Even before the paperwork had been signed, the mobile phones of a number of senior figures at Liverpool had started to trill.
As lawyers at Anfield were agreeing the final details of the £6 million severance package which would end Rafael Benítez’s six-year reign as manager, the vultures had started to circle.
Each call brought notification from the agent of another manager eager to throw his hat into the ring as a contender to succeed the Spaniard, each conversation designed to help each client gain a crucial advantage in the race for the most high-profile job likely to come on the domestic market this summer
To those conducting the search – Christian Purslow, the club’s managing director, and Kenny Dalglish, the Academy ambassador whose name still echoes from the Kop — such enthusiasm, such interest even before the die was cast is evidence that Liverpool remains the sort of job no ambitious, self-confident manager can turn down.
It is not hard to see why. Benítez lost his job because he guided the club to 19 defeats last season on their way to a seventh-place league finish.
They were eliminated from the Champions League at the group stage, knocked out of the FA Cup by Reading. The Spaniard is no tough act to follow.
In such circumstances, the breed of man who turns their hand to management will see only the tantalising prospect of glory. A manager who rebuilds Liverpool will see his reputation buffed, his prospects improved and his place in history at a club with a longer memory than most secured. To the victor, the spoils.
The outstanding favourite, of course, will not have instructed his agent to make such a phone-call. Roy Hodgson has no need to advertise his wares. His achievements — most recently at Fulham, but at various stages on his nomadic journey through the game — speak for themselves, as do his contacts.
He has already been spoken of inside Anfield as the sort of statesmanlike, reserved, respected figure who can return a club which has lost its path to the 'Liverpool Way', that undefinable set of values which once made it great.
His style is diametrically opposed to that of his predecessor, on and off the pitch, his taste for politicking absent, just what is required at a crucial, sensitive juncture in Liverpool’s history.
Hodgson seems an ideal candidate to offer Liverpool the “fresh start” which Martin Broughton, the club’s chairman, insisted was required in the statement which confirmed Benítez’s exit.
Yet, regardless of who should follow in the Spaniard’s footsteps, there can be no fresh start for the club while Tom Hicks and George Gillett remain in situ at Anfield.
There will be no end to the concerns of the Royal Bank of Scotland, increasingly frustrated with the Americans’ apparent unrealistic asking price of an asset they have vowed to sell, and there will be no end to the concerns of the club’s most valuable assets, the faces of its quest for worldwide monetisation that the £237 million debt the Americans have laden onto Liverpool precludes competing in the transfer market and thus on the pitch.
Whoever the new manager should be, Steven Gerrard, the new England captain, remains undecided on his future, while Fernando Torres, Yossi Benayoun and Javier Mascherano are similarly unsettled. They will decide whether they stick or twist not because of who is sitting in the dugout but because of how much money the new manager is granted to spend to bring in more players of their own class.
Should they leave, the club’s supporters will watch with interest how much of the £130 million or so their sales may raise is pumped back into the squad.
It was that issue which proved particularly thorny in the discussions between Benítez and his board which convinced the club to offer him a severance deal. It may be that his insistence that he be granted all funds raised cost him a job he desperately hoped to retain.
There can be no guarantees, at this stage, that a new manager will be offered different rules of engagement to his predecessor.
Benítez’s reign has already been written off in some quarters as an anticlimax — or worse — which endured for so long only by virtue of the lingering gratitude felt by supporters for the miracle of Istanbul.
Should there be no change in the root cause of Liverpool’s decline, though, in two, five or 10 years’ time, it may have started to look like the dying breaths of a golden age.
No manager, no matter how talented, will be able to reverse the decline which seems inexorable under the club’s current ownership. Should Dalglish and Purslow, too, endure, they may find that when it comes to replace the replacement, their phones lie silent.