Liverpool have made the first steps towards appointing Louis van Gaal as sporting director after meeting with him in Portugal last week.
There are, though, complications as to whether the Dutchman’s methods match the way the Fenway Sports Group are seeking to restructure the club.
Van Gaal has been spending the summer at his house near Albufeira in the Algarve and it is understood that Ian Ayre, Liverpool’s managing director, flew out to meet him last week.
There are very few available candidates that possess Van Gaal’s pedigree. He has been out of work since falling into dispute with Ajax and Johan Cruyff.
While Van Gaal wants to be a head coach or manager, and has had plenty of offers, he recognizes that Liverpool is a unique opportunity for him, even if it means working in a different role.
He has won titles in the Netherlands, Spain and Germany with Ajax, Barcelona and Bayern Munich respectively and wants to test himself in English football.
The difficulties lie in Van Gaal being able to adapt to how Liverpool want their new structure to work. The first issue will be how comfortable the new manager would be working with Van Gaal, especially if it is a young manager like Brendan Rodgers or Roberto Martínez.
Rodgers and Martinez are the leading contenders to succeed Kenny Dalglish. Martinez met John W Henry, the principal owner, in Miami last week while Rodgers is thought to be back in serious contention after initially declining a meeting with Liverpool.
Such is FSG’s admiration for Martínez that, after sacking Damien Comolli in April, they considered approaching him for the role of director of football. At Wigan he has had a lot of control about the way the club works and he will be reluctant to cede too much influence to a sporting director at Liverpool.
Van Gaal has a reputation for setting the highest standards and being forthright to the point of arrogance. When he was technical director of Ajax in 2004, his demands caused him to fall out with head coach Ronald Koeman. Van Gaal ended up resigning.
Another issue is that, in all his previous jobs, Van Gaal has taken a substantial staff with him, made up of coaches and analysts. It is understood that he would want to bring key people with him to help infuse his football philosophy.
Andries Jonker, his former assistant at Bayern, has announced that he will be leaving Munich this summer, giving rise to speculation that he will be joining up with Van Gaal again. Van Gaal would also want to bring Frans Hoek with him, the innovative goalkeeping coach who Pepe Reina credits with developing his distinctive style at Barcelona.
Liverpool, though, have apparently refused to accept Steve Clarke’s resignation as first team coach, and only appointed Kevin Keen as a coach last summer, so may seek some continuity in this area. Then, of course, any new manager is surely going to want to bring some trusted coaching staff along with him.
To add to this complicated picture, FSG are also contemplating appointing a technical director as well as a sporting director. They felt that Comolli was taking on too much as director of football and want to divide the responsibilities into two jobs. Pep Segura, the technical manager of the Liverpool academy, is the favourite for the technical director role.
The next step for the owners is to decide whether to meet Van Gaal personally and find a way to resolve the issues that his appointment would bring, or whether to look for a candidate who, while not having Van Gaal’s track record, would prove a more straightforward fit for the way they want to run the club.