Liverpool FC and New England Sports Ventures (NESV) have announced the appointment of Damien Comolli as Director of Football Strategy
The Frenchman, a former youth player at AS Monaco, Coach and Scout vacated his Sporting Director position at Saint-Etienne to accept the role at Anfield, as it begins a new era. Comolli is no stranger to the Premiership, having played a similar role for Tottenham Hotspur between 2005 and 2008 to a mixture of applause and criticism.
Credited with the arrivals of Bale, Hutton, Kevin-Prince Boateng (now AC Milan), Berbatov (now Man Utd), Giovanni dos Santos, Taarabt, Kaboul, Modrić, Assou-Ekotto, Gomes, Bentley, Ćorluka, and Pavlyuchenko at White Hart Lane, a previous spell at Arsenal alongside Arsene Wenger also saw them sign Eboue, Clichy and Toure.
As with any series of player acquisitions there have been elements of failure noted amongst those Comolli has targeted, even that of Gareth Bale until this season where he has found a level of form that Harry Redknapp could only ever of dreamed of.
NESV Principal Owner John Henry said of the appointment:
“Damien has a proven track-record of identifying exciting young footballing talent and we are delighted that he has agreed to join Liverpool. Working closely with Roy Hodgson and the coaching staff, I know he will make a valuable contribution to strengthening the Club and the squad as we move forward.
“Today’s announcement is just the first step in creating a leadership group and structure designed to develop, enhance and implement our long-term philosophy of scouting, recruitment, player development and all of the other aspects necessary to build and sustain a club able to consistently compete at the highest level in European football.
“We intend to be bold and innovative. We will not rest until we have restored Liverpool Football Club to the greatness Liverpool fans expect.”
Roy Hodgson on the appointment:
“I am looking forward to working with Damien, whom I have known for many years. We are engaged in an exciting project here and he will bring a lot to the table. We all want to see moves to strengthen the squad and support player development over the next few years. John Henry and I are totally united in delivering on that ambition.”
“It is something we have talked about with the owners and something they were very keen to put in place. The owners come from an American sporting background where the team manager is very much responsible for team affairs, but alongside him there is a person who can have all sorts of titles, a type of sporting director in European terms.
“It’s someone who obviously has a large input into the running of the football club and has an input and a part to play in a management structure.
“If you’re going to run a football club these days there are a lot of elements that need to be dealt with. Recruitment of players and scouting is a major, major aspect in this respect, as of course is the Academy and all the work you need to do to bring players through.
“All of this has a life of its own to some extent outside the life of a first-team squad.
“In Europe I am very used to having a situation where you have to work alongside people like that and I think it is becoming more and more common in England as well, so that’s something the new owners wanted to introduce to the club and I welcome it very much.
“I think it is going to be a great advantage to us to have a man of Damien’s qualities, knowledge and experience and I think we can only profit from it as a club. I am looking forward to working with him.”
“If you’re managing a Barclays Premier League team, organising training, coaching, dealing with the press and organising and preparing for all the games, that is a large body of work. On top of that if you’re also organising all the scouting, looking after the academy and reserve team and all the other numerous administrative things that are required to run a football club at this level, you are asking a lot of people.
“The days of the ‘dictator type’ English manager have long since passed anyway, where everything went through one man and no one dared even buy a paper clip without that person’s approval.
“It is just a question of strategy which I think makes a lot of sense for all football clubs and certainly makes a lot of sense for our football club at this moment in time because we’re in a transition.
“We’ve got new owners who have a very clear vision and philosophy for the club and they want a management structure in place they can identify with. That means one they can identify with from American and European sporting models, not necessarily an archetypal, if somewhat outdated, English model.”
Damien Comolli on his arrival at Liverpool:
“I am delighted to be joining Liverpool and look forward to working with John and Roy. I think we all realise there is a big job ahead, but we all share the vision that John has for rebuilding the club and bringing back the success that the supporters deserve.”
The position of Director of Football over the years in English football has long had a stigma attached to it of causing a divide in clubs, with managers typically feeling undermined by such an appointment, many preferring to see it as a lack of trust or respect as opposed to a heavy workload shared.
It is no major surprise that John Henry has made such an early move in his ownership of the club, a philosophy in line with that of the American sports he is already involved in and passionate about and yet another connection back to metrics, a strategy of statistical analysis he has great belief in.
For Damien Comolli is also friends with someone Henry admires greatly in the form of Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland A’s who used a leading edge stats driven approach to achieve great success despite club financial constraints, which was portrayed in the Michael Lewis book Moneyball, presently being made into a film.
Having been unable to lure Beane to his Red Sox side, Henry opted to hire Bill James, the analyst who was Beane’s inspiration, and also Theo Epstein.
The appointment of Comolli shows further dedication to such principals, principals that Henry is intent and happy to apply to the world of football, a world that is so far largely untried in such methods and one that could present more than a significant challenge.
Whether Commoli’s Liverpool career develops in to a stroke of genius or whether it causes fractions with manager Roy Hodgson as it did with Martin Jol remains to be seen but change is certainly afoot at Anfield and there is every sign that there is plenty more to come.