Comolli cut down to size by Redknapp's sarcasm

Liverpool's new director of football goes back to Spurs tomorrow, the club he left with a 'mish-mash' squad. Sam Wallace reports
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The Independent Football

Harry Redknapp needed no second invitation yesterday to criticise the record of Liverpool's new director of football strategy Damien Comolli, the former Tottenham Hotspur man whose squad Redknapp inherited two years earlier with the club bottom of the Premier League.

In his first six months at the club, Redknapp often bemoaned the state of a squad that he would describe as a "mish-mash" and imbalanced after more than three years under Comolli's control. Should Redknapp venture into the directors' lounge at White Hart Lane tomorrow ahead of Spurs' game against Liverpool he will have a good chance of bumping into the architect of that squad.

Yesterday it was with heavy sarcasm that Redknapp responded to the suggestion that Comolli should be given some credit for the signings he brought in from September 2005 until October 2008 when he was sacked and Redknapp installed.

"Yeah, I think he should take all the credit, for sure," Redknapp said. "They were all doing well when I arrived, you know? They were all good; they were all great. There have been a few, again, that weren't so great. There were some quality players here. He brought an awful lot of players in; a lot have gone. A lot are still here that were very good. There's some talent here, for sure."

Comolli brought around 30 players to the club with mixed results and little accountability until the wheels came off in 2008. His era included the signings of a range of players from Gareth Bale to Tomas Pekhart, and with the subsequent success of the likes of Bale and Luka Modric there have been moves recently to re-evaluate Comolli's contribution to Spurs in a more favourable light.

However, for all the credit he might claim for the likes of Bale, Dimitar Berbatov, Benoit Assou-Ekotto, Heurelho Gomes and Younes Kaboul there remains a good deal of scepticism at the club itself. Privately it is pointed out that Bale, for instance, was hardly a secret at Southampton and that it was in fact chairman Daniel Levy who was the prime mover behind many of the key deals.

What does frustrate many football figures about Comolli is his willingness to talk up his own track record, especially during his time as a scout at Arsenal. Arsène Wenger was withering about claims that Comolli discovered Thierry Henry at Monaco and was also responsible for finding Kolo Touré and Emmanuel Eboué.

"He [Comolli] was a scout here," Wenger said on Thursday. "He was not director of football. He worked under [Arsenal chief scout] Steve Rowley. Only one person decides who comes in here and that is me. You can write what you want. I gave Henry a start at [the age of] 17 [when Wenger was Monaco manager]."

Rowley has credited Comolli with the discovery of Gaël Clichy but no other player during his time at Arsenal. Typically the question of who takes credit at any given club for discovering a good player is fraught with claim and counter-claim. For every Bale, Comolli also has a Ricardo Rocha or Didier Zokora. Nevertheless, he has been handed a similarly influential job at Liverpool.

Given that Redknapp was once a director of football himself at Portsmouth 10 years ago, working with the then-manager Graham Rix whom he eventually succeeded, he remains staunchly opposed to the practice in English clubs. "I think it's difficult. It happens on the continent and some managers do work that way," he said. "They're happy to have a job and they get on and do what's asked of them, and what they're told, basically. But it wouldn't be for me. I wouldn't fancy it.

"I don't know what the rules are [at Liverpool]. Roy [Hodgson] is a strong character. He's obviously got good knowledge, Damien. He knows the French scene especially, and he's got a big scouting network. In fact, we just lost our French scout, who is excellent. He's just gone to Liverpool. That was Steve Hitchen. He was very, very good. We liked him a lot. He would have been our main scout abroad.

"He's got a big network there, Damien Comolli, obviously in France and abroad. And if he can work with Roy and they discuss, which I'm sure they will, who they're going to bring in, then it's not such a problem, perhaps. They may get on great together."

It was the summer of 2008 that Comolli's transfer strategy at Spurs went awry which, combined with the struggles of Juande Ramos, the manager he had advised Levy appoint, weakened his position. David Bentley, for £15m represents the least value for money among that group, although Modric, Roman Pavlyuchenko and Gomes could all be regarded as successes.

Comolli, who was brought back from St Etienne, had a close relationship with New England Sports Ventures before they acquired Liverpool last month. Redknapp said yesterday that he would only accept working in an environment when he alone was responsible for the club's signings.

Redknapp said: "I just think that if you're going to sign players, unless you're working with someone that you're sure that you want to work with and you know well and you're happy with the situation, it's difficult. Unless you've got a great relationship and you discuss everything and, at the end of the day, you have the final word then that's great.

"But if people are just going to dump players on you and you're the manager and you don't know the players – they're not your signings – there's only one person in the end that suffers and that's you as the manager

"Because someone's going to give you a full-back or whatever and you think, 'He's crap, I don't fancy him', you're lumbered with him. Suddenly, you've spent £8m, £10m or whatever. People only look at you; they don't think, 'Well, it wasn't his decision'. I'd find it difficult.

"I discussed that when I came and spoke to Daniel [Levy about the Spurs job]. But he knew that anyway before he even really met me to talk about the job, that I needed to be able to do my own thing and, if I made a mess of it, then I'd accept the consequences. But I want to make my own decisions: if they're wrong then it's down to me. I'll be the one that goes; I accept that."