Ian Herbert: Why turn to Comolli? The answer is baseball
Thursday 04 November 2010
No one had predicted Damien Comolli's appointment, news of which first started leaking out in France yesterday afternoon, though Liverpool's decision to appoint him fits with all we have learned so far about John W Henry and his vision for his new club.
Comolli is close to Billy Beane, the maverick baseball coach whose statistics-driven success with the Oakland Athletics was consigned to print in the book Moneyball. Henry tried to hire Beane when he took over the Boston Red Sox and is as much an admirer of his methods as he is of Simon Kuper's and Stefan Szymanski's book Soccernomics, which applies science to football. Henry is also fascinated by Arsenal, having spent time at the club before he bought Liverpool. Comolli was Arsenal's European scout between 1996 and 2003.
For an individual who started coaching in his early 20s at Monaco in 1992, having only been a youth team player for the club, Comolli now has three of Britain's largest clubs on his CV. For this, he has to thank his compatriot Arsène Wenger, who brought him to Britain having seen Comolli make Thierry Henry one of his first discoveries at Monaco. At Arsenal, Comolli brought in Kolo Touré, Emmanuel Eboué and Gaël Clichy among others, and it was his success there that helped him secure the sporting director's job at Spurs.
The disputes with Martin Jol and Harry Redknapp's characterisation of his inheritance as a "mish-mash" have not helped Comolli's reputation – but no fewer than five of the Tottenham side who started against Internazionale on Tuesday night, including Luka Modric and Gareth Bale, were signed in his era. Dimitar Berbatov, Michael Carrick, Benoît Assou-Ekotto and Younes Kaboul are other Comolli hits. Hossam Ghaly, Ricardo Rocha and Gilberto were among the turkeys.
One of the central tenets of Kuper's and Szymanski's book, which conforms to Henry's view of proper club management, defines the link between wages and success. Liverpool's £120m wage bill has not delivered enough talent and many of the older players, with limited resale value, are on expensive deals.
Henry will want Comolli to help Hodgson find young players, rather than those like Christian Poulsen and Paul Konchesky who were signed this summer. Henry sees the new financial fair play regulations, limiting clubs' losses if they are to be admitted to European competition, as a vital part of the new landscape. That's why he sees a big future in Comolli finding young talent for Liverpool, mirroring the Red Sox model. Henry has a very precise plan and he is wasting no time developing it.
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