Liverpool fans were shocked on Thursday morning by the news that Julian Ward is set to leave his role as the club’s sporting director.

Ward took over the role from Michael Edwards last summer, who departed after four and a half years in the position.

Although he usually kept a low-profile publicly, Edwards was partially responsible for Liverpool’s big transfers over recent seasons, including Mohamed Salah, Virgil van Dijk and Alisson Becker.

The Liverpool Echo claim that the club are ‘disappointed’ and ‘surprised’ at his successor’s decision, but say that Ward, who was played a key role in the signing of Darwin Nunez in the summer, will continue to oversee transfer strategy until his departure at the end of the season.

No reason for Ward’s decision has been given, and any possible explanations are purely speculative at this stage.

Here are five potential reasons why Ward might be leaving Liverpool.

He wants to take a break

The Echo says that Ward has informed Liverpool of his desire to take a break come the end of the season, which could be the main reason behind his departure.

He has been at Anfield in various roles over the past 11 years, so he may feel now is the time to have a rest.

Possible uncertainty over FSG sale

Ward has been at Liverpool throughout the tenure of current owners Fenway Sports Group.

But with the news that FSG are ‘exploring a sale’, as per the company’s chairman, Tom Werner, there is currently uncertainty as to the future hierarchy of Liverpool – which is surely almost certain to change should new owners come in.

Potential issues over Jude Bellingham signing

Borussia Dortmund and England star Jude Bellingham is one of Liverpool’s top targets in midfield. But they face major competition for his signature, with a host of other top European clubs interested.

The signing is already complicated by that factor, and the possibility of the Reds not qualifying for the Champions League next season.

It is a massive potential deal for Liverpool this summer, but an exceptionally tricky one, for numerous reasons – and may be a reason why Ward has elected to move on.

He could move to another club

Ward has informed his employers that he is wanting to take a break from football – but he could still decide to move to another club next season.

If an offer from another team comes up that the sporting director would find difficult to turn down, he might take it up.

Liverpool’s failure to sign midfield cover

Liverpool were unable to sign a midfielder on a permanent deal last summer, despite attempting to sign Monaco’s Aurelien Tchouameni. The Frenchman went to Real Madrid instead.

They did complete the loan signing of Arthur Melo, but he has made just one appearance for the club and is currently out of action due to injury. With other injuries in the midfield department this season, Liverpool have missed cover in that area.