The Coutinho con and selling Salah to Klopp: Michael Edwards’ 10 Liverpool highlights

Ian Watson
Michael Edwards alongside Mo Salah, Virgil van Dijk and Philippe Coutinho.
Michael Edwards was key in signing Mo Salah, and Virgil van Dijk while selling Philippe Coutinho.

Michael Edwards is heading back to Liverpool to take up a senior role for FSG while assuming control of football operations at Anfield.  

The former sporting director has been missed since he left the club in 2022. Here are just 10 of the deals and moves he made his name on…


10) Signing Elliott for peanuts
Fulham were pretty pleased when the fee for Harvey Elliott was determined by a Premier League tribunal. But not as chuffed as Liverpool, who bagged one of the hottest young properties for an initial £1.5million.

The Reds took Elliott, then 16, in 2019. The versatile attacking midfielder was already the youngest-ever Premier League player, and he was tearing up the Championship on loan at Blackburn when the fee was set.

Liverpool could be liable for another £2.8million, but to trigger that cost, Elliott would have to play 1o0 senior games for Liverpool – he has now surpassed that mark – while being capped at England level. Which feels inevitable in the not-too-distant future.


9) Signing Fabinho out of the blue
We all love a surprise, out-of-nowhere transfer, a deal confirmed as done before anyone has got wind of it. It’s a rare occurrence these days, but no one outside Liverpool’s inner circle knew Fabinho was flying in to sign at the start of summer 2018.

Most Reds were still feeling sorry for themselves after the Champions League final clusterf*** in Kiev. But Edwards was already putting the finishing touches to a deal to sign the Brazil midfielder from Monaco.

Fabinho’s other suitors evidently did not see it coming. United, City and a number of the European big-hitters fancied the versatile 24-year-old. But Edwards worked behind the scenes, alongside Klopp, to convince Fabinho that Anfield would be the right move. The deal was announced on a Monday night, drawing a line under the anguish of the weekend.

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8) Part-exchanging Hoever for Jota
Jota was done almost as quietly as Fabinho, the Portugal forward signing a week into the Covid season of 2020/21, which the Reds began as defending champions.

Jota offered Klopp more strength in depth across his frontline, for which Edwards saw fit to deposit £41million into Wolves’ bank account and the prospect of £4million more.

Edwards, though, also spied an opportunity to claw back a few quid by sending defender Ki-Jana Hoever the other way for an initial  £9million plus £4.5million more in add-ons.

Hoever had potential but never looked likely to make the step-up to Klopp’s senior stars. He managed only 20 appearances for Wolves and is currently on loan at Stoke.


7) Making big money on Brewster and other academy products
Rhian Brewster looked destined to be the next big thing when he was coming through Liverpool’s youth ranks. Injury hampered his ascent somewhat but he showcased what he can do at senior level during a loan spell at Swansea in 2019/20.

Turning 20 at the start of summer 2020, it was decision time for the Reds. They hedged their bets, selling Brewster – yet to make a Premier League appearance – for £23.5million to Sheffield United. If, as his early promise suggested, the striker tore up the top flight, Liverpool inserted a buy-back option valid for three seasons.

Never have they been tempted to use it. Brewster has been a dud for the Blades, scoring only four league goals, all in the Championship, in three-and-a-half years.

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6) Making big money on Klopp’s outcasts
Liverpool have not only done well out of selling kids Klopp can see little use for; they have also made a bundle moving on senior stars who have outlived their usefulness.

The Reds doubled their money on Takumi Minamino between buying him from RB Salzburg for £7.25million and selling him to Monaco, while the £12million they made from selling their third-choice keeper to Leicester remains one of Edwards’ greatest heists.

And there is Danny Ings. Liverpool bought the forward for £6.5million after a tribunal, nursed him through a couple of serious knee injuries, then sent him to Southampton, initially on loan before Saints faced the obligation of paying £20million.

Then there’s this fella…


5) Making huge money on Sakho
For all Edwards’ planning and preparation, his opportunism must also be acknowledged. The best example: making a patsy of Palace when they signed Mamadou Sakho at the end of summer 2017.

Sakho was finished at Liverpool having p*ssed off Klopp once too often. He was dispatched to Palace on loan, in which time he played only eight games due to injury. Palace initially looked elsewhere for a centre-back but with the deadline looming they returned to Sakho and plonked £23million plus another £3million in add-ons before Edwards.

No deal. With Palace running out of time, and fans on their back after three defeats under Frank De Boer, they coughed up the full £26million, their panic even more evident in the fact they gave 27-year-old Sakho a five-year deal.


4) Waiting for Van Dijk and Alisson
Liverpool’s pursuit of Van Dijk was a messy, humbling affair. In summer 2017, they were forced into a grovelling apology, while declaring their interest over.

“We apologise to the owner, board of directors and fans of Southampton for any misunderstanding regarding Virgil van Dijk. We respect Southampton’s position and can confirm we have ended any interest in the player.”

Or did they? Obviously they did not. The apology was issued to pacify Saints and the Premier League, who had received a complaint from St Mary’s over an alleged illegal approach by Liverpool.

Edwards, clearly convinced of Van Dijk’s quality, smoothed the relationship with Southampton in time to wrap up a record deal before the next window opened in January 2018.

Liverpool had to be similarly patient over Alisson. Initially, Roma’s demands were too prohibitive but Edwards sat tight. He recognised that Alisson was by far the stand-out candidate and worked with Roma on a more agreeable deal – still a world record for a keeper, mind.


3) Swapping Robertson for Stewart
“It feels a bit surreal,” said 23-year-old Andrew Robertson when Liverpool swooped on Hull to sign him in summer 2017. The time since has only heightened the surrealistic feeling for anyone looking back on the terms of the deal.

The books will show that Liverpool paid Hull around £8million for the Scotland international. But to the Tigers, the Reds sold Kevin Stewart – a young midfielder with six Premier League starts – for a fee that might have matched the separate deal agreed for Robertson.

Robertson went on to become one of the world’s best left-backs; Stewart, now 30, is unattached after a stint at Blackpool following his release from Hull.


2) Signing Salah over Brandt
Whether you can say Edwards pulled rank on Klopp here, we’re not sure. But the sporting director certainly swayed Klopp before one of the best transfer decisions in the club’s history.

It is well documented that Klopp preferred Julian Brandt. The manager was seemingly wary of Salah’s struggles with Chelsea and felt the Bayer Leverkusen forward would be a better bet.

Edwards did not. Mercifully, he persuaded Klopp to see it his way, and Salah was signed from Roma. Two-hundred-and-four goals ago.

1) The Philippe Coutinho sale
It turned out to be the most transformative deal of Edwards’ time at Anfield, but Liverpool took a lot of convincing to sell Coutinho. The player forced the issue to the point that in January 2018 Edwards and the Reds decided to make the best of a bad situation. Which they did brilliantly.

Edwards pulled Barcelona’s pants down to the tune of £142million – the third-highest fee of all time. Coutinho got his way, but the Brazil forward stank out the Nou Camp while the deal went a long way to crippling Barca financially.

With their windfall, Liverpool paid off their £75million debt to Southampton for Virgil van Dijk before spending the bulk of the rest on Alisson. Edwards also inserted a clause whereby Barca would be liable for a huge extra sum if they came for any more Liverpool players before 2020, effectively ending the Catalans’ interest in Roberto Firmino.

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