Investment in ‘young and exciting’ talent is the way forward

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Since NESV took ownership of Liverpool last month, the fans have been eagerly awaiting John W Henry’s first move.

It has now been made in the form of a new signing for the club; not a big-name player, but a new Director of Football Strategy in the person of Damien Comolli.

Comolli has left St Etienne to come to Anfield, and according to Henry, he will work with manager Roy Hodgson to ‘identify exciting young footballing talent’. He added that the long-term intention was the scouting, recruitment, player development and all of the other aspects necessary to ‘build and sustain a club able to consistently compete at the highest level in European football’.

Of course, terms like ‘exciting’ and ‘young’ are not exactly objective; let’s not forget that Djimi Traore, erstwhile known as ‘the new Zidane’ in some quarters, was deemed to be thus by some people.

However, this subjectivity notwithstanding, it appears that the strategy to be adopted will be that along the lines of mining the globe for its hidden gems at little or no cost, bringing them to Anfield and developing them into world beaters.

This is bound to appeal to a huge majority of Liverpool fans, especially after a seemingly endless parade of big name disappointments has come, and not completely gone, in recent years.

So, let’s examine Comolli’s mining credentials in more detail to see if we can expect him to unearth copper or gold. And where better to start than those experts in the ‘let’s nurture and watch them grow’ modus operandi; Arsenal.

Frenchman Comolli joined the Gunners from the Monaco youth set-up in 1996, and spent seven seasons with them as European scout, assisting Arsene Wenger.

During this time, he was instrumental in helping to bring Thierry Henry, Robert Pires, Emmanuel Eboue and Gael Clichy to Arsenal; of whom the latter two are still playing for the club. He also discovered Kolo Toure, whose signature Arsenal secured for only £150,000 and who, seven years later, they sold to Manchester City for around £16 million; a not too shabby profit.

However, there is arguably a blot on his Arsenal copy book in the form of Francis Jeffers. The so-called ‘fox in the box’, turned out to be neither foxy nor boxy at Highbury, as he scored only four goals in three years for Arsenal after joining them from Everton for £8 million in 2002.

In 2005, Comolli became director of football across north London at Tottenham, and the following year managed to beat off strong competition from Manchester United to bring Dimitar Berbatov to White Hart Lane.

Of course United did eventually get the Bulgarian player in 2008, but only after paying Spurs almost £31 million for him; not bad considering that the London club had bought him for less than £11 million from Bayer Leverkusen in the first place.

Comolli also played a major part in the signing of Luka Modric, Roman Pavlyuchenko, and the player everyone is talking about at the moment; Gareth Bale.

Personally, I welcome the arrival of Comolli and think that if he can root out a Bale or a Pires for us, then that can only be a good thing; I still shudder when I think of the likes of Dossena and Voronin darkening the Anfield door.

Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.

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