LONDON: Roberto Martinez is being lined up to take over from Kenny Dalglish as manager of Liverpool after the club’s American owners moved swiftly to take the club into a new era.
Fenway Sports Group had turned to Dalglish in January last year to steady the ship after the turbulence of the Tom Hicks/George Gillett regime but this proved only a short-term measure. The Scot, a legend on Anfield, was sacked on Wednesday after the club finished only eighth in the Premier League.
Wigan chairman Dave Whelan has given Liverpool permission to speak to Spaniard Martinez. He said: “If Liverpool are serious then I may lose him. When they phoned me I was actually with Roberto having a meeting on what we are doing next season.
“I did promise Roberto and I have always said when a big club comes he would have permission to talk to them and they don’t come any bigger than Liverpool. I gave him permission and he will be talking to them soon – I don’t know when, but quite soon. When Liverpool sacked Kenny I have to say I thought Liverpool would be knocking on the door and sure enough they are.”
An increasing number of Liverpool fans had grown dissatisfied with Dalglish’s judgment but his sacking, after a meeting in Boston with owner John W Henry and chairman Tom Werner, still came as a surprise.
The exit of Dalglish from an exective role – presumably he will be back in due course, when the dust has settled, in some sort of ambassadorial role – completed a clean sweep among the management. Director of football Damien Comolli has gone; so has communications director Ian Cotton.
Henry and Werner spent £110m on players in the last 18 months without pushing into the Champions League places and face a major challenge in trying to find a way to build the new stadium which Liverpool need so badly if the club are not to be left further and further behind the likes of Manchester United, Manchester City and Arsenal in matchday earnings potential.
This factor will become all the more important in the next three years as clubs swing their accounts into line with the demands of UEFA’s financial fair play regulations.
The ‘old days’ in which winning a trophy was the mark of a successful season are finished. Liverpool won the League Cup and were runners-up in the FA Cup Final but it is likely that even FA Cup success against Chelsea would not have saved Dalglish.
The Champions League absence is particularly painful because it harms the club’s ability to sign top-rank players.
Ironically Dalglish’s fortunes have slumped just as the man he replaced, Roy Hodgson, has bounced back to the top of their profession as manager of England heading into Euro 2012.
Dalglish replaced Hodgson in January last year and his ‘second coming’ was an initial success. Liverpool finished sixth amid high expectation over the £78m joint acquisitions of Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez.
But Carroll failed to fulfil his potential until the closing stages of this past season while Suarez – for all his talent – provoked the highly destructive racist insult row with Manchester United’s Patrice Evra. That not only proved a major midseason distraction but cost Dalglish the player’s services for eight games and damaged the club’s reputation at home and abroad.
The manager in which Liverpool in general and Dalglish in particular handled the affair, prompted first concerns about his judgment. Ending the season below Everton for the first time in seven years and with their worst points total in almost six decades was the last straw.
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