Liverpool principal owner John W. Henry has been trying to formalise a link-up with Billy Beane for nearly two decades. It could now happen – in football, rather than baseball.
You probably know the story by now: Billy Beane was the Oakland Athletics general manager who was credited with unearthing value in his playing squad through metrics and analytics, rather than just going on reputation and salary.
His ‘Moneyball’ approach has helped spawn a generation of far more sophisticated recruitment techniques in a whole range of sports around the world – not to mention books and films aplenty.
Back in the early 2000s, a certain John Henry – owner of the Boston Red Sox – made an approach to hire Beane and make him the GM of his team and the highest-paid person in that role in the sport, but was turned down.
Even so, it’s clear that Henry took on board many of the principles which guided Beane along the way, refining them as needed and even building more detailed, more sport-specific, more club-focused ways of finding new recruits, both for the Red Sox and later for Liverpool.
Fast-forward a decade or two and the two might finally be ready to formally work together.
News emerged over the weekend suggesting the Reds’ owners FSG could be ready to sell a stake in their company to RedBall, where Beane is on the board.
Now the Wall Street Journal have released more details about the potential deal, which is still in the early stages of negotiation, and it appears Beane is ready to firmly step into the football world, where he has already taken an interest and a learning curve with AZ Alkmaar and Barnsley.
“Henry has long coveted Beane ever since he rocketed to prominence following the publication of [the book, then film] Moneyball, which chronicled how he transformed the Athletics into a powerhouse despite a microscopic budget.
“Beane and Henry are on the verge of finally formalising their relationship. Beane has long understood that the ‘Moneyball’ philosophy needs some tweaking across the pond.”
The expectation is that Beane will leave baseball entirely to avoid a conflict of interest in working for the Red Sox effectively against the A’s, but instead looking to “focus on other sports business ventures, including European soccer.”
There is no direct suggestion that he’ll have an immediate and formal role within Liverpool FC, and as yesterday’s news suggests there could be an approach which sees FSG buy more European clubs to use as feeder or link teams.
Beane might well be involved in recruitment there – but the long-term nature of the planning would still likely have a knock-on effect down the line for the Reds.