Liverpool's bid to sign Jude Bellingham now in doubt as sporting director quits role
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Liverpool sporting director Julian Ward has stunned the club by announcing he will step down from his role at the end of the season.
Ward is set to quit just one year after replacing Michael Edwards in the role.
Liverpool are said to be surprised and disappointed with Ward's decision.
He was only appointed as Edwards' successor in the summer and has been responsible for several key transfers, including the signings of Luis Diaz and Darwin Nunez.
He also played a major role in Mohamed Salah's new three-year deal worth £350,000 per week, which made the Egyptian the highest-paid player in the history of the club.
According to The Guardian, Ward has "told Liverpool he intends to take a break at the end of the season and has no intention of starting a job at a new club in the immediate future".
His upcoming departure, and the potential sale of Liverpool by owners Fenway Sports Group (FSG), has led to speculation over the club's transfer plans.
Doubts over Bellingham bid?
Liverpool were expected to make a move for Borussia Dortmund midfielder Jude Bellingham in the summer.
However, it is now unclear if this will still be the case with Ward planning to leave Liverpool – and with the added uncertainty of potential new owners.
His departure could also bring about major structural changes at Anfield, with the club potentially moving away from the sporting director model first introduced at the club in 2016.
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp is thought to favour the sporting director model and is said to have "a pivotal role in deciding how Liverpool's football operations should be run come the end of the season".
The club's chief executive, Billy Hogan, will also be involved in the final decision over whether Liverpool keep the sporting director role.
In the meantime, Liverpool are said to have "no reservations" over Ward continuing in the role until the end of the season.
But it remains to be seen what impact, if any, his upcoming departure will have when the next transfer window opens in January.
'We're in limbo'
Some Liverpool fans on social media are concerned by Ward's departure and its potential impact on signing Bellingham.
"I heard yesterday that LFC were making massive progress on the Jude Bellingham front but surely Ward resigning throws a spanner in the works? I know the recruitment team is more than one person but this ain't looking good," posted one fan on Twitter.
"No Jude Bellingham. If they had bagged him Julian Ward would be getting a pay rise not a sacking," added another.
A third wrote: "All quiet on the takeover front as well. Not good. We're in limbo and United might actually benefit from a quick sale etc."
While a fourth added: "What is happening at our club. Club up for sale. Staff leaving. FSG people stepping down. Fans need answers."