Julian Ward has followed Mike Gordon out the exit door at Anfield, meaning the up-for-sale Reds facing an uncertain future.
What is going on at Liverpool?
In recent years, we have become used to the idea of the Reds being one of the best-run, most stable clubs in football, a place of smart decisions and joined-up thinking, with the right people in the right places and a track record of glorious success.
But things are changing at Anfield, and fast. The news that Julian Ward, the sporting director, is to leave his post at the end of the season, merely adds to the sense of uncertainty.
Ward only took over the role – officially at least – in June, having served as assistant to Michael Edwards for close to two years, so his decision to walk away, just a few months into a three-year contract, has left Liverpool both surprised and disappointed,
and leaves supporters wondering what the future holds for their club.
Big news at Liverpool! Sporting director Julian Ward is stepping down at the end of the season. He only replaced Michael Edwards in the role in the summer, and was chiefly responsible for the signings of Luis Diaz & Darwin Nunez + Mohamed Salah's contract renewal. Liverpool surprised and disappointed by Ward's decision, and have begun process of identifying correct model going forward. Understand director of research Ian Graham could be next to leave, too. (Neil Jones - Goal) #LFC
Liverpool have struggled on the field, and off it there are gaps to be plugged and questions to be answered.
Ward’s departure comes hot on the heels of the news that Mike Gordon, Liverpool’s second-largest shareholder and the man responsible for the day-to-day running of the club, was stepping away from his duties in order to lead Fenway Sports Group’s search for fresh investment – one which could eventually lead to a full takeover of English football’s most successful club.
Gordon has been a key figure in the Reds’ rise to prominence in recent years, the American acting as a key conduit between Boston and Merseyside.
It was he who persuaded Klopp to sign that new contract back in April, it was he who championed the creation of the sporting director role at Anfield in 2016, and it was he who convinced Ward, a somewhat reluctant figurehead, to step into the breach when it became clear that Edwards would be leaving at the end of last season.
READ MORE | There have been concerns expressed about the World Cup’s official attendance estimates because so many seats are empty
READ MORE | Study Sport in UK: UEA SPORT AND FOOTBALL INDIVIDUAL SCHOLARSHIP
READ MORE | EXCLUSIVE Alisson reveals ‘horrible’ reason he rejected Chelsea to sign for Liverpool
His redeployment, then, has been keenly felt, and GOAL understands it is one of the key reasons behind Ward’s shock departure.
He signed up to a world in which decisions were quick and easy, where communication was open and where owners, manager and sporting director were all perfectly-aligned in terms of their belief in, and commitment to, the club’s working model. FSG are not perfect owners, by any means, but they have at least been consistent and stable.
Now the club is up for sale, leaving everyone connected to it in a state of flux.
From Ward’s perspective, the key thing to stress is that this is his decision, and not one that was taken lightly.
He understands that the timing will inevitably lead to speculation, but there has been no fallout, no rows over transfers or budgets and no head-turning job offers from elsewhere.
He leaves on his own terms, with no hard feelings or regrets, and he will continue to give everything between now and the end of the campaign.
Klopp, GOAL has been told, was among those who tried to convince Ward to stay, and it will be interesting now to see how Liverpool move forward, and specifically whether the manager will assume even greater responsibility in terms of the club’s recruitment and retention strategy.