Liverpool's American owners have made contact with Andre Villas-Boas in the past two weeks, in an attempt to establish his interest in taking over at Anfield, where Kenny Dalglish was yesterday dismissed.
Villas-Boas is interested and considers Liverpool to be the kind of job which would be the appropriate next step for him, following his unhappy nine months at Chelsea, where he was sacked in March.
Roma, who dismissed manager Luis Enrique after the club failed to reach any European competition despite the investment of the American Thomas DiBenedetto, are understood to have made an approach to the 34-year-old – before Liverpool's owners made their own inquiries. But sources in Portugal suggest that Liverpool may be a more attractive proposition and one that Villas-Boas considers to be the bigger name.
There was uncertainty last night about whether Villas-Boas would be free to coach an English club, under the terms of his severance from Stamford Bridge. A Spanish club is also believed to have made inquiries as to the Portuguese's availability.
The Wigan Athletic chairman, Dave Whelan, said last night that Roberto Martinez had not been approached, although the 38-year-old does appear to meet the criteria of Liverpool owners Fenway Sports Group (FSG), having introduced a footballing ethos which runs through all levels at the club. Rafael Benitez has had no contact from FSG. Despite rumours that he might work in tandem with Benitez, the former Liverpool manager is not understood to consider that a realistic working arrangement. The biggest question mark above the name of Martinez is whether Liverpool supporters would consider him a big enough name for their club. The Americans have so far been careful to take supporters' views into account on what has been a more difficult two years at Anfield than they had imagined.
Liverpool's managing director Ian Ayre will today provide a fuller explanation of the reasoning behind the dismissal of Dalglish, which was confirmed at 5pm last night, after the meeting with FSG which the Glaswegian had sought on Monday resulted in principal owner John W Henry telling him that the £110m spent on seven players did not bring the improvement FSG anticipated. A Carling Cup win came after an unconvincing display against Cardiff City and Henry was at Wembley to witness defeat by Chelsea in the FA Cup final.
The FA Cup semi-final with Everton took place several days after the owners had dismissed director of football Damien Comolli and Dalglish said, in a candid TV interview with his daughter, Kelly Cates, that you never knew who "the next bullet" might be for.
Liverpool's search for a replacement for Comolli – an executive who wields enough power to hold the manager to account – looks like the most significant recruitment job at Anfield, where FSG last week also dismissed director of communications Ian Cotton, another executive whose lack of authority in Dalglish's company caused the PR disaster surrounding the Luis Suarez/Patrice Evra affair. With all three positions now vacant, FSG appear to be back where they started, in their attempt to rebuild Liverpool out of the mess they inherited from Tom Hicks and George Gillett in 2010.
Chairman Tom Werner appeared to characterise Dalglish's role as that of a caretaker, when he paid tribute to him. "Kenny came into the club as manager at our request at a time when [we] really needed him," he said. "He didn't ask to be manager; he was asked to assume the role. He did so because he knew the club needed him.
"He did more than anyone else to stabilise Liverpool over the past year-and-a-half and to get us once again looking forward. We owe him a great debt of gratitude. However, results in the Premier League have been disappointing and we believe to build on the progress that has already been made, we need to make a change."
But Dalglish, who was appointed permanently on a three-year contract, will not see things that way. His friend and former team-mate Terry McDermott said last night that the 61-year-old would be "hurting deeply".
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