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How ‘quiet’ Gordon turned around Liverpool

Jurgen Klopp with Michael Edwards and Mike Gordon (Image: Photo by John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)

Always interesting to get a view on FSG from across the Atlantic, and the Boston Globe have published an article on Michael Gordon, who they headline as the the quiet part owner of the Red Sox, who has “turned around Liverpool.”

Here’s a taste of the article, regarding his working relationship with the Reds now transfer guru, Michael Edwards.

His first day on the job, in March of 2012, Gordon flew to Florida for a day of meetings at Henry’s sprawling lakefront estate in Boca Raton There, he met Michael Edwards, a former player who was on Liverpool’s analytics staff.

Gordon quickly gathered that Edwards was sharp, quick-witted, and unafraid to express his opinion with a blunt directness. Like Gordon, Edwards lives for data, but prefers to stay out of the limelight. With the use of analytics growing in European soccer, Gordon found a kindred spirit.

Gordon and Edwards understood the Premier League battlefield. Liverpool could not win a spending spree among the league’s financial heavies, who could outbid the rest of the sporting world. Team-building in European soccer is an entirely different enterprise than American fans are used to. The “transfer” system that governs transactions is in effect a global bazaar with no spending caps: Teams pay other teams sometimes exorbitant transfer fees to buy out a player’s existing contract before lawyers and agents hammer out new contracts and advertising and publicity splits. The most well-heeled clubs tend to snag the game’s biggest stars.

The path to sustained success, Gordon and Edwards believed, required a different strategy, similar to investing in the stock market: Buy players who were undervalued and sell players who were overvalued. And then, do it again, and again.

In order to gain an edge, Gordon needed Liverpool to take risks and hire risk-takers.

“Risk is not a bad thing. It’s a tool,” said Gordon. “Using it well and to your effect will generate results that are outsize to what you would expect.”

To be successful — and hedge those risksGordon needed to know what players were worth, with precision, both in the present and the future. Edwards would help teach him.

In the coming months — working from Boston, rising at 4 in the morning, Gordon began to put the pieces in place. He and Edwards and the data analytics department set about creating and expanding data sets on players, assigning values to their skills, even their temperaments and personalities.

As Gordon saw it: “Value has to be assigned in numerical terms for every player. They have to be ordered, ranked. It has to fit within what you might consider the broader portfolio, which is the team.”

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