An exit that prompts questions over Anfield transfer policy


Click to follow
The Independent Online

The "family reasons" cited as the explanation for Damien Comolli's departure "by mutual consent" from Liverpool yesterday – his daughter's deafness meant his family always remained in Nice – were soon disregarded as it became clear from the words of key figures at the club and its American owner, Fenway Sports Group, that it had been their decision to sever links with Comolli in the long-term.

By the time Liverpool chairman Tom Werner, also chairman of FSG, said in a Q&A on the club's website yesterday afternoon that Comolli "was probably not the right person to implement that strategy", the departure was being presented more like a sacking than a simple parting of the ways.

This was compounded by Kenny Dalglish implying in his press briefing that it had not been Comolli's decision to leave. "Unfortunately the guy has lost his job," Dalglish said. "That's not a pleasant day for anybody."

It was impossible not to conclude that FSG had brought to an end its relationship with the director of football who presided over one of the most extraordinary periods of player acquisition – and sales – in Liverpool's recent history. But how will his legacy at the club be judged?

As it stands, it is inevitable the blame for the cost of Liverpool's most disappointing signings this season will be attached to Comolli. It was Dalglish who sanctioned the signings, the manager said yesterday, and Comolli who agreed the fees. The £75m spent on Jordan Henderson, Stewart Downing and Andy Carroll looks pricey.

But that does not tell the whole story of Comolli's time at Anfield which, rather like his spell at Tottenham, will probably be best judged two to three years from now.

It appears FSG intends to take Liverpool in a different direction, a new "strategy" according to Werner – although what that strategy will be, it has not yet disclosed. Yet much of what Comolli was asked to do, he delivered. His brief was to close the deals for the players that Dalglish wanted and those players – Henderson, Downing, Carroll and Charlie Adam – were expensive.

With the likes of Henderson and Downing, Comolli had to go right to the limits of what Liverpool were prepared to pay. Carroll was signed on the spur of the moment in January 2011 when Newcastle made him available at the very last minute, following the sale by Liverpool of Fernando Torres to Chelsea for £50m.

The signing of Luis Suarez will be regarded as Comolli's greatest triumph. The striker, then at Ajax, was first offered to Spurs, but when Harry Redknapp could not make up his mind, Liverpool moved in. Suarez has become the player they can least afford to lose. Craig Bellamy was regarded as another good value signing.

Comolli was also mandated with reorganising the youth team and academy structure. Among others, his signings Seyi Ojo from MK Dons and Jordan Ibe from Wycombe are both seen as potential coups for the club.

The wage bill at Liverpool has been reduced significantly, not least with the sale of Torres. Joe Cole's loan to Lille has lessened the impact of his Bosman signing-boosted salary. Christian Poulsen was sold to Evian. Alberto Aquilani has been on two loan spells to Juventus and Milan which have reduced the impact of his wages. Milan Jovanovic, another Bosman signing on big wages, was moved on to Anderlecht.

It is three and a half years since Comolli left Spurs. But he left a good legacy: his signing of Benoît Assou-Ekotto has given them one of the best left-backs in the country. He spotted the potential in Dimitar Berbatov, who was sold on to Old Trafford for £30m.

Many of his signings have been vindicated. But now he will not be at Liverpool to see if the same happens with Ibe and Ojo.