Like that of David Dein and Richard Scudamore, Damien Comolli‘s name is one that you hear in loose connection with English football on a fairly regular basis and, even when spoon-fed their respective job titles, it’s quite difficult to pin down what they actually do for a living and for which club/organisation they actually do it.
As far as I can ascertain, Comolli began his footballing career by coaching Monaco’s U16 creche to state championship glory before joining Arsenal as a European scout in 1996 and has the dubious accoutrement on his CV of being the man to have plucked Emmanuel Eboue from Belgian obscurity.
He then moved back home to work as Saint-Etienne’s technical director for a year and a bit before returning to north London, only this time with Tottenham.
Comolli replaced the outbound Frank Arnesen (who had been blacklisted after being photographed on one of Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich‘s luxury yachts after publicly expressing his desire to sign up at Stamford Bridge) as ‘Director of Football’ at Spurs, and duly set about usurping manager Martin Jol at every turn by signing a number of players without his consent.
Jol was then sacked via text message in 2007, with former Sevilla coach Juande Ramos taking over at White Hart Lane.
During Ramos’ brief tenure, Comolli headed up Spurs’ acquisitions panel, who were charged with flushing out and snaring some of the world’s best young talent as well as filling the squad with many ‘more-established’ players.
He then remained in the job for a further year before returning back to France with Saint-Etienne once again in late 2008.
Two years down the line, with Comolli cutting an increasingly nomadic/mercenary figure, Liverpool’s new owners NESV have now confirmed that he will be employed by the club as their new ‘Director of Football Strategy’ – yet another shiny new job title to add to the record.
Comolli’s appointment at Liverpool is a definite statement of intent by the new owners.
Whereas manager Roy Hodgson will entrusted with overseeing the club’s short-term future and rebuilding on a single-season basis, their new director will be busy setting foundations to ensure that the rejuvenation can continue for as long as possible by attempting to attract the best of the footballing world’s burgeoning talents as well as bring in suitably hand-picked senior players.
Hodgson has already stated that he is keen to embrace the arrival of Comolli at the club, as NESV make plans for a revamped ‘leadership group’:
“I feel very good about it. It is something the owners were very keen to put in place. It is a strategy which I think makes sense, especially for our club at this moment in time because we are in a period of transition with new owners.”
Hodgson also refused to view the as a personal loss of influence for the modern manager, and instead extolled the virtues of the system under which he will be working:
“[NESV] want a management structure in place which they can identify with, from American or European models and not necessarily an archetypal, if somewhat outdated, English model.
The days of the dictator-type English manager have long since passed when everything went through one man and no one dared even buy a paper clip without that person’s approval.
[Comolli] will certainly take a lot of the minor things that you have to deal with, allowing me to concentrate on the team management and he will help us bring the team forward.
There is no impact for me as such on my daily work, where he will help the club and help me is in the matter of player recruitment.”
Whatever you say Roy, whatever you say. Given the problems that English-based managers have had with omnipresent ‘directors’ in the past, we’ll just have to see how long this veil of symbiosis lasts.
One certainty is that, if NESV’s newly implemented transfer and scouting policies are going to work, Liverpool will have to pander to Comolli’s attributes.
It would appear that the Frenchman may have landed the job at Anfield thanks to his close relationship with one Billy Beane i.e. the baseball maverick who uses the Moneyball model of statistical analysis to weigh up individual players net worth to the team – a system which he used to great success with the Oakland A’s, and a model subsequently followed by John W Henry at the Boston Red Sox.
Hodgson has already voiced his approval of a Moneyball-style remit being used at Liverpool, admitting that it is ‘a strategy which makes sense, especially during a period of transition’.’
If his previous is anything to go by, then such a system would allow Comolli to viably chase some of the , giving Liverpool a much-needed sense of direction as well as punctuating the paper-thin squad with additions of genuine quality rather than stop-gaps.
Given the fact that five of the Tottenham side that dispatched Inter on Tuesday were signed up under his watch (Bale, Modric, Assou-Ekotto, Gomes and Hutton), if Comolli can continue to recruit players with such latent potential at Anfield then he may just turn out to be the signing of the season himself.