Liverpool are firmly on track to win their first-ever Premier League title under the guidance of Jurgen Klopp. Unfortunately, all good things come to an end, and Jurgen Klopp may actually leave Anfield as early as 2022. With that in mind, we look at five potential replacements for the gregarious gaffer.
The Prime Candidate – Mauricio Pochettino
Though his time at Tottenham undeservedly went the way of worthless predecessors like Christian Gross and Juande Ramos, Mauricio Pochettino is sure to be a popular pick for any high-profile managerial vacancy. Joining the club in 2014, and replacing Tim Sherwood – who could get Tottenham no higher than sixth in 2013/14 – the Argentine tactician transformed Tottenham despite having a relatively low budget.
At Liverpool, Pochettino would inherit his easiest gig yet. Maintaining the standards is a different challenge altogether, but he remains a young man, and will have the optimal balance of youthful progressivism and age-old wisdom come the time of Klopp’s departure.
Similarities between Klopp and Pochettino have been noticed (if rebuked by the latter) in the past, and it stands to reason that his sides always gave Liverpool a good game at Anfield during his time in England to-date. While Pochettino could easily be well-settled at a foreign club, or as an international manager, by the time Klopp leaves Anfield, he may well be tempted to get one last shot at Premier League glory.
Proven but Unproven – Massimiliano Allegri
Six league titles, four cup wins, and two Champions League finals represent a very good return for a man who has never managed outside of Italy. Juventus were already on the rise before he took over but he has also restored their standing as one of the top clubs in Europe. Of course, that lack of foreign league experience may work against him, as the Premier League is a different beast entirely to Serie A.
While the Anfield dressing room is by no means one with unduly inflated egos, it still needs a high-profile manager to keep the positive vibe going. As proven by men like Antonio Conte, Maurizio Sarri and Carlo Ancelotti, Italian managers can rule with their typical sense of passion to great effect. All three won some form of silverware in their respective debut seasons at Stamford Bridge, but their impact was short-lived.
One needs only look at the reign of Fabio Capello, as manager of England, for a hint of how quickly it can all unravel under a thoroughly professional, but staunch and authoritative Italian. Initially, the signs were promising, with a refreshingly commanding run to the 2010 World Cup after the disaster of his predecessor’s Euro 2008 qualifying campaign. The rest is history, and the so-called ‘golden generation’ endured a dreadful limp towards elimination at the round of 16 in South Africa.
For all of the success he could bring, his presence would come as a shock after the Klopp regime. All it would ultimately boil down to is how much the LFC board values a litany of silverware over the infectious personality that keeps squad morale at an all-time high.
Ultimate Continuity – Julian Nagelsmann
The complete opposite to ‘Project Allegri’ would be the appointment of Julian Nagelsmann. If he was to directly replace Klopp, it would be a clear indication that the Liverpool board respect the presence of Bundesliga culture in the Anfield dressing room, and how it has made Liverpool’s outright Premier League odds seemingly unassailable.
Helpfully, much like the Liverpool team of today, Nagelsmann’s RB Leipzig squad has the ability to inflict untold pain on an unwary opposition team, and it is often hard to believe that Nagelsmann is still only 32 years old. That itself puts time very much on his side, should Klopp continue beyond 2022.
Crucially though, the ‘Red Bulls’ have shown ample desire to win the ball back, and take care of the game’s more agricultural aspects, in addition to the desire to flaunt their skills.
Utilising the pace of wing-backs has also proven to be one of RB Leipzig’s most important keys to success in recent years, and with both of Andrew Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold sure to still be game for lethal runs into the box come 2022 – and much later – Nagelsmann already has two key components in-situ in this scenario.
Left Field Pick – Laurent Blanc
Liverpool might be hesitant to go for a former Manchester United player, but Laurent Blanc will always be known as one of France’s golden generation, who won a World Cup and Euro 2000 double nearly twenty years ago. Thus, if Blanc is ready to finally make a stab at managerial glory in England, he would likely be an ideal fit for the Anfield hotseat.
Having managed both France and PSG, Blanc knows the expectations of big clubs – on either side of the touchline, and in both suits and boots. As such, he will also bring his experience of working in a high-pressure environment to the table.
The only potential drawback would be his inability so far to guide PSG to Champions League glory, despite the vast wealth afforded to him. In a twist, it is PSG’s effortless canters to title after title that may even lower his stock, and affect his ability to manage effectively when the club enters its dreaded ‘transitional period’ after Klopp’s departure.
Return of the ‘Boot Room’ – Steven Gerrard
Far from being the maverick choice, Gerrard is currently the runaway favourite to be the next Liverpool manager – although that is more of an indication as to the expected longevity of Klopp’s reign, rather than a sign of battle-readiness. Nonetheless, Gerrard has made a hugely positive impact at Rangers, and maintained ties to Liverpool by using Ibrox as a proving ground for his old club’s brightest emerging talents.
Naturally, it would be impossible to address the ‘Gerrard: Liverpool Manager’ scenario without some reference to the nostalgic value of the Anfield ‘boot room’. With the arrival of Gerrard Houllier at Anfield in 1999, after Liverpool’s dreadful final season under Roy Evans, the idea of passing a managerial torch to a local lad for the sake of club culture appeared quaint at best and suicidal at worst.
Gerrard’s star is still rising, and if he ever does leave Scotland, he would be loath to use the Championship as a stepping stone – his ambition would not permit it. Take coaches out of the equation, and captain is ultimately just one step away from manager in the direct hierarchy of the dressing room. As captains go, Gerrard had it all, and he would be an asset on leadership alone.
And Finally… Where Might Klopp go Next?
For now, Klopp’s next destination is but a matter of opinion. There is little further room for maneouvre, but Bayern Munich, PSG, Barcelona and Real Madrid are obvious contenders. He may even consider going back to Borussia Dortmund.
There is also international management for Klopp to ponder, and he would be a natural fit into the German national team. Even becoming the England manager is not off-limits, with Liverpool set to remain well-represented within the Three Lions’ setup over the coming years.
If Klopp can bring the Champions League trophy to Anfield just four years after a sixth-place finish and zero trophies, then he can certainly improve upon England’s fourth place finish in Russia. A German manager winning England their second World Cup would be a bittersweet experience, but a welcome one nonetheless.