Sporting director Michael Edwards will leave Liverpool at the end of the season, the club have announced.
Arsenal fans have called for Edwards to replace technical director Edu in the past, arguing that the Reds’ transfer chief is more astute in the transfer market, given he has been responsible for bringing in the likes of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Virgil van Dijk in recent years
Whilst pressure appears to be building on Edu internally and from supporters, he has at least kept one of his promises of signing players for the future.
“That’s an important part of the job of course and I understand that. But for me there are more important things in front of that – we have to look after what we have today,” he told Arsenal.com in his first interview after being appointed two summers ago.
“We have to work hard today. We have to look after our squad today.
“The future is the future, and signing players means sometimes the future, and of course I have to be involved in that process, but I also have to take care of today.”
Arsenal’s direction under Edu has been to sign players aged 23 or younger which is reflected in deals for Ben White, Nuno Tavares, Aaron Ramsdale, Albert Sambi Lokonga, Takehiro Tomiyasu and Martin Odegaard last summer.
Going back to his first two summer transfer windows where Gabriel Magalhaes and Kieran Tierney were 22 when they joined from Lille and Celtic respectively, Gabriel Martinelli and William Saliba signed as teenagers shows there is a plan in place.
If all those players turn out to be Arsenal legends or go on to forge a successful career at the club, then the Brazilian deserves some sort of credit for those deals.
But now it’s time Edu lived up to his other promise.
“There are a lot of things to do, but I will try to explain to you a little bit about almost everything,” he added. “People always say that the technical director has to look after and be involved in the process of signing players, selling players, keeping players, loaning players.”
Part of perfecting the role as technical director is the art of selling players at their highest value.
Tying players down to long-term contracts can strengthen a club’s position in the transfer market, as it allows them to bring in extra funds which can then be used to bolster the first-team squad.
This is where Edwards shines. As previously detailed by the Liverpool Echo, he has developed a reputation of being the very best at negotiating deals.
He superbly managed to get an initial fee of £19m for Dominic Solanke from Bournemouth in the 2019 January transfer window, and the previous summer banked £12.5m from Leicester City for Danny Ward before getting £20m from Southampton for Danny Ings.
More recently he negotiated £23.5m from Sheffield United for Rhian Brewster – a player who hadn’t even made a Premier League appearance for Liverpool – and secured a £17m windfall by selling Marko Grujic and Taiwo Awoniyi to Porto and Union Berlin respectively.
Furthermore, looking to the future and it’s been reported that Liverpool will earn £12m next summer from Fulham for Harry Wilson after an agreement to delay the first payment to help the Championship side get around FFP regulations.
It’s not just fringe players where Edwards has been able to work his magic either, as he got Barcelona to agree to pay a £100m surcharge if they attempted to buy another Liverpool player before 2020 after selling Philippe Coutinho for £142m.
When taking into consideration that Jurgen Klopp was able to bolster his squad with big-money deals for the likes of Virgil van Dijk, Alisson and Naby Keita but the Reds still had a net spend of around £100m, it’s difficult not to be envious of the work Edwards has done.
Not to mention Edwards has also negotiated sell-on clauses into a number of deals in recent years and that ensured the Reds received £2m – 20 per cent of the £10m profit Southampton made by selling Ings to Aston Villa this summer.
This outstanding recruitment policy was the blueprint for a remarkable transformation from the Merseyside giants as they went from top four hopefuls to Premier League title winners in the space of three years and are now ahead of Arsenal in so many ways on and off the pitch.
Edu doesn’t need to be envious of Edwards, he just needs to follow this format to a tee and hopefully, the Gunners can be in a similar position very soon.
To the Brazilian’s credit, there are signs that he has already started copying Edwards’ Liverpool model by recognising a bad transfer pattern where, in the past, Arsenal have been guilty of letting some of their best talents go on the cheap only to see them go on to prove to be far more valuable elsewhere.
Serge Gnabry – who left to join Werder Bremen for just £5m in 2016 – is probably the best example of this as he’s now a key player at Bayern Munich.
Although, the same applies with Ismael Bennacer – who joined AC Milan from Empoli for £15m only two seasons after leaving Hale End for around £900,000, Donyell Malen and Jeff Reine-Adelaide – who was was signed by Lyon for £22.5m just one season after being sold to Angers for slightly over £1m by the Gunners.
Bukayo Saka, Folarin Balogun, Kieran Tierney and Emile Smith Rowe have all signed new deals in the past 18 months which should ensure the Gunners don’t repeat previous mistakes.
By tying them down to long-term deals, it shows the Gunners are trying to ensure that if in the future any bids do come in, they will be in a very good position to demand a high transfer fee.
Of course, Arsenal fans won’t want to lose any of the quartet, but it can turn out to be a smart piece of business as it could help improve their effectiveness in the transfer market for years to come.
With that said, this is still a work in progress as Arsenal’s biggest – and only – summer sale so far is Joe Willock to Newcastle United.
But to get £25m for the midfielder’s services, especially after he signed a new contract in September of 2019, coupled with negotiating a sell-on clause into the deal, shows what success can be had by adopting Edwards’ Liverpool model.
Edu is clearly taking steps towards becoming savvier in the transfer market, and perhaps in time, he can be for Arsenal what Edwards has been for Liverpool.
Source by Football London