Premier League • England

Next Liverpool sporting director: Xabi Alonso colleague withdraws as FSG focus on Serie A winner to replace Schmadtke

Simon Rolfes and Ricky Massara and the Liverpool badge

Simon Rolfes looks unlikely to become Liverpool sporting director but there is a new contender

Liverpool have turned their attention to an Italian director who helped construct a squad that won Serie A after Bayer Leverkusen’s Simon Rolfes ruled himself out of the running to replace Jorg Schmadtke.

In the summer, Liverpool will not just have a new manager at the helm who has succeeded Jurgen Klopp, but they are also ready to appoint a new sporting director after Jorg Schmadtke’s brief spell with the club.

There has been little continuity in the sporting director role since Michael Edwards left the club in 2022, but Liverpool need a strong figure there as they prepare for a summer in which, among other tasks, they will have to shape their squad for their new manager and address the contracts of players like Mohamed Salah, Virgil van Dijk and Trent Alexander-Arnold.

One recent suggestion for the Schmadtke-shaped vacancy was for Rolfes to join Liverpool in a double appointment, since Bayer Leverkusen head coach Xabi Alonso is a top target to replace Klopp as manager.

However, Rolfes has now withdrawn from the race to oversee Liverpool’s business, reiterating his commitment to Bayer Leverkusen.

“The fact that there is a lot of speculation about Bayer 04’s protagonists due to our current successes is part of the business,” Rolfes told Kicker.

“But that doesn’t change my direction. It’s not without reason that I only extended my contract in the autumn. I’m absolutely happy in Leverkusen in this constellation.”

With Rolfes no longer worth trying to tempt away, Liverpool are having to look at other candidates to become their sporting director.

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Who else are Liverpool looking at?

According to The Athletic, one contender they admire is Ricky Massara, who is currently on gardening leave from AC Milan.

Massara was a key part of Milan’s structure between 2019 and 2023. Within that time, the Rossoneri ended their long wait for their 19th Scudetto, winning the 2021/22 Serie A.

Key signings during Massara’s tenure – in which he worked in conjunction with technical director Paolo Maldini – included Theo Hernandez from Real Madrid, Rafael Leao from Lille, Ismael Bennacer from Empoli, Pierre Kalulu from Lyon, Sandro Tonali from Brescia, Mike Maignan from Lille and Fikayo Tomori from Chelsea.

Liverpool know Massara could start work with them immediately, helping them in their search for a new manager.

They are also well informed thanks to Milan being owned by RedBird Capital, a firm which also has a stake in FSG.

Ricky Massara's top 10 most expensive AC Milan signings

Ricky Massara’s top 10 most expensive AC Milan signings

Prior to his most recent venture with Milan, Massara endured experiences such as being an assistant manager in the lower leagues for Benevento and Pescara, before collaborating with transfer guru Walter Sabatini for Palermo and then Roma.

He had two brief spells as Roma’s sporting director in his own right, but on both occasions it was primarily as a caretaker after the departures of Sabatini and future Aston Villa president of football operations, Monchi.

In fact, Massara’s only signing for the Giallorossi was Clement Grenier on loan from Lyon in January 2017, although he was also in post when they converted future Chelsea and West Ham defender Emerson Palmieri’s loan arrival into a permanent move.

Other than Massara, an admirable candidate mentioned by The Athletic is Florent Ghisolfi, but there are a couple of problems on that front.

First, Ghisolfi is already in work with Nice – the club under the control of Sir Jim Ratcliffe. With Ratcliffe ready to take control of Manchester United’s decision-making, it is unlikely the Ligue 1 side would sanction the departure of their director to Liverpool.

Therefore, Massara might be the one to watch as things stand.

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