Former Director of Football with Liverpool, Damien Comolli, says that Brendan Rodgers' men lost their technical and spiritual leader when Luis Suarez signed for Barcelona.
Comolli was the man who brought the Uruguayan to the Premier League when he signed him from Ajax for £22.8m in January 2011.
And despite numerous misdemeanours on the pitch since then, Comolli says that Liverpool have not only lost a world class player, but also a “fantastic person”.
Speaking at the Web Summit in the RDS today, Comolli said: “He is a fantastic person. He is someone you want to have around, someone you want to have in your team because if you are going to go to war you want Suarez on your side because he is going to give you 100 per cent of every minute of every game of the season.
“He is smiling all day long on the training ground. He is a fantastic team-mate. He is a technical leader. We have seen the difference between Liverpool last year and this year so it shows how good a technical leader he is, how creative he is at what he does.
“He is also a spiritual leader because he is so enthusiastic and his work-rate is so phenomenal, he drags the whole team behind him.”
Comolli points to Daniel Sturridge’s injury as another factor that has played a part in Liverpool’s demise this season while he also pointed the finger of blame towards Rodgers.
“Purely in terms of numbers, the fact that they lost their two main strikers, one through injury with Sturridge and selling Luis was a massive blow for them. But watching them play they seem to have lost their team spirit. Last year they played with so much enthusiasm and togetherness and this year it looks like they have never played together.
“Watching them on Saturday against Newcastle, there is no spark in the team and I have always felt since the first day Luis joined the club that he was bringing that spark, people will follow him because he leads by example.
“It’s almost impossible to replace Luis, that’s why I spent so much money on him. As soon as a club decides to buy more than two or three players in a transfer window there is always a risk, and there is a risk you will lose the team spirit.
“Yes they are good players that they have signed, but how long will it take for them to settle in and getting negative results impacts those players and confidence in those players.”
Comolli also revealed that he believes that the reason he was sacked was because of the £20m signing of Jordan Henderson in 2011.
“When we signed Jordan Henderson, he got so much criticism, I got so much criticism,” Comolli said.
“I was never told why I was sacked but I was led to believe it was because we signed Jordan Henderson, and the owners were convinced he was not good enough.”
Comolli revealed that the club spent a huge amount of time and energy into researching and scouting the players before making their move and maintains that he was undervalued in the modern market by Sunderland.
“Looking at Jordan Henderson, we wanted legs, we wanted physicality, we wanted pace and creativity in the final third," he said.
"I was able to benchmark Jordan against the top midfield players in the Premier League, taking his age into consideration, taking the transfer fee into consideration, and in my position, you need to look at age, money and the player’s ability."
“Looking at all this, what he was doing for his age, and all due respect to Sunderland, he was definitely undervalued by the market. And I’ve been told we overvalued him. Even directors at Sunderland later said ‘you didn’t know what you were doing’.
“Jordan stood out at the time, when he was 20, because of the number of chances he created in the final third. He was very good at it. When you look at chances created in the final third in open play, you are the best player finishing in the top 5-10 [in the Premier League] every year.
“So when I saw Jordan in that area, I thought he’s definitely got something. Because when I was looking at it five years back, Henry, Lampard and Fabregas were there, so when he was there, I thought definitely he’s got something. It can’t be a coincidence, and now look at him.”
Comolli also defended the rationale behind the big-money move for Andy Carroll saying that it was a gamble which did not cost the club a great deal in the end.
The Director of Football oversaw the £35m transfer and points to Luis Suarez, who moved to the club at the same time, as a roaring success.
“We sold two players, we bought two players. We were fitter, younger, and we still had value. Because I told the owners we still have value, if it goes wrong with Andy Carroll, we’ve overpaid by €15m.
They got €20m back and they got incredible value on Suarez, not only by the money from Madrid but him taking them on his own to the Champions League.”