Former Middlesbrough manager Jonathan Woodgate has revealed how his work as a Liverpool scout saw the Reds reject the chance to sign Theo Hernandez.
Woodgate took on the scouting role in August 2016 after retiring as a player. The move saw him work closely with Michael Edwards, who went from technical to sporting director at Anfield three months later.
Speaking on Jamie Carragher’s The Greatest Game podcast, Woodgate opened up on how he came to forge a strong relationship with Edwards that would lead to the job.
“Michael Edwards was at Spurs [as head of performance analysis] and every day I was in there watching players with him – Philippe Coutinho, actually, when he was at Inter Milan,” the 40-year-old said.
“I would be in there every day constantly turning [Edwards’] office upside down and getting to know him. He was a really good guy.
“He rang me one day and said ‘what are you doing?’. I said ‘nothing, I’ve just retired’. He said ‘do you fancy coming on board and doing some scouting for Liverpool in Spain and Portugal?’.
“I said ‘too right I do!’. I was all over that. I was watching all the games, Spanish second division, Spanish first.
“I was going every couple of weeks and doing four games and then you come back and watch the game on the telly and the laptop.”
Woodgate’s work saw him help out in the early stages of Jurgen Klopp‘s tenure as Liverpool boss.
Indeed, he revealed on the podcast that he scouted Ruben Dias for Benfica’s Under-19s side in a match against Sunderland Under-19s; Dias recently became Manchester City’s £65million solution to their defensive problems.
He also studied Atletico Madrid midfielder Marcos Llorente. The Spaniard scored twice at Anfield last season to knock Liverpool out of the Champions League.
Theo Hernandez caught the eye
But it was another Atletico youngster – Hernandez – who caught Woodgate’s eye. The Frenchman developed in the Spanish capital before staying there with an exciting move to Real Madrid in the summer of 2017.
Woodgate revealed, though, how Liverpool rejected the chance to sign him before that transfer.
“You do your homework before and sometimes you are given players to watch and you have to do in-depth analysis and then you send it off,” he said.
“What is his body position like at the front post when the ball comes into the box? Does he get tight to his man? Does he stay free and go and attack the ball?
“Little things like that and I would clip these things up on my computer – not just on the ball, off the ball too, of what you’re seeing.
“I recommended a player who signed for Real Madrid. I absolutely adored him but [Liverpool] decided they didn’t want him. He’s done OK – he’s at AC Milan now. Theo Hernandez – bombs on for fun, and he’s a machine.”
Hernandez made 13 appearances in his first season at Real, before joining Real Sociedad on loan for the 2018/19 season.
Last summer, he moved to Italy and has chipped in with eight goals and eight assists in 51 games.