Michael Edwards will step down as Liverpool’s sporting director at the end of the season, the Reds have confirmed.
Edwards, one of the most influential figures at Anfield and an integral part of the club’s recent success, will depart when his contract expires in the summer - despite repeated efforts from Fenway Sports Group, the club’s owners, to persuade him to stay.
He will be replaced by Julian Ward, who was promoted to the role of assistant sporting director last year and is seen as the ideal successor.
What has been said?
In an open letter to fans on the club's official website, Edwards said: “To be part of this club during this period has been a privilege due to the people I have been fortunate enough to work with and the success we have enjoyed.
“I had always planned to cap my time at the club to a max of 10 years. I’ve loved working here, but I am a big believer in change. I think it’s good for the individual and, in a work setting, good for the employer, too. Over my time here we have changed so many things (hopefully for the better) but someone new brings a different perspective, new ideas and can hopefully build (or change) on the things that have been put in place beforehand.
“Julian has been building up the skill set for this role for many years. Last year, he took on the role of assistant sporting director and over the past 12 months he has been introduced to other facets of the role that are vital to its success. I believe he is ideal for the role.
“Over the coming season I will continue to support him as we complete the leadership transition.”
What is Edwards’ story?
Edwards joined the Reds in November 2011 having previously worked at Portsmouth and Tottenham.
His first role was as head of analytics, and he would later serve as director of technical performance and technical director.
He was promoted to the newly-created position of sporting director in November 2016, working closely alongside Jurgen Klopp and Mike Gordon, the president of FSG.
Together, they were able to build a team that would deliver the Champions League in 2019, then follow that up by winning the European Super Club, FIFA Club World Cup and, finally, the Premier League in 2019-20.
Edwards played a key role in the recruitment of players such as Mohamed Salah, Virgil van Dijk, Alisson Becker and Fabinho, all of who have been integral to Liverpool’s success, and he has also earned a reputation as one of the game’s shrewdest operators when selling players too.
Mamadou Sakho, Dominic Solanke, Danny Ings, Danny Ward, Rhian Brewster and most spectacularly Philippe Coutinho were all sold for significant transfer fees.
It is unclear what his next step will be, although Goal understands there is no chance of Edwards moving to Newcastle despite reports suggesting otherwise.
Michael Emenalo, the former Chelsea technical director, is expected to be confirmed as the Magpies’ new sporting director soon.
Bundesliga club RB Leipzig recently ruled out the possibility of appointing Edwards, although there have also been links with Real Madrid. The 41-year-old will not be short of suitors.
What about Ward?
Ward joined Liverpool in 2012 having previously held scouting and analytics roles with both Manchester City and the Portuguese national team.
A former professional footballer who played for Morecambe and Northern Irish outfit Larne, he worked initially for the Reds as European scouting manager with a focus on Spain and Portugal before in 2015 being promoted to the role of loan pathways and football partnerships manager.
He enjoyed significant success, overhauling the Reds’ loan system, and in December 2020 he was appointed assistant sporting director, working directly under Edwards.
Now he will step into the top job. Like Edwards, he enjoys a good relationship with both Klopp and Gordon, and he was given a glowing endorsement from the man he will succeed at Anfield.
The impact it will have on Liverpool is unclear, but FSG hope that the transition will be a smooth one and the club will benefit from the sense of continuity.
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