Liverpool's American owners have made contact with Andre Villas-Boas in the past two weeks, in an attempt to establish his interest in taking over at Anfield, where Kenny Dalglish was yesterday dismissed.
It is understood that Villas-Boas is interested and considers Liverpool to be the kind of high-profile marquee job which would be the appropriate next step for him, following his unhappy nine months at Chelsea, where he was dismissed in March.
Roma, who sacked manager Luis Enrique after they failed to reach any European competition despite the investment of the American entrepreneur Thomas di Benedetto, are understood to have made their own approach to the 34-year-old -- before Liverpool's owners made their own inquiries.
But sources in Portugal suggest that Liverpool may be a more attractive proposition and one that Villas-Boas considers to be the bigger name.
There was uncertainty last night about whether Villas-Boas would be free to coach an English club, under the terms of his severance from Stamford Bridge. A Spanish club is also understood to have made inquiries as to his availability.
The Wigan Athletic chairman, Dave Whelan, said last night that Roberto Martinez had not been approached, though the 38-year-old does appear to meet the criteria of Liverpool owners Fenway Sports Group (FSG) in many ways, having introduced a footballing ethos which runs through all levels at the club.
Rafael Benitez, who was yesterday providing professional input to a coaching course for the Football Association of Wales, has received no contact from FSG. Despite rumours that he might work in tandem with Martinez, the former Liverpool manager is understood to not consider that a realistic working arrangement.
The biggest question mark above the name of Martinez (right) is whether Liverpool supporters would consider him a big enough name for their club. The Americans have so far been careful to take supporters' views into account before making their moves in what has been a more difficult two years at Anfield than they had imagined.
Villas-Boas' agent Carlos Goncalves said when the manager was sacked by Roman Abramovich in March that his client had "no intention of even thinking about football until the summer," though recent attempts to secure Villas-Boas' services as a media commentator for the forthcoming European Championships are understood to have been affected by the Liverpool and Roma approaches.
These have put his plans into a state of some doubt, according to Portuguese sources.
Liverpool managing director Ian Ayre will today provide a fuller explanation of the reasoning behind the dismissal of Dalglish, which was confirmed yesterday afternoon after the meeting with FSG, which the Glaswegian had sought, in Boston on Monday resulted in principal owner John W Henry telling him of their frustration with his poor use of club resources in the transfer market.
The £110m spent on seven players did not bring the improvement FSG anticipated. A Carling Cup win came after an unconvincing display against Championship side Cardiff City and after scraping an FA Cup semi-final over Everton, Henry was at Wembley to witness a poor defeat to Chelsea in the final.
The FA Cup semi-final took place several days after the Americans had dismissed director of football Damien Comolli and Dalglish said, in a rare candid TV interview with his daughter Kelly, broadcast that day, that you never knew who "the next bullet" might be for.
Liverpool's search for a replacement for Comolli -- an executive who wields enough power to hold the manager to account -- looks like the most significant recruitment job at Anfield, where FSG last week also dismissed director of communications Ian Cotton, another executive whose lack of executive authority in Dalglish's company caused the PR disaster of last season's Luis Suarez/Patrice Evra affair.
With all three positions now vacant, FSG appear to be back where they started, in their attempt to rebuild Liverpool out of the mess they inherited from Tom Hicks and George Gillett. Chairman Tom Werner last night appeared to characterise Dalglish's role as that of a caretaker when he paid tribute to him.
"Kenny came into the club as manager at our request at a time when (we) really needed him," he said.
"He didn't ask to be manager; he was asked to assume the role. He did so because he knew the club needed him. He did more than anyone else to stabilise Liverpool over the past year and a half and to get us once again looking forward.
"We owe him a great debt of gratitude. However, results in the Premier League have been disappointing and we believe to build on the progress that has already been made, we need to make a change."
But Dalglish, who was appointed permanently on a three-year contract, will not see things that way. His friend and former team-mate Terry McDermott said last night that the 61-year-old would be "hurting deeply". (© Independent News Service)