Michael Edwards snubs Manchester United and Chelsea to make Liverpool return

Michael Edwards (L) Jurgen Klopp (C) Mike Gordon (R) - Liverpool in major boost as Michael Edwards agrees to return

Michael Edwards, one of the architects of the Liverpool renaissance led by Jurgen Klopp, snubbed Manchester United and Chelsea to return to Anfield as club owner Fenway Sports Group’s Chief Executive of Football.

After months of talks between Edwards and FSG, the former sporting director has agreed to assume a key position in the US-based organisation.

Part of his remit will be absorbing most of the day-to-day Anfield responsibilities of FSG president Michael Gordon, to help preserve and enhance the football legacy in the post-Klopp era.

Edwards was lured back with the promise of a broader remit, and with the enticing prospect of overseeing football operations at a second club, with FSG in the market for another purchase. It means Edwards’ future commitments will not be limited to Liverpool.

The returning executive’s first priority will be to appoint a sporting director, with Richard Hughes expected to join him this summer having announced his imminent departure from Bournemouth.

Luring Edwards back to Liverpool is a coup for FSG, and ends a prolonged period of negotiation led by John W. Henry and Gordon. Gordon was determined to bring Edwards back and considered it of paramount importance given the huge void that will be left by Klopp.

Among the reasons for that is Gordon’s desire to reduce his workload. He has effectively handpicked and headhunted his successor having already established a flourishing working relationship with Edwards. Gordon will remain part of the FSG board.

Now attention will turn to finding a replacement for Klopp.

Liverpool know it is vital to get the managerial appointment right, but also feel stability behind the scenes has been a key component to the club’s success since 2015.

Jurgen Klopp applauds the Liverpool fans
Klopp has been Liverpool manager since 2015 - Getty Images/Michael Regan

There has been a danger of a ‘brain drain’, with Klopp taking his backroom coaching staff with him. Edwards’ comeback means those who have put the structures in place to ensure the coach had the tools to work his magic as ‘front of house’ can appoint and help Klopp’s successor, whoever that might be.

Edwards will be reunited with others who have been critical in building a Liverpool squad which for the second time in three seasons is competing on all four fronts entering the final months of the campaign; chief scout Barry Hunter and Head of Recruitment Dave Fallows.

As Telegraph Sport reported last Wednesday, Edwards’ earlier resistance to a return had softened and he agreed to a face-to-face meeting in Boston to hear how his new role will differ from the last.

Courting him was part of the same process which led to Theo Epstein – who had a similar job at Boston Red Sox – also rejoining the FSG fold as they have created a formidable executive team.

During his 20 months away from Liverpool, Edwards has been one of the most sought-after sporting directors in world football and has turned down several chances to return to the Premier League. He held talks with Manchester United and Chelsea, who wanted him to restructure their football operations.

Mastermind behind club’s most successful deals

His reputation follows a prolonged spell of successful transfer activity, both buying and selling. On Edwards’ watch, Liverpool signed Philippe Coutinho from Inter Milan for £8.5 million before selling him to Barcelona five years later for £142 million. The proceeds of the sale directly contributed to Liverpool signing Alisson Becker and Fabinho, on top of the record-breaking deal for Virgil van Dijk. Liverpool won the Champions League, Premier League and World Club Cup over the following 18 months.

Virgil van Dijk celebrates
Edwards played a key role in the signing of Virgil van Dijk - Getty Images/Jacques Feeney

There were countless other deals which confirmed Edwards intuitive understanding of how to maximise value in the transfer market, Liverpool winning admiration for how they have stuck to their principles, often walking away from deals when the price is not right, as well as maximising their profits from the squad players they have allowed to leave.

Naturally, Edwards’ most important task, and the next sporting director, is to decide on the next manager, with Xabi Alonso remaining the favourite but several other candidates under serious consideration.

Interestingly, Hughes final managerial appointment at Bournemouth, Andoni Iraola, has the same agent as Alonso.

Liverpool were eager to finalise the key executive appointments before pressing ahead with formal approaches to those most suited to continuing Klopp’s outstanding work.

Xabi Alonso embraces Wolfsburg coach Niko Kovac
Xabi Alonso (right) is the fans' favourite to becone the next Liverpool boss - Reuters/Thilo Schmuelgen

Edwards said: “I am very grateful to Mike, John, Tom and the ownership group for offering me the opportunity to take on this new leadership role within FSG. I was humbled by the desire and persistence they showed in wanting to work with me again. This is definitely not something that I take for granted given their track record across sport and business.

“It was vital for me that, if I did return, it had to be with renewed vigour and energy. In practice, this means having fresh challenges and opportunities. As such, one of the biggest factors in my decision is the commitment to acquire and oversee an additional club, growing this area of their organisation. I believe that to remain competitive, investment and expansion of the current football portfolio is necessary.

“With Liverpool, I will oversee the required reinforcement of football operations, with a number of essential leadership positions needing urgent attention. I know from personal experience what a wonderful job Mike Gordon has done with day-to-day oversight on behalf of his fellow owners. Going forward I’m looking forward to working with FSG’s Board of Managers. Also, in assuming this role, I fully understand that it comes with great expectations, and I therefore intend to identify, hire, and subsequently empower leaders who meet and embody the club’s values and ambitions.”


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