Home News Life after Jurgen Klopp – Risking reputation and the challenge for FSG

Life after Jurgen Klopp – Risking reputation and the challenge for FSG

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With Liverpool looking to progress their search for a new sporting director and manager, those stepping into new roles would be putting reputations on the line.

Reputation matters, and that’s something Liverpool will be reminded of heading into a defining spring.

Jurgen Klopp‘s reputation is second to none. Delivering success is a ticket to endearment, doing so whilst personifying the traits that so define a club and city is a shortcut to immortality.

Everything from his passion to his sense of humour and his politics mean this 6’3″ German was born to manage one team.

LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, February 25, 2024: Liverpool's Jurgen Klopp lines-up before the Football League Cup Final match between Chelsea FC and Liverpool FC at Wembley Stadium. Liverpool won 1-0 after extra-time. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Indeed, if you had to ‘create’ a Liverpool manager in a footballing laboratory, you’d produce Jurgen Norbert Klopp.

His reputation is such that he was afforded that rarest of luxuries in the modern game: the ability to plan his own departure. That he’s chosen to exit so soon is gut-wrenching.

It also backs those running the club into a corner. Reputations are at stake.

 

FSG’s approach

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, September 10, 2016: Liverpool's Director Michael Gordon, owner John W. Henry and his wife Linda Pizzuti during the FA Premier League match against Leicester City at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Appointing a successor to Klopp is a daunting task. On the surface, ours is a football club in rude health. Fenway Sports Group can point to a healthy balance sheet, an expanded stadium, a new training ground and a first team packed full of stars.

The latter is also supplemented by an academy that is fast becoming the envy of European football.

While nobody is stupid enough to say that is built on sand, there is a sense that Klopp has long been their trump card.

Laying the foundations is one thing, turning potential into pots is quite another…something Daniel Levy will attest to.

Klopp’s penchant for succeeding against all odds has vindicated and maybe even saved FSG.

LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, February 25, 2024: Liverpool's goal-scorer and man-of-the-match captain Virgil van Dijk lifts the trophy after the Football League Cup Final match between Chelsea FC and Liverpool FC at Wembley Stadium. Liverpool won 1-0 after extra-time. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

While Liverpool are hardly paupers (they were listed as seventh in Deloitte’s recent Money League) they do not boast the financial clout of some of their nearest rivals.

Even if they did, you sense they’d refrain from ever entering bidding wars, preferring instead to box clever.

While admirable, that also complicates the task at hand.

In 2024 it’s not just those run by nation states that are spending big. Arsenal‘s outlay under Mikel Arteta is eye-watering.

Those inside the corridors of Chapel Street and Fenway Park know their next appointment may not be able to turn water into wine quite as readily, hence attempts to lure back someone else believed to have that Midas touch.

 

The Edwards factor

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Friday, August 9, 2019: Liverpool's Director of Football Michael Edwards during the opening FA Premier League match of the season between Liverpool FC and Norwich City FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Reports that former sporting director Michael Edwards is being wooed are hardly surprising. They also suggest FSG are reluctant to move away from their chosen model.

Edwards is lauded for both buying and selling expertly in his 10 years at Liverpool. If Klopp was the trump card, Edwards was surely the ace in the hole.

But to return to Liverpool now is to put his reputation on the line too.

The 44-year-old’s stock could hardly be higher, having reportedly rebuffed offers from both Man United and Chelsea in recent times.

Instead, he’s chosen to launch a data consultancy company with the former director of research at Anfield, Ian Graham.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, October 7, 2018: Liverpool's Director of Football Michael Edwards during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Manchester City FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Given the way analytics were used to underpin Liverpool’s resurgence, clubs will definitely be clamouring to partner with Ludonautics.

How said clubs interpret and act upon that data will be their decision, sparing Edwards any real public scrutiny.

The same will not be true if he returned to Liverpool in what is inevitably going to be an uncertain time.

In the absence of Klopp, both supporters and owners will be looking to Edwards to wind back the clock and provide Liverpool with an edge in the transfer market. That is a heavy burden.

Little wonder reports suggest he’d want full control to even consider such a career move. Right now, it seems unlikely.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, May 25, 2022: Liverpool's Director of Football Michael Edwards (R), Chief Scout Barry Hunter (M) and Sporting Director Julian Ward (L) during a training session at the AXA Training Centre ahead of the UEFA Champions League Final game between Liverpool FC and Real Madrid CF. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Edwards would also accept Klopp was key to turning the likes of Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Andy Robertson from smart signings to legendary ones.

Brendan Rodgers failed when handed what Edwards would have considered equally as effective purchases at the time. For every Mo Salah, read Lazar Markovic.

One man turned his vision into reality.

 

Persuading Alonso

2WC1PC0 Augsburg, Deutschland. 13th Jan, 2024. Xabi Alonso (Trainer Bayer 04 Leverkusen) 1. Fussball Bundesliga: FC Augsburg - Bayer 04 Leverkusen, Augsburg, WWK Arena am 13.01.2024 DFL REGULATIONS PROHIBIT ANY USE OF PHOTOGRAPHS AS IMAGE SEQUENCES AND/OR QUASI-VIDEO. Credit: dpa/Alamy Live News

And the spectre of Klopp will loom large for any candidate being considered for the top job itself. It takes a brave coach willing to become ‘the man that follows the man’.

That’s one reason why fans’ and bookmakers’ favourite Xabi Alonso may not necessarily jump at the chance to return to Merseyside.

The Spaniard’s intelligence, both on and off the field, has always been abundantly obvious. He is a thinker, a man smart enough to map his career path from a very young age.

Indeed, Alonso’s CV is the envy of most footballers.

Having made the grade at his hometown team he went on to represent arguably the biggest clubs in England, Spain and Germany, scooping up domestic and international honours along the way.

He did so with an air of assurance and class, transcending rivalries to become a respected figure across the game.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, March 24, 2018J. Steven Gerrard of Liverpool Legends with Xabi Alonso of FC Bayern Legends during the LFC Foundation charity match between Liverpool FC Legends and FC Bayern Munich Legends at Anfield. (Pic by Peter Powell/Propaganda)

Unlike someone like Steven Gerrard, who would undoubtedly let his heart rule his head and jump at the chance to manage Liverpool, no matter the circumstances, Alonso will be far more considered.

He has a good thing going at Bayer Leverkusen, and however the Bundesliga season ends has already enhanced his reputation.

Should he secure the unlikeliest of title victories, he will be crowned the up-and-coming manager in European football, if he isn’t already.

He’ll then have his pick of clubs if indeed he chooses to move on.

While Liverpool will no doubt be on his ‘wishlist’, he may take a step back and decide now isn’t the right time.

He remains a relatively inexperienced coach and would be stepping into the biggest of shoes, putting his reputation on the line in the process.

2KA9M23 Leverkusen, Germany. 01st Nov, 2022. Soccer: Champions League, Bayer Leverkusen - FC Brugge, Group Stage, Group B, Matchday 6, BayArena. Leverkusen coach Xabi Alonso looks ahead to the match. Credit: Marius Becker/dpa/Alamy Live News

On the flip side, he may consider overtures from Bayern Munich and Real Madrid as ones likely to resurface. For differing reasons, those two jobs become available on a semi-regular basis.

The Liverpool hot seat – by contrast – is vacated infrequently. This fact also suggests he’d be given time, something rarely afforded at either the Allianz or Bernabeu.

That won’t be lost on someone as thoughtful as Alonso, who has much to consider.

As an aside, it’s notable that Pepijn Lijnders was also quick to announce his departure from Liverpool.

Whether or not he’d have been a viable candidate for promotion, it’s not unthinkable to believe he distanced himself from the vacancy knowing – for all the positivity around the club just now – it could fast become a poisoned chalice.

LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, February 25, 2024: Liverpool's Andreas Kornmayer, Vitor Matos, Jürgen Klopp, Pepijn Lijnders, Jack Robinson celebrate after the Football League Cup Final match between Chelsea FC and Liverpool FC at Wembley Stadium. Liverpool won 1-0 after extra-time. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

With his exit goes any prospect of consistency. There will be no modern-day Boot Room succession.

However it plays out, the next few months are seismic for the short to medium-term future of Liverpool FC.

How do you replace the irreplaceable? The immediate successors to Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger suggest with great difficulty.

Reputations could be made or broken depending on what’s about to unfold. Meanwhile, that of the outgoing manager is only enhanced.