Premier League • England

Richard Hughes to unlock fantastic first Liverpool signing of star who eluded Michael Edwards twice

Bournemouth defender Lloyd Kelly

Richard Hughes could help Liverpool sign a long-term transfer target they've twice failed to lure to Anfield

Richard Hughes could help Liverpool land a Bournemouth player Michael Edwards failed to sign on two separate occasions, and given a Jurgen Klopp favourite is in line to leave, the arrival would make sense.

Liverpool owners FSG succeeded with a last-ditch attempt to re-hire Michael Edwards earlier in March. Edwards worked wonders with Liverpool between 2011-22 and was heralded as the man that put the pieces in place for the Reds to thrive under Jurgen Klopp.

Edwards has returned to the fold as FSG’s overarching CEO of Football. Reporting directly to Edwards and replacing Jorg Schmadtke as sporting director at Anfield will be Richard Hughes. Hughes left the Cherries earlier in March prior to agreeing to join Liverpool.

The 44-year-old will start work with Liverpool on June 1. But according to the Liverpool Echo, his first signing may already be known.

At the same time as Hughes joins the Reds, Bournemouth defender Lloyd Kelly will also leave the Cherries.

The versatile left-footer, 25, is on course to become a free agent when his contract expires at season’s end. Bournemouth do retain hope of thrashing out an extension, though there is little indication Kelly will pen fresh terms.

AC Milan are known to hold interest in Kelly who is equally comfortable operating at left-back or centre-back. Tottenham have continued to monitor the player after seeing a £20m bid knocked back by Bournemouth last summer.

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Matip out, Kelly in?

However, Liverpool too like what they’ve seen from Kelly and with Joel Matip expected to be cut loose once his contract expires, the addition of Kelly would make sense.

Matip is off contract this summer and coming off ACL surgery and aged 32, FSG aren’t expected to offer a new deal.

The Liverpool Echo tout Kelly as Hughes’ potential first signing on Merseyside. What’s more, Hughes was the man who frustrated Liverpool when luring Kelly to Bournemouth way back in 2019.

Liverpool – led by Michael Edwards at the time – had enquired into the signing of Kelly who was on the books of Bristol City.

However, it was Hughes and Bournemouth who one-upped the Reds, going on to secure Kelly’s signing for £13m.

According to the Times’ Paul Joyce, Hughes’ coup prompted a phone call from Edwards who congratulated his counterpart.

‘Much to Liverpool’s annoyance, Hughes was successful in persuading defender Lloyd Kelly to reject the lure of Merseyside to move to Bournemouth in May 2019 for £13 million,’ wrote Joyce.

‘That deal prompted a begrudging, congratulatory phone call to Hughes from Michael Edwards, then Liverpool’s sporting director.

‘It is Edwards’ appointment as chief executive of football at Liverpool’s owner, Fenway Sports Group, that has now smoothed the wheels for the next step in Hughes’ career progression.’

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Third time lucky for Liverpool and Kelly?

The Liverpool Echo also highlight a second missed opportunity for Edwards and the Reds one year later.

Bournemouth suffered relegation to the Championship in Kelly’s first season at the club. Interest in the player quickly ramped up, with Liverpool among those who enquired.

Klopp was on the hunt for a left-sided defender at the time, though Kelly once again eluded Liverpool. Instead, Greek left-back Kostas Tsimikas arrived from Olympiacos for £11.75m.

Fast forward to the present day and the Echo tout the idea of Liverpool finally getting their hands on Kelly. Making the move even more appealing is the fact he’ll now be available without having to pay a transfer fee.

With Hughes set to be pulling the strings and Edwards at the helm – both of whom are clearly big fans of Kelly – a long-awaited switch to Anfield could finally be on the cards.

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