Comolli exit prompts questions over Anfield transfer policy
Director of football will once again be denied chance of vindication
The “family reasons” cited as the reason for Damien Comolli's departure from Liverpool yesterday in the statement from Fenway Sports Group (FSG), the club's American owners, relate to the condition of his daughter which required him to move back to his family's home in Nice.
Comolli's daughter is deaf and issues connected to her condition mean her father must move back to France for the time being. Indeed, the statement issued on behalf of both parties that said Comolli's departure had been "by mutual consent" appeared to reflect the decision had been harmonious. Comolli's family have never moved with him to England and circumstances dictated that he had to go back.
Comolli, 39, said he was "grateful to have been given the opportunity to work at Liverpool" and was "happy to move on from the club and back to France for family reasons". But as yesterday developed it became clear from the words of key figures at Liverpool and FSG that the ultimate decision to sever the association with Comolli had been taken by the club.
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", his 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 conference yesterday that it had not been Comolli's decision to leave Liverpool. "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 has brought to an end its relationship with the director of football who has 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 Liverpool manager said yesterday, and Comolli who agreed the fees. Currently the £75m spent on Jordan Henderson, Stewart Downing and Andy Carroll looks pricey to say the least.
But that does not begin to tell the whole story of Comolli's time at Liverpool which, rather like his tenure as director of football at Tottenham Hotspur, will probably be best judged two to three years from now.
It is evident that 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 was forced to go right to the limits of what Liverpool were prepared to pay in order to get them. The signing of Carroll was done on the spur of the moment in January last year when Newcastle made the player 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. He has become the player they can least afford to lose. Craig Bellamy was regarded as another good value signing for the club.
Comolli was also mandated with re-organising the youth team and academy structure. Among others, his signings Seyi Ojo from MK Dons and Jordan Ibe from Wycombe Wanderers are both regarded as coups for the club, although only time will tell whether they are capable of making the step up to the first team.
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, a victim of his decision to appoint Juande Ramos, the manager who was brought in from Seville to replace Martin Jol. When Ramos was sacked, to be replaced by Redknapp in 2008, it was inevitable that Comolli would have to go too.
Comolli took criticism at the time, from this correspondent too, but he left a good legacy at Spurs. Benoît Assou-Ekotto was Comolli's signing and he has turned into one of the best left-backs in the country. Younes Kaboul, signed by Comolli, sold by Spurs and then bought back from Portsmouth, is a key player for Redknapp. Even Kevin-Prince Boateng, another Comolli signing, is now an established first-team player at Milan. Comolli spotted the Premier League potential in Dimitar Berbatov, sold on to Manchester United for £30m.
The two jewels in the crown, Gareth Bale and Luka Modric, were both signed while Comolli was director of football at Spurs. Neither could exactly be counted as unknowns when Spurs moved for them, although it is unclear who drove home the deals to bring them to White Hart Lane.
Nevertheless, a part of the team that Redknapp turned into a Champions League side was signed by Comolli, who originally worked as a scout for Arsène Wenger at Arsenal.
It was said that Comolli always overplayed his role in Arsenal's scouting success. At Spurs, many of his signings have been vindicated. Unfortunately for him, he will not be at Liverpool to see if the same happens with Ibe and Ojo.
Red wedge: Pricey signings who cost him his job
Jordan Henderson English midfielder; Bought £20m from Sunderland; Appearances 41 Goals 1
Andy Carroll English forward; Bought £35m from Newcastle; Appearances 50 Goals 9
Stewart Downing English midfielder; Bought £20m from Aston Villa; Appearances 39 Goals 2
The other signings
Luis Suarez Uruguayan forward; Bought £22.8m from Ajax; Appearances 46 Goals 17
Charlie Adam Scottish midfielder; Bought £9m from Blackpool; Appearances 35 Goals 2
Doni Brazilian goalkeeper; Bought Free from Roma; Appearances 2
Jose Enrique Spanish defender; Bought £5m from Newcastle; Appearances 39 Goals 0
Sebastian Coates Uruguayan defender; Bought £6m from Nacional; Appearances 10 Goals 1
Craig Bellamy Welsh forward; Bought Free from Man City; Appearances 32 Goals 9
Comolli joined as European scout in 1996. Discovered Kolo Touré (made £15.9m profit); Robin van Persie was brought for £2.75m and Robert Pires for £6m.
After a brief spell at St Etienne, Comolli had an uneasy relationship with Martin Jol, who criticised his influence; £17m Darren Bent and £15m David Bentley flopped, but £20m profit was made on Dimitar Berbatov, while Gareth Bale and Luka Modric have since impressed. Left in 2008.
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