Liverpool ready to give Dalglish the job
Liverpool's owners yesterday opened talks with Kenny Dalglish about offering their caretaker manager the position on a permanent basis.
John W Henry and Tom Werner, principal backers of the Fenway Sports Group consortium that owns the club, arrived on Merseyside on Thursday and, despite watching Liverpool's limp elimination from the Europa League at the hands of Braga, yesterday formally started negotiations with Dalglish over a two-year deal.
The 59-year-old, who replaced Roy Hodgson in January, is believed to want a four-year deal.
Dalglish has required just 14 games -- of which he has lost four -- to convince Henry and Werner that he is the man to whom they should entrust the task of rebuilding the club, which is testament to how quickly and efficiently he has stabilised Anfield after 18 months of chaos.
When FSG arrived at Anfield in October, buying the club for £300m and ending the unhappy reign of Tom Hicks and George Gillett, they favoured replacing Hodgson at the end of their first campaign with a young manager, used to working under a sporting director, around whom they could build a new dynasty.
Hodgson's failure to arrest Liverpool's early-season slide led to his departure, so Dalglish was initially appointed purely to ensure the club ended the season in relative calm. The master plan remained the same.
The search for the right candidate to replace the Scot continued, with FSG examining the credentials of a number of European managers.
Andre Villas-Boas of FC Porto, Jurgen Klopp, who has guided Borussia Dortmund to the top of the Bundesliga, and Marseille's Didier Deschamps are all known to have been considered.
But, despite lingering concerns over how viable a prospect he is in the long term -- as evidenced by the length of the contract on offer -- it has become increasingly clear to FSG that dismissing Dalglish was simply not an option.
The Scot has overseen victories over both Manchester United and Chelsea, while Liverpool's form has been such that a top-six finish seems guaranteed, though the vagaries of the FA Cup draw means that they may miss out on a place in Europe for the first time in more than a decade.
FSG had hoped to wait for as long as possible before confirming Dalglish's appointment -- as well as that of his first-team coach, Steve Clarke -- but Henry and Werner recognise the need to act quickly if they are to rebuild the playing squad this summer.
After overseeing the recruitment of Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll on transfer deadline day -- effectively spending the money raised by the sales of Fernando Torres and Ryan Babel -- FSG are expected to sanction a substantial foray into the transfer market this summer.
That will be shaped by Dalglish's wishes, though he will have to work alongside director of football strategy Damien Comolli as he looks to reshape his squad with as many as six new faces.
The Frenchman, appointed to oversee recruitment, will need to live up to the reputation that brought him to Anfield if he is to attract top-class talent to a team who may not be able even to offer the enticement of European football.
However, goalkeeper Pepe Reina is yet to admit defeat in the chase to return to continental combat, which used to be regarded as routine at Anfield.
"There are still nine games to play and we still have a chance of getting that fifth position," said the Spaniard.
"There's no doubt it's difficult with no Europe, because we are so used to watching Liverpool in midweek and those European nights at Anfield are really famous."
Though Suarez may be a hit with the Anfield faithful, two of his opponents may be reluctant to shake his hands after tomorrow's match against Sunderland.
The Uruguay international's deliberate handball in last summer's World Cup quarter-finals denied Ghana a place in the semi-finals: Suarez will face two of his opponents from that controversial night in Johannesburg at the Stadium of Light, with Steve Bruce able to call on both John Mensah and Asamoah Gyan.
After Suarez was dismissed for palming Dominic Adiyiah's injury-time header off the line with the score level, it was Gyan who missed the subsequent penalty; the match went to a shoot-out, Uruguay went through and ended Ghana's dreams of becoming the first African nation to reach the semi-finals. (© Daily Telegraph, London)
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