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Who is Michael Edwards? Ex-Liverpool transfer genius Man Utd rejected

FT Desk
FT Desk

  • 31 Jan 2024 12:01 GMT
  • 4 min read
Michael Edwards, Liverpool Sporting Director
© ProShots

If you are to ask any football fan who is responsible for Liverpool‘s incredible success in recent years, most would immediately point to manager Jurgen Klopp.

The world-class German coach has had a cataclysmic impact in Liverpool ever since arriving in 2015, leading the club to historic Premier League and Champions League titles.

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However, there is another individual who has played just as big a role in Liverpool’s return to the top.

His name is Michael Edwards, Liverpool’s now ex-sporting director.

During his time at the club until 2022, he was responsible for every Liverpool signing since 2016.

Looking at the world-class stars Liverpool now have in their squad, it is easy to see why Manchester United are reportedly closing in on hiring Edwards.

According to a number of reports, Man Utd are set to beat Chelsea to his appointment.

What was Edwards’ role at Liverpool?

Edwards performed the role of sporting director at Liverpool. He was appointed back in 2016, becoming the first person to fill the newly-created role at the club. With the future of football heading in a new direction, sporting directors were becoming more and more common across Europe, hence why Edwards was handed the job.

He joined the club in 2011, initially as head of analytics before being promoted to director of technical performance and then technical director.

His role at the club was to oversee all footballing development, including player identification, acquisitions, player sales and retention, as well as taking primary responsibility for improvements to the club’s infrastructure.

How good is Edwards?

Edwards, who recently rejected the chance to rejoin Liverpool, is an elite sporting director. He implemented the plan given to him by FenwaySports Group (FSG) – Liverpool’s owners – and maximised profits, while still achieving success on the pitch, despite running on a lower budget than many of the Reds’ rivals.

He was responsible for signing Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane for a combined £71 million, while also adding Andrew Robertson for just £8m. Virgil van Dijk and Alisson were of course signed for large fees, but that was made possible by the £142m sale of Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona in 2018.

Edwards was crucial in every single one of those deals, while his healthy working relationship with the Red Bull family ensured deals for Ibrahima Konate, Naby Keita, and Takumi Minamino were completed without real competition.

In addition to these transfers, Edwards also negotiated large sums of money for fringe players in the Liverpool squad. Dominic Solanke and Jordan Ibe were sold to Bournemouth for a combined £34m, even though they never had a look in at the club, while Rhian Brewster was offloaded to Sheffield United for £23.5m, despite failing to make an appearance in the Premier League before departing the club.

Edwards is a master of negotiating a good price for players on the way out, while he also helped budget and design the new £50m training ground which opened in late 2020.

How much power did Edwards have at Liverpool?

Edwards held the final say on negotiations, so his power was almost limitless. Of course, he was given transfer targets and players to sell, but when his demands weren’t met, he wasn’t pushed around.

You either pay up, or Edwards doesn’t sell, it’s as simple as that.

His exit earlier this year was a huge blow for the club, who developed into one of Europe’s elite sides under his tenure. Man Utd had tried to bring in Edwards but they were ultimately put off by his salary demands.

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