Schmadtke was a surprise arrival at Anfield last summer, and with his departure confirmed in the hours following Klopp’s shock announcement, his reasons for being there in the first place look clearer
Jurgen Klopp explains Liverpool exit decision | “My resources aren’t endless!”
His was the name that launched a thousand ‘Who is?’ articles.
When Jorg Schmadtke was first reliably touted as Liverpool’s new sporting director last summer fans rushed online to find out who on earth this mysterious, gruff-looking German was. And sure enough, given what they were looking for, those fans were left underwhelmed.
Schmadtke had, after all, been the Wolfsburg sporting director who had let the brilliant Victor Osimhen slip through the club’s fingers. The Nigerian forward scored no goals in 16 appearances for the Bundesliga club between 2016 and 2018 before being sold to Lille, and after moving on from there to Napoli he has won Serie A and become the forward who fans of big clubs that need a No.9 crave. He’ll join one of them eventually.
To a Liverpool fanbase still mesmerised by the data-driven transfer work of Michael Edwards and his team who had revolutionised the football club, dragged them forward into the cutting edge of the game, found a willing participant in Jurgen Klopp (Brendan Rodgers never liked the interference into his way of thinking) and generally just got everything right, this was a worry.
Liverpool’s successful squad needed an overhaul after all, with big names leaving and new players required, especially in midfield. What on earth could this sporting director with such an underwhelming CV do about that? Remember it was Edwards and not Klopp who pursued the signing of Mo Salah in 2017, with Klopp wanting Julian Brandt instead, and fans were supposed to swallow the fact that Schmadtke didn’t rate Osimhen?!
But football and life is just never that simple, and given Klopp’s announcement on Friday, plus the fact that he and Schmadtke have been good friends for years, it is surely time to revisit the latter’s appointment and just what it meant to a club and a manager who had just experienced a chastening season, a difficult moment in life.
We don’t know for certain when Klopp decided that it was time to walk away from Liverpool, but the seeds were sown in January and February last year in the convincing defeats at Brentford, Brighton and Wolves. That was when the old Liverpool side died and a new one had to be created, and Klopp would have known that he wouldn’t be seeing that one through to the end. Enter Schmadtke.
The former goalkeeper with Fortuna Dusseldorf and Freiburg is someone who knows absolutely everyone in German football. There isn’t a corridor he wouldn’t have stalked or an office he won’t be welcomed into. He’s a character.
It is safe to assume that having Schmadtke on board will have greased the wheels when it came to Liverpool signing Dominik Szoboszlai from RB Leipzig, Wataru Endo from Stuttgart and Ryan Gravenberch from Bayern Munich for a combined fee of about £110million or one Moises Caicedo, but he clearly had a much more important role to play in his one and only season as Liverpool’s sporting director.
Klopp says that he told Liverpool’s owners of his decision to walk away in November, and so it is safe to assume that his inner circle knew about it a lot earlier. It also isn’t too much of a stretch to say that the left-field appointment of one of his best mates as a very interim sporting director last summer was all part of the process too.
After his appointment Schmadtke very quickly became a figure of fun amongst Liverpool fans as he appeared to be constantly operating out of his home in Ibiza, with the image of him sipping a cocktail on the beach a far cry from the one you’d have of Edwards hunched over a laptop. But what if his job wasn’t a big day-to-day deal at all?
What if it was just to make the right introductions at German clubs to get deals for Szoboszlai, Endo and Gravenberch over the line? What if it was to speak to his good friend who was having serious thoughts about walking away from the job he loves and in which he is loved? What if it was just being there for his mate when he told him he was utterly drained, but determined to leave this club, his club, in the best condition?
And what if it was to line up the right man to replace him? Perhaps the man with the Liverpool background who is taking the Bundesliga – Thomas Tuchel, Harry Kane, Eric Dier and all – by storm this season and has, by the way, a very impressive sporting director in Simon Rolfes in his corner who could be open to making the big move with him.
Shortly after the Klopp news on Friday it was announced that Schmadtke will be leaving Liverpool at the end of the January transfer window, but his work as a friend, a sounding board and a conduit may already be done.
Klopp will go down as a totemic figure in Liverpool’s history for everything he has represented and still does. If his status as a superhero needed any more emphasising then just look at the reaction his departure has generated. Schmadtke, meanwhile, has slipped out the back door unnoticed.
We all need mates to confide in though, even if no-one knows who or sometimes where they are, and Schmadtke may be the man the now outgoing Liverpool manager required in his corner for a variety of reasons, the chief amongst them being shaping what he wants to leave behind.
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