Jörg Schmadtke will take over from the departing Julian Ward as the club’s new sporting director, according to a statement from Liverpool FC.
In an unconventional move for this role, the 59-year-old will be initially tasked with leading the team through the 2023 summer transfer window prior to the 2023–24 season.
Prior to leaving the team in January 2023, Schmadtke served as Wolfsburg’s sporting director for nearly five years in the German Bundesliga.
When Ward made his exit from Liverpool official in November 2022, Jürgen Klopp’s agent, Marc Kosicke, suggested Schmadtke as a potential replacement for Ward as sporting director.
Michael Edwards, Liverpool’s esteemed sporting director, was succeeded by Ward. Edwards oversaw the signings that propelled Liverpool to recent Champions League and Premier League victories as well as FA Cup, League Cup, and Club World Cup triumphs.
In those years, Liverpool successfully mounted an opposition to Manchester City’s hegemony in the Premier League, and by winning the title in 2020, they broke City’s streak of five consecutive titles.
City has since won the league three times in a row. Although Liverpool came close to beating City to the title in 2022, the team’s performance dropped in the following season, and they finished in fifth place.
The Liverpool team clearly needs to be reconstructed, particularly in the middle of the field, and the departures of James Milner, Naby Keita, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Roberto Firmino this summer will present a chance to add fresh talent.
Edwards’ role may not be as comprehensive as Schmadtke’s, and the German’s primary responsibility will be to negotiate with clubs, players, and agents after targets have been identified rather than selecting the players themselves.
In an interview with German publication Sport1, Schmadtke jokingly exclaimed, “I don’t have a budget yet!”.
But seriously, transfers are always challenging. When a player moves from A to B, it usually involves trivial matters that are hard to control and unrelated to earning money.
For instance, how the player fits in with his family in the city, what his role on the team should be, and how he can perform at his best.
In order to secure the best possible deal for the team and persuade the players that joining Liverpool is the right decision for them, Schmadtke will be involved in the negotiations stage of any transfers.
He will be trying to negotiate deals with the clubs, the player, and the agent(s) on the phone and in-person visits to players and clubs.
Klopp and Schmadtke’s non-playing careers overlap. In 2001, Schmadtke started out as a sporting director at Alemannia Aachen while Klopp had taken his first managerial job, at Mainz 05, in the same year.
The two had previously crossed paths when Klopp was the manager of Borussia Dortmund and Schmadtke was working for Hannover 96 and FC Köln.
When Schmadtke left Wolfsburg in January, Klopp described Schmadtke as a “great character”.
“I would have liked to work with him, I’m sure it would have worked out well,” said Klopp at the time.
“He’s a top character, somebody who never changed in 38 years and stayed true to himself. He’ll be missed by football. ”.
Once it became clear Schmadtke would be joining Liverpool, Klopp said that “his character is good, his personality is good, and his humour is good—I know that from a few moments next to him on the pitch. ”.
Schmadtke has also been described as stubborn, and Liverpool hopes that his combination of humour and tough negotiating will help make the club a popular proposition to transfer targets while also getting the best deal.
“The influence of the coach on transfers is greater in England than in Germany, where a sporting director holds everything in one hand [deals with all aspects],” Schmadtke continued in his interview with Sport1.
“Jürgen Klopp sets the priorities, we set him up with a team of data analysts, scouts and so on, so he can then choose from a list of players who he wants to work with.
“Then I’ll deal with the transfers with the responsible departments at the club. And in the end, the owners have to be satisfied with the investments. ”.
Schmadtke will begin in his new role on June 1 and will initially be on board for three months ie until the end of the 2023 summer transfer window.
A deal for Alexis Mac Allister is thought to already be at an advanced stage, while Manu Koné of German side Borussia Mönchengladbach has been strongly linked and could be Schmadtke’s first task once he gets to work on Thursday.
“Jörg will work with our football operations department as it continues to provide support for Jürgen Klopp, in keeping with our ongoing endeavour to keep growing and developing the club in all areas,” said Fenway Sports Group (Liverpool’s owner) president Mike Gordon.
The initial short-term nature appointment represents a slightly different way of doing things in that the sporting director is initially only on board for one transfer window.
Sporting directors are usually the person tasked with overseeing the whole philosophy and stability of a club, from playing style to recruitment, and in modern football it is usually the manager or head coach’s role that is more temporary or prone to change.
But Liverpool already has the style and culture in place, driven by Klopp and his staff, so this arrangement may make sense. What makes less sense is giving the sporting director less of a say on the transfer targets themselves.
Schmadtke will be judged on how good he is at getting deals over the line and getting them done at a reasonable price for the club.
Meanwhile, Liverpool’s decision to work in this manner, and ultimately its 2023/24 season, will be judged on how effective the new signings are and whether they can help the club challenge at the top of the Premier League once again.