Michael Edwards return could spell end for Van Dijk at Liverpool after 2022 exit revelation

Will Ford
Michael Edwards Virgil van Dijk Liverpool
Michael Edwards return to Anfield could mean the end for Virgil van Dijk at Liverpool.

Michael Edwards remains Liverpool’s top sporting director target, and could be persuaded to return if he’s handed more control than he was afforded at the end of his previous reign.

Edwards was part of the Liverpool fabric for over a decade before leaving the club in 2022, starting as an analyst and working his way up to become sporting director for the last six years of his stint at Anfield.

He’s still hugely admired by FSG having playing an instrumental role in their success in that time. He negotiated deals for now-legendary Liverpool figures Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Andy Robertson, Virgil van Dijk, Fabinho and Alisson, also managing to secure significant transfer fees for players Klopp deemed surplus to requirements like Christian Benteke, Mamadou Sakho and Jordon Ibe. He got £70m for the trio.

READ: Full list of every Liverpool academy graduate Klopp has given debut to should embarrass Mourinho

On Edwards’ impact, chairman Tom Werner said: “I want to acknowledge Michael’s reign as sporting director. He’s been instrumental. You could point to player after player who was identified before they became superstars. Going back to Mohamed Salah, Michael identified him.

“He’s very quiet about the way he goes about his business but he’s really been critical to our success. We’re competing against clubs who spend massive amounts of money on transfers. One of Michael’s correct strategies once we’ve identified players is making sure there’s an extension of those contracts.”

FSG are now in the process of finding a new sporting director after Julian Ward lasted just a year having taken over from Edwards and Jorg Schmadtke only agreed a short-term deal. Frederic Massara, the former director of football at AC Milan, and Nice’s Florent Ghisolfi were both admired, but the owners still have their hearts set on an Edwards return.

Mike Gordon, the president of FSG, reportedly phoned Edwards shortly after Klopp announced his impending departure, offering him the chance to either come back to Anfield or take up a senior position with FSG. Edwards rejected that proposal, but The Athletic claim the American owners ‘want to be absolutely sure that Edwards cannot be persuaded to return before moving onto other targets’.

One significant carrot would be to assure Edwards of more power and control than he was granted at the end of his previous spell.

Understandably, given his success on the pitch, Klopp’s powerbase had expanded to the point where he was making all of the key decisions over transfers and player contracts by the time Edwards left in 2022. A reality that made Edwards uneasy, and is thought to have played a role in his exit from the club.

Jurgen Klopp defends Chelsea
Jurgen Klopp smiles after winning the Carabao Cup final.

The Telegraph claim there were ‘robust discussions behind the scenes about the merits and value of some new deals for older players’ shortly before Edwards left the club. Mohamed Salah’s bumper deal turned out to be a good call (though it has contributed to a financial loss), but Liverpool may now think themselves fortunate that Sadio Mane rejected new terms to leave for Bayern Munich, and the club was also in talks to extend Naby Keita’s deal before coming to their senses.

A new, likely inexperienced manager, maybe Xabi Alonso, would not hold anywhere near the sway Klopp has had for the last few years, and should Edwards take the role he will be faced with similar decisions over new deals for older players.

Salah and Van Dijk are both out of contract in 2025, meaning new deals will be necessary this summer if the club wants to avoid losing them for free. And given they’re 31 and 32 respectively – even with their excellence this season in mind – given Edwards’ previous reluctance to offer new terms to older players, his return to Anfield could see two players critical not only to Liverpool’s success, but to his standing as a football operator, sent packing from the club.