On the announcement of Michael Edwards’ departure from Liverpool next summer, his replacement, Julian Ward, has come with a ringing endorsement from Jurgen Klopp.
Edwards will leave the club on the expiry of his contract on June 1, ending a spell on Merseyside that has lasted over 10 years and four different roles.
It is his work as sporting director that has boosted his reputation significantly, with the signings, sales and new contracts secured during his time in the position earning plaudits from across Europe.
While it is unclear where Edwards’ next move will take him at this stage, Liverpool have already confirmed that Ward will take over when he exits.
And in his open letter to supporters when the news broke on Wednesday, Edwards paid tribute to Ward, who has served as assistant sporting director since December of last year:
“I think it is entirely fitting that the person to take over from me is Julian Ward.
“As was the case with myself, I doubt you will hear much from him, but on this occasion I will speak on his behalf in the knowledge what I have to say will be greeted with widespread agreement by everyone who has come across him both inside and outside the club.
“Julian has been building up the skillset for this role for many years and there are countless elements of his development that could be highlighted, none more so than the outstanding work he did in creating our loan department six years ago.
“It was during this period that he not only laid the groundwork for a long-term process that continues to provide significant benefit to players and club, he also accelerated his learning on many of the aspects you deal with as a sporting director.
“Last year, he took on the role of assistant sporting director and over the past 12 months he has been introduced to other facets of the role that are vital to its success.
“Again, Julian’s elevation is wholly in keeping with what I believe to be a key factor of the Liverpool Way, with promotion from within ensuring expertise, experience and institutional knowledge are cherished in the way that they should be.”
As should really be the case, Ward’s profile outside of football is low, with there being few interviews with the ex-Man City scout or even photographs on Liverpool’s official website.
But he has worked closely with Klopp throughout his time with the Reds – which began in 2012 – and in the club’s statement on Edwards’ decision, the manager acknowledged the input of his successor.
“Julian and I have worked closely since he became loans and pathway manager, plus even more so in his wider role during the past 12 months,” he said.
“We have so many brilliant people here, all of whom contribute to what we have achieved and I have nothing but confidence we will continue to develop, progress and improve as an organisation.”
Before Ward’s promotion to assistant sporting director, too, Klopp detailed the importance of their relationship as he worked as loan pathways and football partnerships manager:
“Now it’s obviously very, very important, a really, very important role. We work really closely together.
“So if you have to go on loan, the best thing that can happen is that you have a contract with Liverpool, because then Jules is looking after you, let me say it like this.
“He travels a lot – or he used to travel a lot, when travelling was allowed – and they are really in constant contact.
“I’m pretty sure if you asked the players themselves, they would say the same. So that’s really, on a personal basis, really good.
“Jules is doing an incredible job, that’s true, so that’s very helpful for us and for the players as well.”
In this case, it seems promoting from within was seen as the only option from those closest to the situation at Liverpool.