Liverpool’s sporting director Julian Ward is to leave the club at the end of the season after only a year in the post.
Ward assumed duties from his predecessor Michael Edwards, who was widely credited with much of the Reds’ recent success in the transfer market, in the summer but has chosen to leave as it is understood he wishes to take a break after more than a decade at the club.
His decision was unexpected and is understood to have been greeted with disappointment within the club.
However, they are confident the continuity which saw him succeed Edwards will again provide them with some stability, underpinned by long-standing senior staff including Dave Fallows (head of recruitment) and Barry Hunter (chief scout) who continue to have central roles.
The club has begun a process to identify which model will be most effective for the future and the PA news agency understands manager Jurgen Klopp, who recently extended his contract until 2026, will play a pivotal role in the process along with chief executive Billy Hogan.
Ward’s departure comes after the recent news that Liverpool owners FSG are believed to be considering selling the clubalthough they would prefer to attract new investors by selling a minority stake.
Fenway Sports Group (FSG) have received “a lot of interest” in Liverpool investment, according to FSG partner Sam Kennedy.
They have asked Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley to gauge buyer interest and now Kennedy, the CEO of the FSG-owned Boston Red Sox, has claimed there are plenty of suitors for investment.
He told The Boston Globe last week: “There has been a lot of interest from numerous potential partners considering investment into the club.
“It is early days in terms of exploring possibilities for possible investment into Liverpool.”
Carra: Upheaval a worry for Liverpool
Sky Sports’ Jamie Carragher:
“It’s not ideal as when you are talking about recruiting players a person in that role is heavily involved not just for the January window but in the summer too. It does feel like a shock. It is a little bit of a worry for Liverpool. There seems to be upheaval behind the scenes in terms of the ownership. Michael Edwards moved on and Ward came in to replace him and now he’s gone. It won’t be easy to get someone straight away as Liverpool won’t be prepared for this . Hopefully, someone fills the role and has as much success as they’ve had in the past.”
Analysis: Fragility and chaos at Liverpool
Sky Sports News senior reporter Melissa Reddy:
“It’s all change at Liverpool – big change, too much change, change that really forces you to ask some really strong questions.
“If losing former sporting director Michael Edwards wasn’t a significant enough loss, his former assistant Julian Ward has handed in his resignation and will leave Liverpool at the end of the season.
“That’s really shocking given how soon it has come, and the club’s esteemed director of research Ian Graham will also leave at the end of the season. And this all comes amid Mike Gordon, the FSG president who was in charge of the day-to -day running of the club, taking a step back.
“To put this all into context, Liverpool used to refer to their triumvirate as their three key men: Jurgen Klopp, Michael Edwards and Mike Gordon. Now you have Gordon stepping back and Edwards no longer at the club. Now Klopp is taking more of a role in recruitment and he will be quite pivotal in the strategy moving forward amid all these departures.
“You may think that’s a good thing: A manager absorbing more power and responsibility. But if you look at the departures, these are key people to the data-driven approach that has made Liverpool so successful.
“So are they starting to get less responsibility? Is there less trust in them? Is power being taken away from them?
“In my coverage of the club, the thing that stood out was the people working in the analytics department saying that the reason it resonates at Liverpool, why they’ve been able to thrive, is because they have been allowed to get on with the job without any interference and make a tangible difference.
“A lot of them worked at other clubs that wanted to say they were interested in analytics, but they did not value the research or apply it accordingly. Are we seeing now a change in Liverpool?
“There are a lot of reports they are considering a change in strategy, that Klopp has assumed more control in terms of recruitment. That might be widely applauded in some areas, but not in others. The people that helped deliver success are all leaving.
“We can’t ignore the fact that all of these developments come amid Fenway Sports Group looking at fresh investment for the club, which includes the possibility of an outright sale.
“There is a lot of talk saying that these people are leaving because the new owners will want to put their own teams in place. We need to understand about how long the process is to find out which people could buy Liverpool, whether they are the right owners for the club and whether they have human rights issues or other problems that could be flagged against them.
“The process of a takeover is pretty long in normal circumstances. People will look at the Chelsea situation, which was completely different and doesn’t apply here compared to the sales of Liverpool and Manchester United, who are on the market as well.
“These are worrying developments for Liverpool, it gives a sense of fragility behind the scenes and chaos. But this has come off question marks over the medical department and the upheaval there.
“Given the start to the season they have had, where the form is not good, it is just a lot of uncertainty among Liverpool and quiet panic which you don’t associate with the club. It has always been calm, and you knew behind the scenes it was very collaborative.
“Is it time to question whether that is still the case?”