Securing a Defensive Midfielder Must Be Richard Hughes Recruitment First Task

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Securing a Defensive Midfielder Must Be Richard Hughes Recruitment First Task

There are many ways to view the recruitment process during the initial era of former Sporting Director, Michael Edwards, as well as the period after he departed. It is undeniably clear that when Jürgen Klopp arrived from his post Borussia Dortmund sabbatical, it was done with clarity in how players would be identified by the transfer committee, before being agreed upon as the team’s head coach. Following the achievement of brilliance over a short and illustrious period (that led to both Premier & Champions League success), the German boss became the head of all departments and key decision maker for the club. This huge shift in dynamic made the role of Edwards untenable, causing his subsequent resignation from his post. That opening saw his previous assistant, Julian Ward, take up the reins as the new Sporting Director, however, his own tenure lasted only year before he walked away from a job, he was at the time delighted to attain. Both those circumstances pointed to that power struggle from the training ground to the executive offices above, one which became a one-sided encounter. The aftermath allowed both Klopp and his first team coach, Pepijn Lijnders, to orchestrate the identifying a future talent and the retaining of aging assets.

What Happened After the Departures of Both Edwards & Ward…?

I have little desire to delve into the various players that were held onto too for far too long, which is all very well documented. Huge sums of money were left on the Anfield table due to a want to keep trusted lieutenants in house, rather than sell regressing players and regenerate. The season before last saw what can materialise when a group of individuals are no longer able to meet the demands of intense high-level football, which was endorsed by their loyal manager. The generation of last summer came two years too late, however, the short-term employment of Jörg Schmadtke (as interim Sporting Director and assistant to the manager), enabled a handful of new players to arrive and help rejuvenate the group.

How Has the Structure Changed Prior to this Window…?

As soon as Jürgen Klopp informed FSG of his intent to resign in November 2023, it would have begun a process of restructuring the entire footballing enterprise. Mike Gordon was the key executive at the time and despite a desire to reduce his own duties, he returned to oversee various levels within the club. As soon as the astounding news became clear, one of Gordon’s first actions was clearly to bring the brilliant Michael Edwards back to the fold, in a new and all-powerful role of sporting CEO. One of Edwards’ initial tasks was to employ a new Sporting Director, one which enabled the club to terminate the short-term partnership with Jörg Schmadtke. In appointing Richard Hughes, the Southampton born Edwards was bringing in someone he had a professional relationship with, who he could trust in to undertake his own vision. I believe that both trust and elite level executive abilities are needed now than ever, as the new CEO looks to prove his return was the right next step in progression and growth. With a head coach now selected, a raft of first team assistants being assembled, the medical and performance departments being fine-tuned, and various executive seats being filled to establish a multi club model, I suspect that the former Bournemouth technical Director, Richard Hughes, will now focus in on both renewing the contracts of key assets, and targeting new players for this upcoming summer window.

Which Player Should Richard Hughes Target First?

If we look back on the success that was attained over the past nine years, it was built largely upon extraordinary recruitment and tremendous coaching. The vital and perhaps final pieces that enabled ultimate success were those which made the defensive group almost impenetrable. Virgil van Dijk, Alisson Becker, and Fabinho, were the signings which took Liverpool from very good to world class. It is the latter of those three who was relinquished with last summer, as he headed to Saudi Arabia for a handsome fee of £40m. A record-breaking bid of £115m was tabled a month later, to lure Moisés Caicedo from the grasp of rivals Chelsea. Brighton orchestrated a closed envelope auction (which FSG won); however, the Ecuadorian superstar and his agent forced a move to Stamford Bridge, leaving the reds shorthanded. A return move for Roméo Lavia was then coordinated by the semi-retired spirting head, Jörg Schmadtke, which was another deal which saw a player of interest move to West London. Though the later recruitment of Wataru Endō proved a good solid buy, his own best game will never mirror and deliver that which his Brazilian predecessor once brought.

In this instance, I firmly believe that two or three defensive minded players will be sought this next month or so, especially after such a disheartening defensive performance last year. It would be ignorant to look at the individuals (of last term) as many excelled under intolerable tactical circumstances. Quite simply, the system of play and hybrid initiative created uncontrollable open spaces, something which will be reined in by the new head coach, Arnie Slot. By targeting and signing a new defensive shield (to add to the midfield group), Hughes would enable a higher ball winning mentality and safety net, that can suppress the common counter attacks that were thrown upon an overworked defensive group last season. Regarding new assets, this must be the first job of the 42-year-old former Scotland international, who will surely look to make a big impact in his first season at an elite club. Both Edwards and Richard Hughes are now under the microscope of an unsure support, who are expectant yet wary of how they will complete the transition away from their beloved German manager.

In targeting the likes of Ederson, Alan Varela, and Manuel Ugarte, those are names are who would offer slightly differing qualities, though each would be a brilliant start to the reds summer transfer business. The window is due to open on Friday, which could enable the summer process of refinement to be undertaken. Richard Hughes has many decisions to make, I just hope that the signature of a ball winning destroyer is top of his recruitment list.

Patience is of course a requirement, as the international tournaments may mean deals are not possible until participants are eliminated.

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