the irrefutable leader of the exciting project of the Reds, Edwards is the undeniable architect. “His contribution to our success is visible to all“, even admitted the first last November.

To evoke this “guru” of transfers, there are first the numbers and the names. The figures, first: 50 transfers all stack since 2016, more than 600 million spent but also 440 million cashed in which it is absolutely necessary to underline. The names, then: Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mané, Robert Firmino, Virgil van Dijk, Andrew Robertson, Fabinho, Alisson, Thiago Alcantara for arrivals. With a record sale at a high price – really very high – of Philippe Coutinho (160 million) to largely finance these XXL works.

Laptop guy and CD-ROM

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If you needed a symbol of this impressive transformation, it would be this one: the first eleven fielded by Jürgen Klopp when he arrived in the winter of 2015. What a long way since then…

The story of Edwards is that of a man who flees the light but who builds his career. Former right-back with limited talent, he finally converted to data analysis, notably with the company Prozone where he already rubbed shoulders with high-level football. Portsmouth gave him a chance in 2003, when Harry Redknapp served as manager. Marriage is not easy. At 64, the latter comes to complain to Edwards because the DVD on which he recorded videos of players to observe does not work… in the CD player of his car.

Frankly, this is clearly not the stereotype of a sports directorRedknapp told The Athletic in 2020. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. You will almost never see him in costume, he is not necessarily super pleasant, with a personality that takes up space. When you look at him, with his puff, he seems harmless, very quiet. You tell yourself that this guy is more the type to be behind the goals“.

It is this quickdraw that sometimes served her in her early days. At a time when data is still the lot of “laptop guys”, it only arrives at the end of the decision-making chain. However, he follows Redknapp to join Tottenham. There he meets Damien Comolli, also fond of new recruitment techniques. “He’s someone who… let’s say you’re struck by his intelligenceexplained the current president of the TFC to The Independent in 2019. I loved the fact that he challenged habits that had been in place for years“. Recruitment is modernized and Comolli, seduced by the man, brings him back to Liverpool in 2011 as an analyst.

Michael Edwards, the sporting director of Liverpool behind many decisive recruits for the Reds (visual: Quentin Guichard)

Credit: Eurosport

Data and Salah, the two turns

But with Brendan Rodgers, the agreement is cold. “For me, the manager must be the sporting director“, asserts the coach of the Reds at the time. Lazar Markovic, Adam Lallana, Christian Benteke join Liverpool for staggering prices and equally disappointing results. The bill is paid by Rodgers, sacked. He is a Jürgen Klopp at the fresh look coming to Anfield.

His desire to recreate an organization chart with a sports director to support him, like Michael Zorc at the time of Dortmund, allows Edwards to take the lead. In 2016, he became sports director, after having held the position of director of methodology. But the real turn is played in the summer of 2017.

To boost his attack, the German coach dreams of Julian Brandt, then in full swing on the side of Bayer Leverkusen. Edwards convinces him to bet on Mo Salah. The rest of the story, you know it. While he was unknown to some agents during the Rodgers period, he becomes a central element of Klopp’s system, even if it means going against the advice of his manager.

In the summer of 2021, he refuses to offer the contract demanded by Georginio Wijnaldum. Quite the opposite of Klopp. The rest of the story, again…”We do not always have the same opinion at the start but we end up being on the same wavelength after many exchanges“, explained the German again. His duet with Ian Graham, director of the research and data department in Liverpool, will have worked wonders. But it is almost already in the past that this story is told.

Michael Edwards and Jürgen Klopp

Credit: Getty Images

PSG as the next club?

In November, Liverpool confirmed the rumors that forced Jürgen Klopp to react at a press conference. “This is the first time that I have been asked to react to the contract of a sports director“, he had laughed in October. But, in accordance with what he had promised, Edwards will not linger in a club he has known for more than ten years. It is via a press release from a colossal length that Liverpool thanked him last November, when he announced his departure at the end of the season.His replacement is already in place, in the person of Julian Ward, who was his assistant and has continued to gaining momentum in recent months, especially with the arrival of the twirling Luis Diaz.
And the future of Edwards? The man who named his dog “Bobby” after his favorite find, Roberto Firmino, has the market at his feet. In the event of Leonardo’s departure, The Telegraph claims that PSG have made him the right man. RB Leipzig hope to make him their future strongman while Newcastle would like to give him colossal means with Eddie Howe to build a new armada capable of dominating the Kingdom. But will Edwards stay in football? The mystery remains intact. Like a character who has probably not yet revealed all his secrets.

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