Who is Richard Hughes? Liverpool's next sporting director

Departing Bournemouth technical director Richard Hughes is set to take over as Liverpool's director of football, working under the returning Michael Edwards.

Jurgen Klopp is not the only key figure who will leave Liverpool this year. As well as the manager, it was confirmed that assistant manager Pep Lijnders would also depart at the end of the season, along with Klopp’s trusted lieutenant Peter Krawietz and Elite Development Coach Vitor Matos.

Meanwhile, interim sporting director, Jorg Schmadtke has already gone.

That means, along with a new manager search, Liverpool are undergoing a structural shake-up in the post-Klopp era.

Popular former transfer chief Michael Edwards has been convinced by the Reds' FSG owners to return in an over-arching leadership role, while Hughes is the man who will take up the position of sporting director.

Who is Richard Hughes?

Set to leave his current role as technical director at Bournemouth this summer, Hughes is highly regarded in football circles.

The 44-year-old is a former Bournemouth midfielder, who played at Dean Court across two spells at the club; first, from 1998 to 2002 and again from 2012 until his retirement from playing in 2014. 

In between, he played for Portsmouth, from 2002 to 2011, and was a regular fixture during Pompey’s Premier League heyday.

He was infamously head-butted by Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo in 2007, earning the superstar a red card, an incident he later described to the Play Up Pompey podcast as a ‘career highlight’. 

After hanging up his boots, he joined Eddie Howe’s recruitment team at Bournemouth before eventually moving into his Technical Director post. 

He has overseen signings like Nathan Ake, Callum Wilson, Dominic Solanke, Tyrone Mings and Lloyd Kelly throughout his time on the south coast.

Nottingham, England, 23rd December 2023. Dominic Solanke of Bournemouth celebrates scoring his three goals by keeping the match ball during the Premier League match at the City Ground, Nottingham. Picture credit should read: Andrew Yates / Sportimage

Moreover, Hughes was instrumental in the hiring of manager Andoni Iraola as replacement for Gary O’Neil last summer with owner Bill Foley disclosing his role in the process to the Men In Blazers podcast. 

“When we had the opportunity, it came to us from Richard Hughes, our technical director. He came to myself and to Neill Blake, the CEO, and then we started talking about it,” he said.

Iraola endured a rocky start to life in the Premier League but went on to oversee a seven-game unbeaten run which included a 3-0 win away at Manchester United in December. 

Perhaps interestingly, Iraola also shares an agent with Xabi Alonso.

'Dealing with human performance'

Hughes, who grew up in Milan, Italy, was a youth team player for Atalanta before joining Arsenal as a trainee. He never made the grade at Highbury under Arsene Wenger and eventually departed for Bournemouth to carve out a career lower down the leagues. The Glasgow-born midfielder was good enough, however, to win five senior Scotland caps. 

“The thing about recruitment, you’re dealing with humans and human performance so all you can do is to be as knowledgeable as possible, have as much information as possible and hope that you make more good decisions than bad,” he told Bournemouth’s official website of his role in 2019. 

“Here, character and attitude is such a huge aspect of the players we have and the culture that Eddie’s instilled at the club. That means that finding information out about a player beyond what you can see in the 90 minutes is more important. 

“That’s something which we’ve always been big on but we’ve increased our efforts in finding out as much as we can about the individuals that we’re bringing into the building. 

“It’s not a science, because in very few cases can you answer exactly what a player is going to be like under a manager at a club at a given time, as well as all the circumstances that affect the happiness, mood and performances of a player. 

“They’re all things that to an extent aren’t in your control but you have to have as much information as possible when you make that signing – and hopefully as we’ve gone on and got more experienced in this side of things we’ve been able to do that better than when we started.”

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