Liverpool balls: The Reds made a huge mistake buying Jordan Henderson
We love peculiar job titles in football. Chelsea have “loan player coaches“. QPR have “kit monitorers”. Liverpool used to have “director of football strategy”. What that means is unclear. But at one point the man with the job was Damien Comolli.
When Comolli got the job in 2010, the BBC explained what it was, in the words of Liverpool owner John Henry:
“Today’s announcement is just the first step in creating a leadership group and structure designed to develop, enhance and implement our long-term philosophy of scouting, recruitment, player development and all of the other aspects necessary to build and sustain a club able to consistently compete at the highest level in European football. Damien has a proven track-record of identifying exciting young footballing talent and we are delighted that he has agreed to join Liverpool.”
He had us right up to “philosophy”, then we kind of zoned out. Conelli is not the manager, not the coach and not entirely just a scout. ‘Director of football strategy’ seems to be job made in the corporate world, a title based on presentation over presence.
In March 2011, we got more:
Comolli’s role has been extended to oversee all football-related matters outside of first-team training and selection, which are under the remit of the caretaker manager Kenny Dalglish, who replaced Hodgson on 8 January.
“It covers pretty much all of the football side,” added Comolli. “It’s basically a day-to-day relationship with the manager and his coaching staff, it’s also medical and sports science, performance analysis, player liaison, team travel, scouting and negotiating transfer contracts. A big part of it is the academy.”
We’re talking about Conelli because he’s told Talksport:
“The day I got sacked they [Liverpool’s owners] told me I had made a big mistake on Jordan and he was a waste of money.
“Everybody is entitled to their own opinion, but I think we paid the right price. He was a young English, British player and we know very often that British players are overvalued. But we were more than happy to pay the price because we thought he would become an outstanding player.
“I never said it publicly, but I was convinced he would be the future captain. People will say it is easy to say now, but I was convinced at the time that he would become the Liverpool captain. Now he is and he is also the England captain.”
Manchester United looked at Henderson. And passed. In his autobiography, former United manager Alex Ferguson had issues with Henderson’s gait:
In 2015, the Telegraph reported:
Henderson has a condition known as Plantar Fasciitis, a problem that deteriorated last April. Despite consultations with renowned surgeons, and even taking advice from the Royal Ballet about how to deal with a problem that afflicts dancers as well as sportsmen, Henderson has accepted he will have to manage pain rather than rid himself of it…
Henderson is well aware comments made in Sir Alex Ferguson’s book that his running style would cause injury problems will be seen as prophetic. In fact, it is believed a change in boots was the catalyst for the issue last season allied to a work overload which has prevented the 25-year-old having a summer break for 14 years. “I don’t think it has anything to do with my gait, it might have, but I very much doubt it,” said Henderson.
The trade in footballers is about making an educated guess. Players can be lucky and unlucky, careers ended by injury and elevated by chance. To say you knew for certain Henderson was going to be the Liverpool captain is nonsense. It was a good guess – and one realised by the luck of Henderson, a talented player, being part of a very poor England team and a Liverpool side with few options.
And as for Henderson’s rise being foreseen by Comelli, this is what Kenny Dalglish said after the Frenchman left the club:
“He’s been really helpful in every transfer target we’ve gone for. Everyone who has come into the club since Damien has been here was of my choice. Once I made the choice who I wanted. Damien went away and did a fantastic job of bringing them in. It’s sad to see anyone leave the club and he goes with my best wishes.”
Such are the facts.