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5 key priorities for Michael Edwards at Liverpool – from new manager to next Salah

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Though Michael Edwards will not officially start his job as CEO of Football at Fenway Sports Group until June 1, there are a number of pressing matters at Liverpool.

After ongoing talks between Edwards and FSG in recent weeks, the 44-year-old has now taken up a position within the ownership group itself.

Formerly Liverpool’s sporting director, his job title is now CEO of Football, which will see him oversee all football operations both at Anfield and beyond.

The primary focus, of course, will be on the Reds, who find themselves at a pivotal juncture this summer as a legendary era comes to a close.

Here are five key priorities for Edwards as he makes his return to Liverpool.

 

Appoint a new sporting director

This first priority is more like a formality: Liverpool are expected to announce the arrival of Richard Hughes as sporting director towards the end of the season.

Hughes’ appointment was contingent on Edwards taking the job, with the pair considered close friends having first met while working together as player and analyst respectively at Portsmouth.

The 44-year-old is already confirmed to be leaving his position as technical director at Bournemouth, and is all but guaranteed to be Jorg Schmadtke’s successor at Anfield.

He will work under Edwards at Liverpool, leading the club’s recruitment strategy – including a role in appointing the new manager.

 

Find Jurgen Klopp’s successor

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, March 10, 2024: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp before the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Manchester City FC at Anfield. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

There is a strange discord between Klopp and Edwards as, despite the pair working together successfully for many years at Liverpool, the latter’s exit was claimed to be due to an increase in power for the manager.

It is perhaps no coincidence, then, that FSG approached their former sporting director soon after Klopp’s resignation became public.

One of Edwards’ most important – if not, the most important – tasks as CEO of Football will be identifying and recruiting the right manager to take over from Klopp at the end of the season.

Xabi Alonso is the front-runner, but there has been speculation over whether another candidate, Sporting CP’s Ruben Amorim, would be preferred.

 

New contracts for key trio

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, August 19, 2023: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah, captain Virgil van Dijk and Ibrahima Konaté during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and AFC Bournemouth at Anfield. Liverpool won 3-1. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

It has been floated that, with Edwards returning, it could spell the beginning of the end for the likes of Virgil van Dijk and Mohamed Salah.

Both into their 30s, the suggestion was that Edwards’ opposition to handing ageing players contract extensions – as was the case with Jordan Henderson in 2021 – would shut down negotiations with the pair.

That would, of course, be dogmatic, and there is no evidence at this stage that the new CEO of Football would block new deals for two of Liverpool’s most important – and consistently fit – players simply due to age.

Van Dijk, Salah and Trent Alexander-Arnold will all enter the final year of their contracts at the end of the season – and negotiating new terms with all three is essential.

 

Replace Vitor Matos

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Monday, October 3, 2022: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp (L), elite development coach Vitor Matos (C) and first-team development coach Pepijn Lijnders (R) during a training session at the AXA Training Centre ahead of the UEFA Champions League Group A matchday 2 game between Liverpool FC and Glasgow Rangers FC. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Though it may not seen as important from an outside perspective, the departure of elite development coach Vitor Matos as part of Klopp’s staff could have major ramifications for Liverpool.

Matos filled the role previously held by Pepijn Lijnders when he joined the club from Porto in 2019, overseeing the pathway from academy to first team.

It is he who has helped smooth the transition for the likes of Stefan Bajcetic, Jarell Quansah, Conor Bradley, Ben Doak, Bobby Clark and James McConnell, who are all now genuine first-team players.

Lijnders once remarked that Matos works so hard it seems like he “has 32 hours in a day,” and finding a replacement who can continue the trajectory of youth development at Liverpool is vital.

READ: FSG must replace unsung figure to preserve Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool legacy

 

Identify the next Mo Salah

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Thursday, November 30, 2023: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah applauds the supporters as he substituted during the UEFA Europa League Group E matchday 5 game between Liverpool FC and LASK at Anfield. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Salah is certainly deserving of a new contract at this stage, as he finds himself on the cusp of an all-time Liverpool record of 20 or more goals in all competitions for seven successive seasons.

But with the Egyptian turning 32 in June, the likelihood is that his next extension will be his last with the Reds.

Aided by the club’s recruitment staff – including Hughes, director of research William Spearman, head of recruitment David Fallows and chief scout Barry Hunter – the long-term search for the next Salah should be a focus for Edwards.

Wolves winger Pedro Neto and Athletic Club’s Nico Williams have already been touted as possibilities.