Blog > News & Trivia

Richard Hughes: Profile And 6 Best Signings Of New Liverpool Sporting Director

Richard Hughes: Profile And 6 Best Signings Of New Liverpool Sporting Director

A 3-0 win over Brighton & Hove Albion at the Vitality Stadium on 28 April made history for AFC Bournemouth, bringing them to a record total of 48 points in the Premier League, with three games of the season to go. The result took them into the top half of the table and level on points with Chelsea, despite them having a fraction of the west London club's budget. 

The man being hailed as the architect of this success is Spanish manager Andoni Iraola, appointed last summer following the controversial dismissal of another well-regarded young coach, Gary O'Neil. That decision — which received plenty of criticism at the time — is now looking like an astute one. And the key figure behind it, Bournemouth technical director Richard Hughes, is reaping the rewards.

Hughes is currently primed to join 19-time English champions Liverpool at the end of the season, moving on from Bournemouth after a very successful decade with the club. But who exactly is the new Liverpool sporting director? And what has he done during his career to mark him out as a key target for a club such as the Reds? In this article, these are the questions we'll be answering.

Who Is Richard Hughes?

Richard Hughes is part of a growing cohort of former professional players deciding to move into the directorial side of football after retiring. Hughes hung up his boots in 2014 after racking up 300 English Football League (EFL) appearances for Bournemouth, Portsmouth and Grimsby Town (he also got 5 caps for Scotland).

Given his playing time at the club, it made sense for Hughes to join Bournemouth's off-the-pitch team in 2014, after he retired. He already had a strong relationship with first team manager Eddie Howe, who he had played with at the south coast side earlier in his career, and he moved straight into the technical set-up. The club were promoted to the Premier League in 2014/15 and have remained there for seven of the nine years since. 

During this time, Hughes — who has the official title of technical director at AFC Bournemouth — has developed a reputation for his ability in the transfer market. The club have unearthed a series of talented players, establishing many in the first team and selling some of these players on for significant profits. This work has clearly got the attention of Liverpool, not least because there have been plenty of transfer dealings between the two clubs in recent years. However, before we dive into Hughes' forthcoming task at the Merseyside club, let's explain a little more what his current role at Bournemouth actually entails.

What Is A Technical Director In Football?

In football, a technical director is responsible for the overall management and strategic direction of the football-related side of the club. While other senior behind-the-scenes roles like Chief Executive Officer (CEO) will be more focused on the club's financial operations, technical directors will concentrate more on things such as player recruitment, staff recruitment, performance analysis, data, sports science, and long-term strategic planning.

The precise role of a technical director will differ from team to team, as each football club is structured in a different way. But in many ways, technical directors are very similar to sporting directors. They have a similar remit, with both responsible for making big decisions and implementing a long-term vision for football-related activities. The exact title tends to just depend on how the organisation itself is set up.

When Will Richard Hughes Join Liverpool?

Liverpool have been going through a period of transition as a club, both on and off the pitch. While young signings like Dominik Szoboszlai and Ryan Gravenberch continue to bed themselves into the first team following the departure of big names like Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino, off the field there has been plenty of change too. 

It's been almost two years since Liverpool had a permanent director of football; sporting director Michael Edwards (widely credited with putting together the side that won the 2019/20 Premier League title) departed in 2022 and his eventual interim replacement Jorg Schmadtke (appointed a year later) left the club at the end of January 2024. In that time, manager Jurgen Klopp appears to have assumed more power when it comes to transfers and recruitment, but with the German leaving himself this summer, the club hierarchy are looking to balance things out with the appointment of Richard Hughes. 

According to The Athletic, the man behind Hughes' appointment is Michael Edwards, the former sporting director who recently came back into the fold as the new CEO of Football for Liverpool's owners Fenway Sports Group (FSG). His new role includes "a broad range of responsibilities, including leading efforts to identify and recruit new leadership for Liverpool FC's football operation." That's where Hughes comes in — the current AFC Bournemouth technical director is set to start working at Liverpool on 1 June 2024.

"I am incredibly proud to be offered this opportunity. Liverpool FC is a unique club and I'm grateful to be given a chance to serve it in this capacity," said Hughes after news broke of his appointment. "People rightly talk about the rich history this organisation can boast, but it is the present and future which really excites me. Jurgen Klopp is leading an outstanding team and squad and alongside that the commitment to young players and their pathway to the first team is also outstanding."

Hughes will have his work cut out from the first day; as well as the new managerial appointment and the acquisition of talented players to bolster Liverpool's squad, there are also a number of influential first team stars (including Trent Alexander-Arnold and Virgil Van Djik) whose current contracts run out next summer. This will need to be resolved.

Richard Hughes Signings: 6 Of The Best

Hughes' appointment is largely a result of his excellent work at Bournemouth; in his early years at the club, he was particularly good at picking up and developing talented young English players, while in the last few years he has utitilised his intimate knowledge of football on the continent to spend more time dipping his toes in European markets. Here are a few of his best signings so far.

Dominic Solanke

When Solanke first signed for Bournemouth in 2019, his transfer fee of £20m (a club record) caused a few eyebrows to be raised. But since then, he's more than proved his worth. The English striker took a little time to get going, but he has now racked up 76 goals in 213 goals for the Cherries, and his 2023/24 tally of 18 goals is the most a Bournemouth player has ever scored in a Premier League campaign.

Nathan Ake

Nathan Ake's impressive performances at Bournemouth persuaded Pep Guardiola to bring the Netherlands international to Manchester City for a whopping £41m fee in 2020. Hughes may have taken a gamble spending a rumoured £20m on Ake in 2017, but it paid off, and he doubled his money on the dynamic and versatile defender, who has since gone on to win two Premier League titles.

Callum Wilson

Wilson joined Bournemouth just a few weeks after Hughes' appointment, and in the following six years was a consistent Premier League goalscorer, leading the line for the club during some of the most successful years in their history. He cost roughly £3m from Coventry, so when Wilson joined Newcastle in 2020 for a reported fee of £20m, Bournemouth recorded a tasty £17m profit.

Aaron Ramsdale

Ramsdale may have had his Number 1 jersey at Arsenal swiped by the impressive new signing David Raya, but he remains one of England's best goalkeepers and is likely to head to Euro 2024 as a backup for Jordan Pickford. Ramsdale cost Bournemouth around £800,000 in 2017, and just three years later he returned to his newly-promoted boyhood club Sheffield United for a fee of £18.5m, allowing the Cherries to secure a huge profit.

Tyrone Mings

Mings has been a mainstay in the Aston Villa first team since signing for the club in 2019, so the £25m they paid for him after an underwhelming spell at Bournemouth doesn't look too bad for the west Midlands side in hindsight. Still, it was an unbelievable bit of business from Hughes; Mings was bought for £8m and played just 23 games for the south coast club, so the £17m profit they made on him is a testament to the technical director's negotiation skills.

Nat Phillips

Phillips is the only player on this list who Bournemouth didn't sign permanently, but his impact was significant regardless. The Liverpool centre-back was brought in a short loan deal in January 2022 and he played a crucial role in guiding Bournemouth into the automatic promotion spots and taking them up to the Premier League. A permanent deal wasn't agreed, but with just two losses in his 17 Championship games, his impact on loan is another example of Hughes' ability in the transfer market.

Richard Hughes Signings: A Few That Haven't Worked Out (Yet)

Unfortunately, even someone with a record like Hughes' is likely to make the odd mistake…

Jordan Ibe

There was plenty of hype around Liverpool youngster Jordan Ibe when he signed for Bournemouth in 2016. His £15m transfer fee was a record for the club, but the promising winger failed to deliver, scoring a meagre 5 goals in 92 appearances for the Cherries.

Lewis Grabban

Experienced EFL striker Lewis Grabban had a good first stint with Bournemouth, but his second spell at the club was underwhelming. He was reportedly signed for a substantial fee of £7m only 18 months after being sold to Norwich City, and he never lived up to that price tag.

Max Gradel

Ivory Coast international Max Gradel caused plenty of excitement when he signed for Bournemouth in 2015, but he was plagued with injuries during his time at the club and only scored one league goal before departing to French side Toulouse.

Despite these occasional flops, there still aren't many technical directors in British football with a more impressive record than Richard Hughes. However, one man who is even more respected in the game is Dan Ashworth. Check out our guide to Ashworth's best signings for more information about the sporting director Manchester United are attempting to bring in this summer.