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Damien Comolli And The Power Of Self Delusion

When interviewed by BBC recently Damien Comolli, a man with whom both Liverpool and Tottenham parted company, was full of sage observations on Manchester United's somewhat underwhelming transfer window dealings. No, really.

Damien often struggled to keep a straight face on pay-day
Damien often struggled to keep a straight face on pay-day
Scott Heavey

Which one of us hasn't lied to ourselves on occasion? We wilfully deceive ourselves for the sake of our mental health all the time. Like when your aged termagant aunt is coming to visit. It'll be fine, you tell yourself, her drinking and poisonous verbal abuse is sometimes quite fun and cathartic. Or when your lovely partner organises a surprise weekend away that coincides with the Merseyside derby. It's cool, you convince yourself, I've been watching a bit too much footy anyway and I love all those reflexology treatment thingies.

A certain degree of self-deception then, can make life a little more palatable at times, but in a culture which promotes spoofers, charlatans and reality television celebrities, it has almost become a badge of honour to fake it 'til you make it. In a chaotic morass of self-empowerment gone mad, talentless simpletons believe they can win record contracts and the average teenager, bolstered by mindless affirmations from equally deluded parents, grows comfortably obese in the certitude that he absolutely can and will become the world's first Astronaut Rap Superstar.

In the skewed reality of such a milieu, a man of some ability can convince himself of anything. It would appear that Damien Comolli, late of the parish of Anfield, is one such man. Comolli was on the sharp end of the most catastrophic spending ever engaged in by Liverpool Football Club. In his position as Director of Football, the former Tottenham Hotspur and St Etienne man oversaw and facilitated the signing of Andy Carroll for £35m, Stewart Downing for around £20m and Jordan Henderson for a similar fee, almost ten million pounds more than what Sunderland were rumoured to be willing to accept.

In the interests of balance, the successful signings of Luis Suarez, Craig Bellamy and Jose Enrique also came on his watch, although that positivity is somewhat tempered by the deals for Charlie Adam and Seb Coates. Overall, his spell at Anfield was an abject failure and whilst Kenny Dalglish must shoulder a large part of the blame for the decisions made, Comolli was hired primarily on the back of his reputation for being an astute judge of a player.

His much vaunted ability to strike good deals for great footballers, an ability that was probably exaggerated by a couple of notable successes at Spurs, seemed to disappear when he was in Liverpool's employ. He and the club parted company by mutual consent in April 2012, with the Frenchman citing family reasons and the rumour mill rife with stories he'd been sacked. Either way, it was a dark period, with only Enrique, Suarez and Henderson still in the first team shake-up following Brendan Rodgers' attempts to start from scratch.

Liverpool fans might be inclined to be less irritated by the Comolli era if it weren't for the man's propensity to shoot his mouth off in recent times. He initially claimed that he hadn't been given enough time for his signings to work out and stood by the quality of his work. At the start of August, he was speaking about the understandable ambition of poor Luis Suarez and admonishing the club for not allowing him to join Arsenal. Liverpool, said the football guru, is a "top eight side" unlike the North Londoners, whom he deemed to be "top four." Well, that's nice Damien, thanks awfully for your profound insight. Duly noted, old flower.

Liverpool's solid start to this campaign has left the bespectacled seer short of ammunition, so he has turned his attention to Manchester United. This is a move we can all get behind. In a frankly hilarious and poorly thought through attempt to talk himself into a role that does not exist, Comolli took a swipe at United's comparatively poor transfer dealings and insisted that were there, say, a Director of Football in place, things would have been just peachy.

Now, there won't have been many outside of Manchester and environs who didn't derive a little schadenfeude-based glee from the lame-duck efforts of David Moyes and Edward Woodward as they failed to sign reported targets Cesc Fabregas, Thiago Alcantara, Luca Modric, Daniele De Rossi, Sami Khedira and Ander Herrera. In short, the Mancunians have tried to SIGN ALL THE MIDFIELDERS and ended up with Marouane Fellaini; a fine footballer, but one they could have had for four million pounds less than they eventually paid at the last moment, had they not dithered and missed the release clause.

The mirth level amongst non-United fans has been high, as a ropey start was coupled with a display of some impotence in the market by the wonderfully nicknamed double-act of Mr Giant Eyes and The Equaliser. How could we not chuckle, as the serial winners struggled under new management? It will most probably be a short-lived gloat, but it has been embraced fully by those forced to witness the endless parade of trophies into Old Trafford over the last two decades.

Damien Comolli knows the score, however. He has pinned down the reason for United woes. They need to appoint a Director of Football, a man of experience and reputation, a man possessed of a tremendous propensity for self-delusion and self-aggrandizement and a man with the creepiest of smiles. In short, they need Comolli. Witness his sagacious assessment of the situation, should you retain any dubiety about the man's bona fides.

"David only joined on the first of July, which is quite late," observed the great man. "The issue for Manchester United is that the two most important peopleat the club in Sir Alex and David Gill left their positions and new people came in for their first transfer window. For some reason the club weren't prepared or they didn't think it would be that difficult and they ended up in a difficult situation."

Searingly insightful stuff from a man who's been at the very top of the game, or the asinine wittering of a delusional egotist? Yes, I think we may all have a clear handle on which of the two is more likely. Damien Comolli, ladies and gentlemen. A master of self-delusion, who proves that if you tell yourself lies for long enough, you will actually begin to believe them yourself.

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