Ashworth slammed in hit piece which would definitely have been written if he wasn’t joining Man Utd

Editor F365
Sporting manager Ruben Amorim, Newcastle midfielder Sandro Tonali and sporting director Dan Ashworth with a Liverpool badge
Some nonsense has been written about Amorim, Tonali, Ashworth and friends

One Liverpool journalist was still coming to terms with Jurgen Klopp leaving before the blow of Xabi Alonso’s rejection. And Dan Ashworth catches strays.

 

Broken news
What is the biggest story in all of football as of Friday lunchtime, the morning after a huge development in Liverpool’s manager search and ahead of the return of the Premier League, with a massive match to preview on Sunday?

Over to you, Sun website:

Laura Woods reveals meaning behind two new tattoos as she shows them off in bikini on romantic trip with Adam Collard

With all the respect in the world to the excellent Laura Woods: no.

 

Where were you when Xabi Alonso rejected Liverpool?
That Liverpool manager update receives plenty of coverage elsewhere from publishers who decide not to trawl the Instagram stories of sports presenters. The daft sods.

Some of it is measured. And some of it is written by Chris Bascombe of the Daily Telegraph, who Mediawatch suspects is still struggling to come to terms with the imminent departure of the ‘intoxicating’ Jurgen Klopp.

‘There are Liverpool fans who remember what they were doing on the day Jurgen Klopp announced he would be leaving Anfield,’ he writes of something which happened two months ago. A quick check of the calendar would jog the memory; it’s not exactly Princess Diana or Michael Jackson dying.

It is testament to the regard in which Xabi Alonso is held, that just as many will recall the sense of deflation the moment they learned the legendary midfielder is unlikely to replace him.

It is testament to your ability to exaggerate and romanticise. Not sure it qualifies as anything else really. Plenty of Liverpool supporters will probably be fairly disappointed that one of the best young coaches in world football is out of reach for at least one more season, but it does not even vaguely compare to the blow of by far the greatest manager in their modern history leaving. It’s not nearly the same thing.

‘The script was written for Fenway Sports Group’s new football supremo Michael Edwards,’ Bascombe continues through the mistiest of eyes.

In a grand romantic gesture he was to unveil Alonso at an Anfield press conference and try to convince a cynical world that the succession plan was not designed and executed in the immediate aftermath of Klopp informing the owners of his intentions last November.

Alonso – who has previously spoken of a long-term desire to return to the club he graced for four years – would walk briskly into the Anfield press conference and talk about offers that could not be refused, his re-acquaintance with the Kop one of those resplendent moments when an elite sportsperson was listening to heart and head.

With good reason, these alluring, imagined scenes were embraced by a Liverpool audience seeking the reassurance of familiarity as they prepared for life without Klopp.

As fan fiction goes, it’s not great. Oh and Alonso ‘has previously spoken of a long-term desire to return to the club he graced for four years’ in his capacity as either a fan or as part of a Legends game; if he has any hope of coming back to Anfield as a manager he has absolutely not made that public and it’s silly to imply he has.

Bascombe’s general point is fair: Alonso would have engendered a level of buy-in as a beloved former player, as well as a prodigiously brilliant coach, that no other candidate could have enjoyed. Funny as it is to see him skirt around the He Knows The Club argument by writing about his ‘intuitive understanding of the club where he won the Champions League in 2005,’ it is a legitimate argument.

But writing that ‘whereas Alonso’s approval rating stood at 100 per cent, the coming weeks will see the pros and cons of Klopp’s potential successors subjected to heated debate’ is nonsense. He was certainly the most popular choice but not a unanimous one. His ‘pros and cons’ have been assessed too; some Liverpool fans would quite like the club to appoint the best possible manager and fit rather than someone who scored an important goal for them nearly two decades ago.

It is, by the way, absolutely hilarious to say of Amorim with a presumably straight face that ‘others will be intrigued by a young Portuguese coach who has demonstrated the Midas touch in a short coaching career’.

Amorim has won five trophies and almost as many matches (165) as Alonso has merely managed (173). Which of them ‘has demonstrated the Midas touch in a short coaching career’ again? Feels far more like the one ‘100 per cent’ of Liverpool fans apparently wanted and will forever remember being rejected by.

READ MOREWho will replace Jurgen Klopp as next Liverpool manager? New favourite installed

Liverpool manager targets Xabi Alonso and Roberto de Zerbi
Xabi Alonso and Roberto de Zerbi have been linked with the job at Anfield

 

Ton deaf
There must be something in the water at Daily Telegraph HQ because Luke Edwards is similarly at it.

Ashworth did a lot of good things during his 18 months as sporting director at Newcastle, but the signing of Sandro Tonali was not one of them.

That’s fair.

Newcastle thought they had pulled off a major coup when they signed the Italy international from AC Milan for £56 million in July, but it has turned into a disastrous piece of business.

Also fair.

Nevertheless, there is no doubt that the controversy leaves a stain on Ashworth’s reputation. As sporting director it was his job to do the required due diligence on every new signing and this was a major issue he failed to uncover.

That is a little strange. Beyond stealing Tonali’s phone and checking it for betting apps, what does Edwards propose could have been done?

He offers no suggestions, of course. But he does write:

AC Milan insisted they had no idea Tonali had a gambling problem – and sources have told Telegraph Sport he had gone to great lengths to keep it a secret

Newcastle cannot prove AC Milan knew anything about Tonali’s gambling problem and in private they have told Telegraph Sport that they believe the Italian club when they say they did not.

AC Milan continue to strenuously deny they had any prior knowledge of the investigation by the Italian FA, claiming the need to sell Tonali last summer was purely a financial one.

But no, Ashworth’s ‘fingerprints cannot be wiped away’ from the signing of a player with a gambling problem who managed to hide his addiction from his family, friends and the club he had spent three years at, but whose issues should somehow have been discovered by a complete outsider.

Funny that Edwards himself wrote in October about how Tonali ‘had kept addiction secret so very, very unlikely AC Milan knew anything,’ yet Ashworth is expected to have found out about it.

Would the deal have left ‘a stain on Ashworth’s reputation’ if he wasn’t leaving Newcastle to join Man Utd? It’s not for Mediawatch to say. But also: no, obviously not.

 

Director’s cut
Let’s just hope for Edwards’ sake that Newcastle do not appoint reported target Paolo Maldini as Ashworth’s sporting director replacement. After all, he was AC Milan technical director when Tonali was starting and winning trophies for them. How did his ‘due diligence’ not uncover anything either? Weird.

 

Zerbi-Alonso
‘Liverpool new manager: Roberto De Zerbi response after Xabi Alonso decision’ – Liverpool Echo.

Not quite. De Zerbi’s response – to being linked elsewhere – came very much before Alonso’s decision. On February 17, in fact. Liverpool fans remember it as vividly as when Klopp announced he was leaving. Easy mistake, though.

 

Acewatch
‘Ex-Man Utd ace dreams of history in ‘one-off’ Championship promotion race’ – The Sun website.

Joe Rothwell, he of zero senior career appearances for Manchester United.