Ben Bocsak: Liverpool’s Future Safe in Steidten’s Hands

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The State of Play – Clearing The Board

We are all still reeling from Jurgen Klopp’s decision to leave Liverpool at the end of the season. There is a part in all of us that just wants to focus on the now and forget what’s coming.

However, behind the scenes for the important executives – there is no such luxury. These next few months are going to be pivotal in making sure Klopp’s departure is prepared for in the best way possible.

One of the key priorities for the club before even appointing a successor to Klopp’s throne is to finally have a stable sporting director at the helm. Since Michael Edwards’ departure, neither Julian Ward, nor Jorg Schmadtke have lasted very long in their positions.

With Jurgen Klopp able to maintain continuity – this wasn’t necessarily an issue. However, without him, and without his staff – now it’s imperative that Liverpool have someone controlling things in the background and providing stability at the club.

Tim Steidten Still on Radar

Tim Steidten is a name who has been on Liverpool’s radar for a while. The club were interested in recruiting him last year. Although in the end nothing materialised from that. Instead, Steidten ended-up joining West Ham United – where he has already brought in some impressive recruits.

But he is still someone on Liverpool’s radar, and a man the club could turn to as FSG now embark on a search for a sporting director. Especially with the favourite to replace Klopp being Xabi Alonso – the very manager Steidten played a key role in appointing at Bayer Leverkusen back in 2022.

Steidten’s Impressive Background

Steidten has an extensive background in scouting. He started out as a youth scout at Werder Bremen back in 2008. He then subsequently became head of youth scouting, then head of scouting for the senior team and ultimately sporting director in the span of just nine years.

During his time at Werder Bremen, Steidten played a key role in bringing in the likes of Kevin de Bruyne and Serge Gnabry – who both revived their talented careers at the club.

Always operating under a tight budget – Steidten’s ability to find under the radar gems attracted the attention of Bayer Leverkusen. He joined the club as head of scouting in 2019 – before becoming the sports coordinator in 2022. In both his roles he was very much in charge of overseeing transfers and everything else at the club when it came to the recruitment side of things.

Steidten’s Track-Record at Leverkusen

At Leverkusen Steidten’s record speaks for itself. He played a key role in snapping up Florian Wirtz from his boyhood club Cologne – in what was a controversial transfer in Germany. Cologne and Leverkusen operate in the same regions in Germany and have an unspoken ‘agreement’ not to “steal” one another’s talented youth players. But Steidten and his recruitment team went against the grain and decided to lure Wirtz to Leverkusen anyway.

By far his biggest achievement at Leverkusen though was the way he broadened the club’s horizons to all sorts of new markets.

Steidten brought in players like Edmond Tapsoba – who was spotted after just 16 league games in Portugal’s top flight and has since become one of the best centre-backs in the Bundesliga.

In the European market, Steidten also played a key role in recruiting Moussa Diaby from Paris Saint Germain and Jeremie Frimpong from Celtic – both becoming pivotal players for Leverkusen. The German side also won the race for Adam Hlozek – a player Liverpool were interested and had scouted as well – who was setting the Czech league alight at the time.

Steidten brought in talent from South America as well. Most notably, Exequiel Palacios – who had impressed at River Plate in Argentina before arriving at Leverkusen, and Piero Hincapie – who had come through Ecuador’s renowned Independiente del Valle academy and who is a player also on Liverpool’s radar.

The Key Numbers

While Steidten was employed by the club – Leverkusen oversaw the sale of the likes of Julian Brandt and Kai Havertz for record figures. All together, Leverkusen’s income from player sales was around £150m in that time. This in turn allowed the club to have the fourth highest expenditure in the Bundesliga at £184m – only behind RB Leipzig, Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich.

Under Steidten Leverkusen’s squad value increased by 58%. Which suggests he clearly used the money he had available to him wisely. And the above mentioned players will testify to that as well.

By the time he left the club, Leverkusen’s squad was valued at £416m – ranking in the 20th most valuable squads in the world. The fact that Steidten’s Leverkusen squad was always relatively small at around 25 members makes this an even more impressive achievement. Especially, when you put into context how most of the squads ahead of Leverkusen in the top 20 hac a size of 30-40 members – meaning their value is obviously going to be a lot higher as there are more players to increase the accumulative value.

Photo: IMAGO

Impressive Start at West Ham

Steidten’s only in his second transfer window at West Ham, but already he has recruited an absolute gem in Mohammed Kudus – who is becoming one of the fan favourites at the club. Edson Alvarez has settled in really well from Ajax as well – replacing the Declan Rice void. And Konstantinos Mavropanos is starting to make his mark, too.

In this January window, West Ham have pursued some interesting targets as well with players like Ibrahim Osman from Nordsjaelland and Jack Clarke from Sunderland on the club’s radar. Both fit a different sort of profile to how West Ham have gone about their business in the past – and that’s definitely the Steidten influence coming through.

The Data Guy

Perhaps the most important factor in why Steidten is the right candidate for Liverpool is the way he is open to embracing data and new technology.

At Leverkusen Steidten worked closely with Managing Director of Sport, Simon Rolfes. And he was heavily involved in utilising data to aid the recruitment process and identify potential targets. In an interview with Bulinews Rolfes spoke about how Leverkusen approached recruitment with Steidten back in 2022, emphasising the use of data and analytical approaches.

“The signing of Frimpong is a good example of how we use data,” Rolfes explained. “We were looking for a fast full-back, and he was directly on the list. Then we went deeper and analyzed him.”

“We pre-filter players in some cases, especially in markets where we can’t watch every game. It’s all becoming a lot more intelligent, and you can do much more with data than just tracking passes. For example, limb-tracking can be used in the future to find out how often players turn their heads to observe their environment. If you do that often as a midfielder, that might mean you’re a better player.”

Liverpool obviously have a strong emphasis on data based recruitment – and have the very important Will Spearman working in the background. So, to have someone who is able to take Spearman’s ideas on board is an important requirement for a sporting director.

Photo by IMAGO

Perfect Candidate for Liverpool

If Liverpool’s man is Xabi Alonso – then Steidten is the perfect sporting director to come in alongside him. They already know each other well and understand how they operate. That will make things easier when it comes to planning ahead for the summer transfer window.

Prizing him away from West Ham United shouldn’t be too difficult either. Even though he has only been there less than a year – the resources Liverpool can provide for him is far greater – and therefore makes the Reds difficult to turn down.

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