Liverpool have no successor lined up to replace Jurgen Klopp following the shock announcement that he is to stand down. The club will run a recruitment process from now until the summer with the aim of making an appointment around the end of the season.
The club have been planning for this announcement, the timing of which was Klopp’s choice, since he informed them in November that this would be his last season. There are issues around some potential candidates, including bookmakers’ favourite Xabi Alonso, who are themselves at clubs involved in title races. Liverpool’s owners Fenway Sports Group (FSG) would not wish to destabilise those clubs’ campaigns.
Nevertheless, Alonso is likely to be a strong candidate – although not the only one, with the club confident there are many suitable coaches available. There are suggestions that Alonso, 42, a Liverpool player between 2004 and 2009, has committed to at least one more year at Bayer Leverkusen after this, although that is unconfirmed. Certainly if he were to emerge as the first choice of FSG, then the club will make no assumptions that he would simply walk out of the Bundesliga club.
“I have huge respect for Jurgen,” Alonso said when asked about the Liverpool vacancy ahead of Leverkusen’s match against Borussia Monchengladbach. “Huge admiration before coming to Liverpool and during his years there it has become even bigger for what he has achieved and how he achieved it.
“At the moment I am really happy here, enjoying my work here. Each day and each game is a challenge. We are enjoying an intense but beautiful journey.
“I am not in a moment to think about the next thing. I’m just thinking about what is now. I’m in a great place and I’m enjoying it. I think it is in the right place. I am not thinking about my pace [of career] I am thinking about the pace of the team on Saturday to be honest. What is going to happen in the future, I don’t know.”
Liverpool need sporting director first
Crucially Liverpool are also likely to appoint a new sporting director in advance of the final decision on the successor to Klopp. The process in both cases will be led by Mike Gordon, president of FSG and John W Henry, its principal owner.
FSG, 11 per cent of which is owned by another US private investment firm RedBird (which itself seeks to own Telegraph Media Group pending government approval) has much more experience of appointing managers than it did in 2015. Then, when it was determined that Brendan Rodgers was to be dismissed, Klopp – not in a job at the time – was the standout favourite. Nevertheless, the club also approached Carlo Ancelotti and Eddie Howe, then Bournemouth manager, to assess their suitability for the role.
More than eight years on, the new Liverpool manager will inherit a rebuilt, relatively young squad which – whether they prevail in the Premier League title race this season or not – will have experience of going toe-to-toe with Manchester City at the top of English football. The rapid development of what Klopp has called “Liverpool 2.0” has also contributed to his decision to bring to an end his time at Anfield.
Klopp’s concern for Liverpool staff
Klopp is understood to feel sure he is handing over to his successor a strong legacy, and a team capable of competing for the Premier League and the Champions League for years to come. The development this season of the likes of Curtis Jones, Ibrahima Konate and Alexis Mac Allister has been rapid. Trent Alexander-Arnold, meanwhile, has now become established as one of the best players in Europe.
Klopp has been aware that other successful managers have had their legacy questioned having left behind squads that have struggled under their successors. He does not believe that will be the case with the current Liverpool team.
In terms of the timing there was unlikely to be a good time to do it with the season now in full flow and every game having so much riding upon it. Internally the matter has been handled extremely sensitively, in the knowledge that many careers at Anfield – and especially at the training ground – have been based on the Klopp era.
There has been surprise and admiration in football at how the club have managed to keep such a momentous decision under wraps and execute such a smooth announcement.
Klopp was acutely aware that his decision to quit means some staff may have to make long-term decisions for their families. He did not want to drop the decision upon them in May with potential issues should some wish to move on – including children’s schools. On the basis that there is never a perfect time to make an announcement such as this, the timing of this departure was regarded as the best given the circumstances.