Premier League • England

Alarm bells ring with would-be new Liverpool sporting director advising Klopp on major transfer fail

Sven Mislintat, Stuttgart sporting director - Bundesliga, VfB Stuttgart - TSG 1899 Hoffenheim, Matchday 7, Mercedes-Benz Arena

Liverpool’s potential new sporting director Sven Mislintat has already advised Jurgen Klopp on one of the Reds’ more recent transfer arrivals – but the struggles of the player at Anfield will serve as a bit of a warning.

The Reds were rocked last week by the resignation of Julian Ward just six months into the job. Previously working as Michael Edwards’ deputy, his transition into the sporting director role at Anfield appeared seamless. However, it was announced last week that he will be leaving the club at the end of the season.

The talent-spotting of Edwards played a big role in the success Liverpool have enjoyed over the last decade. His decision to sign Mohamed Salah, when Klopp wanted three others first, is arguably his biggest success story. There are others though, not least the decision to spend big on Virgil van Dijk and Alisson Becker.

And the decision to sign Roberto Firmino, Andy Robertson and Sadio Mane was also on his recommendation. Those deals were also underpinned by the £132 same of Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona.

Ward was expected to follow suit and his reign started well with the capture of Darwin Nunez.

As such, his decision to step down comes as a blow to Liverpool who are now on the hunt for a new sporting director.

They have seemingly wasted little time in identifying that man, however. And reports on Wednesday suggested that German Sven Mislintat has been earmarked for the role.

While no talks have taken place, Liverpool have reportedly already sounded him out. And the 50-year-old is reportedly keen to work with Klopp again on Merseyside.

Sven Mislintat has already advised Klopp on Liverpool transfer

However, the divisive former Arsenal figure would prove a controversial appointment on Merseyside.

His 14 months or so at Arsenal were fraught with difficulties. And his transfer record during his time at the Emirates was not particularly successful.

In that time, the Gunners signed eight players, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang the most eye-catching. And while he did well for the Gunners, he ultimately fell foul of Mikel Arteta’s discipline and left under a cloud.

Mislintat’s other seven signings fared even worse, with Dinos Mavropanos, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Bernd Leno, Sokratis, Lucas Torreira, Matteo Guendouzi and Stephan Lichtsteiner all bought under his watch.

Now it has emerged that the German has also advised Klopp on the January 2021 signing of Ozan Kabak.

Crippled with a series of injuries to their central defence, Liverpool moved to sign the then Schalke centre-back on loan.

Liverpool paid a basic £1m loan fee to sign Kabak, with a view to a permanent £18m deal. However, it very quickly emerged that Kabak was not actually that good and it was no surprise when Klopp passed up the permanent option on his signing.

Confirming at the time that the signing of Kabak was his idea to Klopp, Mislintat explained himself to The Athletic.

“I told Jurgen that he’s a top lad,” he said. “Top mentality, top character, top aggression. He’s a (Dejan) Lovren-type player. Very good in the air, both defensively and in the opposition box.

“He played his best stuff for us (at Stuttgart). He hasn’t been able to show how good he is at Schalke. Kabak still needs to learn but he has all the skills for Klopp to make a success of him.”

Liverpool need better

Kabak went on to play on loan at Norwich, and he again struggled badly as the Canaries suffered relegation. In summer 2022, Kabak moved on to Hoffenheim, who have conceded 22 goals in 15 games this season.

That transfer record will not exactly fill Liverpool fans with hope. His record at Arsenal left a lot to be desired, while the recommendation of Kabak was not exactly a good one either.

As such, Liverpool may be best advised to look elsewhere.

Defending his time at Arsenal, Mislinant is adamant that their struggles at the time were not down to him.

“To be quite clear: I don’t feel ashamed of any of those transfers. On the contrary, I will always defend these guys. Not because they were my players but because they were Arsenal players and capable ones,” he said.

“They turned up. The team went unbeaten in 22 games in all competitions. We also made it to the Europa League final and finished fifth with 70 points. You can say that’s not good enough. But many teams would love to finish fifth now.

“I felt that we were on the right track. And I would have enjoyed the opportunity to develop further at Arsenal. Anyway, I don’t look back. I learned massively and loved my days at the club, in the Premier League and in London.”

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