Ian Ayre claims Liverpool's transfer policy is back on track
Owners took a 'leap of faith' is listening to others advice early in their tenure
Thursday 18 April 2013
Liverpool managing director Ian Ayre believes the club's transfer policy is improving after admitting owners Fenway Sports Group “took a leap of faith” in listening to advice from others during its first year in charge.
The American group took over at Anfield in October 2010 having had no previous experience of the sport, with the Boston Red Sox baseball team its primary interest.
FSG initially canvassed advice from a wide range of sources - many of whom have never been named - but Ayre said it was part of the learning process.
Things have changed since then, with Ayre pointing to transfer strategy as the most significant area after accepting they could not be successful taking decisions on the "whim" of any one individual.
"There were two phases to what's happened since the change of ownership," Ayre told Sports Illustrated.
"In the first phase we talked about the knowledge of soccer and that takes time so we probably spent a year with the owners taking a leap of faith to a certain degree of other people telling them what they should be doing.
"Within that year we then get to a situation where the dust has settled and people start to see what is and isn't working.
"I think the fundamental shift particularly around player acquisitions and disposals was that we took the view that it needs to be more of a science.
"Your biggest expenditure line can't be the whim of any individual."
FSG's very first transfer window, having just sacked Roy Hodgson and put Kenny Dalglish in charge, famously saw it spend all and more of the £50million transfer fee for Fernando Torres on Andy Carroll (£35million) and Luis Suarez (£22.75million).
The following summer the club spent the best part of £60million acquiring Stewart Downing, Jordan Henderson, Charlie Adam, Jose Enrique and Sebastian Coates while offloading 13 players.
Having dispensed with director of football Damien Comolli last April and appointed Brendan Rodgers as manager there has been less activity in the last two windows, although spending has still been close to £50million.
That appeared at odds with FSG's much-vaunted 'Moneyball' strategy of analysing statistics to identify under-valued players who could be acquired cheaply which worked so well for them in baseball.
Ayre, however, denies the American owners ever wanted to transfer that policy to football.
"I don't think there was ever anyone at Liverpool using the word Moneyball, but plenty of other people were using it," he added.
"What we believe, and we continue to follow, is you need many people involved in the process.
"That doesn't mean somebody else is picking the team for Brendan but Brendan needs to set out with his team of people which positions we want to fill and what the key targets would be for that.
"He has a team of people that go out and do an inordinate amount of analysis work to establish who are the best players in that position.
"Despite what people think and read, it's not a whole bunch of guys sitting behind a computer working out who we should buy.
"It's a combination of old-school scouting and watching players - and that's Brendan, his assistants, our scouts - with statistical analysis of players across Europe and the rest of the world.
"By bringing those two processes together you get a much more educated view of who you should and shouldn't be buying and, perhaps as fundamentally, how much you should be paying and the structure to those contracts.
"I think we've had relatively good success since we deployed that methodology. We're getting better all the time.
"We were very pleased with the most recent window in January with Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge (acquired for a combined £20.5million).
"Hopefully you continue to follow that path. But it's not a Moneyball strategy."
Last the summer FSG wanted to employ another director of football-type figure to help future transfer strategy but manager Brendan Rodgers, appointed in June, was resistant to the idea.
Ayre believes the compromise is working well, however, especially since Dave Fallows (head of scouting and recruitment) and Barry Hunter (chief scout) were brought on board from Manchester City in the autumn.
"I think that director of football role in a lot of cases almost creates as many problems as it solves because people try to judge where the power base is with that role," he said.
"Who's picking the team? Who's deciding which players? What we actually have is probably three or four people who all are involved in that role.
"We have a head of analysis, a head of recruitment, a first-team manager, myself.
"All of those people are all inputting into a process that delivers what a director of football would deliver."
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