Jorg Schmadtke’s 3-month probation review – Signings, public bids & Liverpool future

Jorg Schmadtke has had a busy three months since becoming the club’s sporting director, but how should his spell be rated so far?

The German arrived at the end of May to replace the outgoing Julian Ward on a year-long contract, with both parties able to cut the deal short after three months.

Schmadtke was reportedly drafted in with a view to focusing on the German market, with three of the Reds’ four new signings all coming from the Bundesliga.

From that perspective, it has been a successful appointment given the scale of the task involved with the midfield rebuild.

There are, however, understandable concerns among supporters that the squad remains short in certain areas, with Jurgen Klopp admitting that his side need to be “lucky with injuries” this season.

With his first three months up, how can we assess Schmadtke’s time at Anfield?


New beginnings

Fans were promised a significant rebuild at the start of the summer and in one area of the pitch that was emphatically proved to be the case.

Five senior midfielders departed prior to the 2023/24 season, with three leaving upon their contracts expiring while a further two joined the Saudi Pro League exodus.

The transfer window got off to an ideal start with the arrival of Alexis Mac Allister from Brighton for what already looks to be a bargain £35 million fee.

Schmadtke’s predecessor Ward was credited for his role in bringing the World Cup winner to Anfield, with the deal completed during the transition process.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, September 2, 2023: Liverpool's Dominik Szoboszlai celebrates after scoring the first goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Aston Villa FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Dominik Szoboszlai was also able to get a full pre-season under his belt after following Mac Allister through the door at the start of July.

The Hungarian was signed as Liverpool acted quickly to trigger a £60 million release clause in the midfielder’s contract before the June 30 deadline.

It is early days, but both men have made impeccable starts to their Reds careers and look to be significant upgrades on the squad’s No. 8 options from last season.

Had we chosen to analyse Schmadtke’s first month, one would have to say things couldn’t have started much better.

What followed was weeks of relative silence that saw fans grow increasingly frustrated by the lack of activity.


Bumps in the road

LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, August 13, 2023: Liverpool's sporting director Jorg Schmadtke during the FA Premier League match between Chelsea FC and Liverpool FC at Stamford Bridge. The game ended in a 1-1 draw. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Fabinho‘s departure to Al-Ittihad left the squad without a recognised defensive midfielder, with Romeo Lavia looking the most obvious candidate to replace him.

A speculative effort to snatch Moises Caicedo from the palms of Chelsea saw a £110 million deal agreed with Brighton before the Reds were eventually gazumped by the deep pockets of Todd Boehly.

The failed pursuit then saw Liverpool return for Lavia, only for him to also opt for a move to Stamford Bridge over Anfield.

The public nature of that pursuit was a distant departure from the manner in which the club typically conduct their business.

Whether that tactic was solely deployed as a result of Schmadtke’s influence is difficult to say with certainty, but the club soon found itself between a rock and a hard place as a consequence.

It left Liverpool with more than a splattering of egg on their face as Lavia was said to have been perturbed by feeling like a “second choice” to Caicedo.

2R0M429 Southampton's Romeo Lavia during the Premier League match at City Ground, Nottingham. Picture date: Monday May 8, 2023.

After three staggered bids across a two-week window all fell below Southampton‘s £50 million asking price, the Reds agreed a £60 million deal for the Belgian shortly after the Caicedo move fell through.

Even if Liverpool had signed Lavia, the visible desperation stemming from the saga playing out so publicly left plenty to be desired as far as negotiation tactics go.

It is, of course, also impossible to determine Schamdtke’s role in proceedings, but there was a discernible difference in strategy that, at times, left the club found wanting.

It was reported during the club’s attempts to lure Caicedo and Andre to Anfield that CEO Billy Hogan was the man leading those negotiations with Brighton and Fluminense.

If Ward was at the forefront of the Mac Allister deal and Hogan was the key figure as far as Caicedo and Andre were concerned, is there an argument that Liverpool are still yet to fill the all-encompassing role that Michael Edwards vacated?


Tying up loose ends

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, August 19, 2023: Liverpool's Wataru Endo during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and AFC Bournemouth at Anfield. Liverpool won 3-1. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Liverpool’s search for a No. 6 finally came to an end when Wataru Endo arrived from Stuttgart for a reported £16.25 million fee.

At 30 years of age, the signing raised eyebrows and led some fans to question whether the Japan captain was an adequate replacement for Fabinho.

Ryan Gravenberch completed the midfield reboot on deadline day but his role within the side is still up for some debate.

The Dutchman described himself as a “box-to-box” midfielder upon his unveiling, which came after the Reds were reported to be in the market for a “multi-functional” option.

As far as midfield overhauls go, this was perhaps the most comprehensive in the club’s history.

Liverpool’s options are almost unrecognisable from 2022/23 and Schmadtke’s German influence appears, at least externally, to have been at the front and centre of that transition.

Upon his arrival, the club’s new sporting director explained the structural differences between English and German football.

He insisted “Klopp sets the priorities” when referencing where the key decisions are made, adding: “We then work with data analysts and scouts, [Klopp] will then choose from a list of players who he’d like to work with.

“After that, I will approach the targets and clubs. And in the end, the owners must also be satisfied with the investments.”

The involvement of other figures in various deals across the summer suggests there is a full team at play when it comes to making signings happen.

Whether the overhaul is a successful one is something only time can answer, but there looks to have been tangible interest in all four of Liverpool’s summer incomings prior to Schmadtke’s arrival.

This backs up his own assertions that the manager is still very much hands-on when it comes to the recruitment process and the extent of Schmadtke’s involvement remains uncertain.

The club will ultimately have to decide whether Schmadtke’s summer is enough to warrant a longer-term stay – and the man himself will have to decipher whether this is what he wants moving forward.

Upcoming transfer windows are unlikely to be any more straightforward, but the German at least now has a firm grasp of the scale of the ongoing operation.