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The Rules Behind Liverpool’s Transfer Success Revealed

Jürgen Klopp and Michael Edwards’ collaboration is crucial to the Reds’ stellar transfer record in recent years.

Anfield home of Liverpool Main Stand Opening Event
“I want that one!”
Photo by Barrington Coombs/Getty Images

“Mo Salah, Mo Salah, Running down the wing!”

“He can pass the ball, calms as you like, He’s Virgil van Dijk, he’s Virgil van Dijk!”

“We got Salah! Oh Mané Mané! And Bobby Firminooo!”

Most thorough transfer market analyses will show that the success rate of a signing — whether the player is deemed a net positive or not — is around 50%. Naturally, there will always be quibbling about what exactly makes a successful player, but with performance relative to price as the guiding principle, roughly half of all new players will fail to make the grade, while the other half might inspire a chant at some point.

Liverpool’s record in the transfer market since the arrival of Jürgen Klopp, then, stands out. Of Sadio Mané, Georginio Wijnaldum, Loris Karius, Ragner Klavan, Joël Matip, Dominic Solanke, Mohamed Salah, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Andy Robertson, Virgil van Dijk, Xherdan Shaqiri, Fabinho, Naby Keita, and Alisson Becker, it is hard to argue that there is a single outright failure, with players roundly performing to their price tag or beyond.

Michael Edwards, the club’s sporting director, is largely — and rightly — credited with masterminding Liverpool’s transfer market eminence. The 39-year old, initially brought on board by everybody’s favourite Frenchman, Damien Comolli,

But it is the cooperation between the branches of the organisation that truly solidifies the Reds’ impressive transfer resume. Edwards, Klopp and owners FSG each have a part to play, and a wide-ranging report from The Times’ Paul Joyce has revealed three of the underlying principles that ensure no part of the trinity is left displeased. First, the manager will never be forced to sign a player he doesn’t want. Second, the owners have their own veto power should the disagree with the price or age of a potential target. And third, Edwards is responsible for constantly keeping up to date with the intricacies of the current transfer market, its opportunities and pitfalls.

The piece is a fascinating read on Edwards’ role, including an inside nugget on the former technical director’s discussions with the Liverpool manager.

“Michael is brilliant at taking all of the information from the scouts who have been watching games, all the analytics, and pulling that together,” the source said.

“But his character means he can be quite argumentative as well and that’s healthy.

“He will stand his ground if he really believes in something: ‘Here are the three targets. I know you like that one better, but let us show why you might want to think about this.’

“It is not to be disrespectful but he will say [to the manager], ‘You are wrong’. You need arguments to get the best for club. The role is not about just agreeing with everything.”

Reasoned opposition from colleagues whose competence you trust is invaluable in developing a successful business, and it is little surprise that Liverpool’s recent progress in the transfer department comes down to a collective rather than the brilliance of one man. Nonetheless, the individuals involved deserve their individual praise, and Michael Edwards is earning his every day.

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