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Klopp leaving Liverpool: Alonso, Gerrard and the other candidates to be next Reds manager

On Friday, Jurgen Klopp stunned the football world by announcing he will leave Liverpool at the end of the season.

It’s fair to say his successor will have big shoes to fill.

Klopp has already brought the Champions League, Premier League, FIFA Club World Cup, FA Cup, EFL Cup and UEFA Super Cup trophies to Anfield in just over eight years at the helm, and he has four opportunities to lead the Reds to more silverware in his final few months in charge.

Read our other Liverpool news stories here:
Klopp leaving Liverpool: German’s exit bad for the Premier League, says Ten Hag
Klopp leaving Liverpool: Sporting director Schmadtke also departing Anfield
Klopp leaving Liverpool: German’s legacy secured as Anfield great

While the German has said he is “running out of energy” and needs a break from management, there will be no rest for Liverpool as they seek to replace one of the most successful, beloved and charismatic bosses in the club’s history.

Here, we run the rule over five of the chief contenders to replace Klopp, asking what each of them could bring to the Anfield dugout.

Xabi Alonso

The news of Klopp’s impending departure had barely sunk in by the time former Liverpool midfielder Alonso was installed as the early favourite to succeed him.

The Spaniard, who played a key role as Liverpool won the FA Cup and Champions League under Rafa Benitez, seems to tick all the boxes.

Alonso is already a firm fans’ favourite at Anfield, and the 42-year-old has earned a reputation as one of Europe’s top up-and-coming coaches by leading Bayer Leverkusen to the top of the Bundesliga, four points clear of perennial champions Bayern Munich.

Leverkusen’s progressive, possession-based brand of football has won plaudits across the continent, leading to suggestions that another of his former clubs, Real Madrid, were interested in his services.

But with Los Blancos handing Carlo Ancelotti a new contract earlier this month, the coast could be clear for Liverpool to bring Alonso back to Anfield, pitting him against one of his mentors in Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola.

Alonso gave nothing away when asked about links to his former club on Friday, simply saying: “At the moment I am happy here and I am enjoying my work. Each game is a challenge and we are in an intense but beautiful journey here.”

Roberto De Zerbi

One potential obstacle between Alonso and the Anfield dugout could be Bayern, who have also been credited with an interest in their former midfielder and will surely dispense with Thomas Tuchel’s services if they fail to retain their German crown.

Should Alonso not get the job, Brighton and Hove Albion’s Roberto De Zerbi will surely be near the top of Liverpool’s shortlist.

The Italian has made a seismic impact since arriving in the Premier League in September 2022, leading Brighton to a sixth-placed finish last term despite not having a pre-season to implement his daring vision of vertical, possession-based football.

Guardiola has previously described De Zerbi as “one of the most influential managers in the last 20 years”. The Italian is destined for the top and is sure to be in demand this summer.

Pep Lijnders

For several years, there was a feeling that Klopp’s eventual successor might just have been working alongside him.

Lijnders previously served as Brendan Rodgers’ assistant at Anfield before leaving the club for a short managerial stint with NEC Nijmegen in his native Netherlands. He returned as Klopp’s number two in 2018 and has seemingly been groomed for the top job ever since.

Lijnders’ tactical acumen has been praised by Klopp time and again, and he has also been trusted to undertake responsibilities surpassing those usually granted to assistant managers, including taking Klopp’s pre-match press conferences ahead of cup fixtures.

While replacing Klopp from within would certainly appeal to Liverpool owner Fenway Sports Group, Lijnders was also confirmed to be leaving his role on Friday. He looks more likely to pursue a managerial post elsewhere, though he’s one to keep an eye on in the next few years.

Julian Naglesmann

Some were surprised when Nagelsmann – who is viewed as the ultimate training-ground coach, a tactical chameleon noted for his development of young players – was tempted into taking the Germany job on a short-term basis last year, following Hansi Flick’s dismissal.

The idea of the energetic 36-year-old staying in international management for the long term seems remote, and even if he leads Germany to Euro 2024 glory on home soil, it’s no secret that the German Football Association (DFB) are set on appointing Klopp in the future.

Might, then, a job swap be in order?

Naglesmann was rightly lauded for his work with Hoffenheim and RB Leipzig, leading the latter to a Champions League semi-final in his first season at the helm. Bayern didn’t exactly provide the time required for his ideas to blossom, but Liverpool just might.

Steven Gerrard

Now this one would come as something of a curveball, particularly with Gerrard now plying his trade in the Saudi Pro League with Al-Ettifaq, having struggled in his first Premier League job with Aston Villa.

Had things worked out differently for Gerrard at Villa Park, he would likely be considered a leading candidate to replace Klopp, who said the Reds legend would “definitely” return to manage his boyhood club back in 2021.

Gerrard’s stock has fallen dramatically since he led Rangers to an unbeaten Scottish Premiership-winning campaign in 2020-21, but the lure of a club great does funny things to decision-makers.

Gerrard may be a mere outsider for the job at present, but we should never say never in football.

Harry Carr
Harry Carr
Harry is a freelance sports journalist with experience of working for the Racing Post, Stats Perform, Opta Analyst and more, covering major events across all sports but holding a particular love for the beautiful game.

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