The future of Rennes midfielder Slyvain Marveaux has brought about the emergence of Damien Comolli from the shadows at Anfield since his appointment as Director of Football Strategy at Liverpool.
Comolli’s arrival at Anfield has been received with cautious optimism from Liverpool fans. While at Arsenal, he discovered the likes of Gael Clichy and Kolo Toure. The duo cost Arsenal a combined total of £550,000. Toure spent seven years with the Gunners, never making less than 40 appearances in a season, winning a Premier League title and the FA Cup before leaving for a reported £24 million fee. Clichy has played for Arsenal over 250 times. At only 25, he has the years ahead of him to earn Arsenal a large fee if they opt to sell him but Arsene Wenger has no reason to offload the talented full back. Comolli was undoubtedly a success at Highbury. But until recently, his time at Tottenham was regarded as a disaster. Comolli defected to White Hart Lane in 2005 and was sacked in 2008 with the club in the relegation zone. Many of Comolli’s purchases, like Gareth Bale, Alan Hutton and Benoit Assou-Ekotto, failed to impress under Comolli’s reign but have since played large parts in the club’s ascension to the Champions League. Now, with the power of hindsight, we can say that Comolli made some very good signings for the North Londoners.
Why the cautious optimism then? Well, much-loved former Tottenham manager Martin Jol claimed that Comolli undermined him and signed players under his nose without his seal of approval. Comolli denied these claims. When Jol was relieved of his duties, Comolli recommended Juande Ramos to the Spurs board and he was soon appointed. Ramos was a disaster and left the club in the relegation zone with only two points from eight games until Harry Redknapp replaced him and saved the day. Comolli was shown the door along with Ramos.
Liverpool’s interest in the soon-to-be out of contract 24-year-old French player Slyvain Marveaux is likely to have stemmed from Damien Comolli, who has recently attended Rennes games to scout the player. Comolli was working with French side Saint-Etienne before Liverpool acquired his services and would have been aware of Marveaux’s ability and his availability this Summer. Comolli’s first challenge will be to beat off interest from Lyon and Marseille (and possibily even from Chelsea and Manchester United if newspaper reports from last Summer are to be believed) to land the former France under-21 international.
This won’t be easy. Marveaux, who can play on the left wing or in an attacking midfield role, impressed many onlookers in the 2009/10 season, scoring ten league goals from midfield in 35 appearances. This is all the more impressive as it was achieved while playing for a struggling Rennes side. This season he has been plagued by injuries, but Marveaux certainly wouldn’t be far from the starting eleven of Lyon or Marseille. This is why the two French giants could be a better option than the Merseysiders. If the January transfer window spending from new owners Fenway Sports Group (FSG) is an indication that Liverpool are willing to spend big again in the Summer, then Comolli and Kenny Dalglish are likely to chase top quality wide men, with the likes of Ashley Young, Eden Hazard and Alexis Sanchez thought to be targets.
Marveaux would currently walk straight into Kenny Dalglish’s first team on the left. But if good money is splashed on a quality winger, Marveaux could find himself beginning his time in Merseyside on the bench. With Steven Gerrard and Raul Meireles capable of playing in the attacking midfield role, Marveaux won’t get much playing time in that position either. At the very best, it’s likely that Marveaux would have similar playing time at Liverpool to someone like Yossi Benayoun, whereas at Lyon or Marseille he could easily find himself being one of the team’s most important players and, based on current league standings, playing Champions League football next season. Unless Liverpool win the Europa League or somehow snatch 5th place, the Reds won’t be playing European football next season which would further reduce Marveaux’s playing time.
Of course, Marveaux is a 24-year-old footballer so he probably has a large ego and full faith in his ability to break into the Liverpool side, in which case Comolli won’t face much of a struggle to sign him. The Daily Mirror claim the player was in attendance at Anfield to witness Wolves beat Liverpool 1-0 in December, so he certainly seems interested.
With fans firmly behind both the manager and the owners for the first time in quite sometime, Comolli remains the sole divisive figure at Anfield. If Marveaux signs for the Reds his performances could very well dictate how Liverpool fans feel towards their Director of Football Strategy. Of course, Comolli will feel he has nothing to prove. However with the doubts cast over his character by Martin Jol, the general mistrust felt towards the Director of Football position by the English, a few flops (Darren Bent, David Bentley) on his CV and the almost militant skepticism of some Liverpool fans (thanks to Hicks, Gillett and Parry), if his signings don’t deliver he could well become a figue of disdain at Anfield, as he was at Tottenham.
Don’t get it wrong, while Comolli played a part in negotiating the transfers of both Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll they were both Dalglish signings. It is widely believed that Rafa Benitez, shortly after bringing Dalglish back to the Liverpool setup, sent Kenny to Amsterdam to scout Suarez. Alan Shearer also revealed in the days following the capture of Carroll that Kenny had openly spoke to him about his admiration of the £35 million buy. The Liverpool caretaker manager is unlikely to know too much about Slyvain Marveaux, other than what Comolli has told him and although Comolli will need the green light from Dalglish to secure Marveaux’s signature, he will be very much a Comolli buy, if the deal ever happens.
Liverpool have a disastrous recent record with free transfers as Phillip Degen, Andriy Voronin, Joe Cole and Milan Jovanovic have all been failures in a Red shirt. Fabio Aurelio has been the only free transfer to work out moderately well. If Comolli lands Marveaux and he is a success it will go some way towards easing the concerns that some Liverpool fans might have.