Richard Hughes: Why Liverpool’s ‘forensic’ new sporting director could ‘flourish’ at Anfield

Richard Hughes: Why Liverpool’s ‘forensic’ new sporting director could ‘flourish’ at Anfield

25 March 2024 0 By Total Football News
Richard Hughes will become Liverpool's new sporting director at the end of the season, leaving Bournemouth
Richard Hughes will become Liverpool’s new sporting director at the end of the season, leaving Bournemouth

In football’s transfer-obsessed world where sporting directors can spark gossip-column headlines and cost almost as much as some players, Liverpool’s appointment of Richard Hughes felt relatively low-key.

So what is it about Hughes that has made Michael Edwards – the new chief executive of football for Liverpool owners Fenway Sports Group – bring the 44-year-old former Scotland international to Anfield?

Hughes & Edwards pairing ‘could stand test of time’

Des Taylor, former Bournemouth chief scout, worked with both men, and extensively with Hughes over the past decade.

Taylor believes the partnership will “stand the test of time”, describing it as a “smart, prudent, well-informed decision”.

Edwards returned to Anfield after departing the club in 2022 following a 10-year stint, including six as the sporting director himself.

Hughes is expected to bring two of his team with him from Bournemouth – scouting coordinator Craig McKee and chief scout Mark Burchill.

Taylor added: “Michael and Richard have spent many hours in each other’s company over the last 10 years. They know each other forensically, they understand each other, and most importantly they trust each other.

“Liverpool as a club and an entity have done very, very well to get that partnership. They are so compatible, they are both elite-level operators in all facets of recruitment and leadership. There is little doubt that their synergy will work well for Liverpool.”

Intelligence, languages, leadership – how Hughes shone at Bournemouth

Richard Hughes with his Bournemouth successor as sporting director Simon Francis
Richard Hughes, right, with his Bournemouth successor as sporting director Simon Francis

As Cherries chief scout between 2009 and 2016, Taylor steered and mentored Hughes after his retirement from playing in 2013 into the world of recruitment.

Bournemouth needed a link between then manager Eddie Howe, then owner Maxim Demin and the club’s board. Taylor’s expanding recruitment team also needed technical leadership as the club climbed quickly from League One to the Premier League over the course of three years.

Hughes was an “obvious choice” for a technical director role because of his “intelligence, his knowledge and his high footballing IQ”, says Taylor, adding: “Eddie knew that to compete at Premier League level off the pitch it was important to have intellectual leadership behind the scenes.”

Although the initial plan was for Hughes to provide Howe with assistance such as reports on opposition, it quickly evolved with Hughes becoming more recruitment driven.

Taylor said: “Richard came on board in the summer of 2013, our second year in the Championship, our promotion season and his presence, his ability to adapt, his ability to consume information and articulate it to boardroom level and to the owner was pivotal to our success on and off the field.”

What Hughes will bring to Liverpool

Richard Hughes in action as a player for Bournemouth
Richard Hughes in action as a player for Bournemouth

Hughes began his playing days as a junior for Atalanta in Italy before moving back to the UK at 18. He also worked as a co-commentator for BT Sport upon retirement from playing, regularly working on the big Sunday-night games from Serie A.

His father Kevin was an agent and scout based in Milan and represented his son throughout his playing career. Taylor says that was “hugely important in Richard’s development because he had a mentor in his father who understood how to identify a player, but also how to negotiate a contract”.

“Richard is multi-lingual, fluent in Italian and French and he has a high academic IQ but also an extremely high footballing IQ in terms of leadership, negotiation and technical observation,” says Taylor.

He believes the transition from Klopp and his backroom staff, including short-term sporting director Jorg Schmadtke, will be “easier than people anticipate” given the respect Hughes has in the game, his network of contacts and the autonomy he has been given at Bournemouth.

“Richard isn’t data-led or data-driven but he’s data-influenced,” says Taylor, “which is pivotal to the blueprint that Michael Edwards has implemented at Liverpool.”

Taylor, who is head of football operations for an American capital investment fund, believes Hughes will already have his “preferred candidates” to succeed Klopp.

Bayer Leverkusen manager and former Liverpool midfielder Xabi Alonso is among the favourites for the job, and his Spanish agent Inaki Ibanez is a close connection of Hughes, given he also represents Bournemouth boss Andoni Iraola.

Hughes is also known to be an admirer of Brighton manager Roberto de Zerbi and had identified him as a potential replacement when Scott Parker left Bournemouth – but his contract situation with Shakhtar Donetsk at the time proved problematic.

Taylor added: “There is no doubt in my mind that Richard will be a success at Liverpool. With Michael by his side, he will flourish”.

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