Liverpool’s arduous task of replacing Jurgen Klopp is well underway, and the early frontrunners indicate FSG’s preference is for their next manager to be long-term.
In Xabi Alonso, they have a blend of gegenpressing and possession football that the Spaniard has implemented based on the stellar cast of managers who have coached him down the years- including Rafa Benitez, Jose Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti and Pep Guardiola.
With Roberto De Zerbi, his credibility stems from his job at Brighton, and how he’s moulded them into one of the most entertaining sides in Europe. His possession-dominant style of play is not exactly what Klopp has embedded at Liverpool, but the Italian is tactically flexible.
Even Brentford’s Thomas Frank is also a serious contender, tailoring his out-of-possession ideology to make life uncomfortable for his opposition and boasting some of the best passing statistics in the league. Ranking eighth for the number of passes they allow per defensive action since their promotion to the top flight.
But, what all these managers have in common is their deep-seated connection with their respective fanbases. It’s something Klopp has utilised across his eight-and-a-half-year tenure to great effect. He understood the ethos of the club and how building a rapport with the supporters was crucial to any success Liverpool intended to have.
Although Frank is a rogue suggestion to replace Klopp, he encompasses everything that you would look for in a Liverpool manager. His infectious relationship with the Brentford faithful is a large reason for why they are succeeding in the Premier League.
However, the general consensus is that it’s Alonso versus De Zerbi. Both are viewed as the managerial future of European football and with Liverpool now being an established force again, it’s a no-brainer for them to be chasing the elite of the next generation.
ROBERTO DE ZERBI
Starting with De Zerbi – the second favourite according to bookmakers – his experience in the Premier League and as a manager in general is really the only edge he has over Alonso.
After replacing Graham Potter in September 2022, De Zerbi expanded on the intricate style of play Potter implemented and asked his players to take their game to the next level, which they seemingly have done.
Remarkable results include a 4-1 win over Chelsea soon after arrival, a dominant 3-0 win at the Emirates at the back end of last season and a 3-0 schooling of Klopp’s Liverpool. When De Zerbi tactically gets it right, his side can beat anyone.Embed from Getty Images
His peers quickly took notice, with Pep Guardiola suggesting that De Zerbi is changing the way football is being played in England and labelling him as one of the most influential managers of the last 20 years.
That compliment still remains with De Zerbi, but his side have stagnated recently and their 4-0 pumping at the hands of Luton was a major wake-up call. The presence of European football has potentially hindered De Zerbi’s side who seem to be feeling the pace of playing in four different competitions.
Having said that, this would not be an issue at Liverpool – where he would have access to bigger resources and a higher-quality squad. The prospect of combining De Zerbi’s methods with the calibre and youth of Liverpool’s squad is truly fascinating and it’s no wonder FSG are interested.
His continual movement on the touchline and the energy he offers to coach his players during a game is probably the standout attribute on his CV. As Klopp said after announcing his departure, there are other managers in football who are “tactically better” than him, but it’s his outpour of emotion that gets his players on board.
De Zerbi is the same, and without that, I’m not sure he’d even be a candidate to become the next Liverpool manager.
Alonso is not quite as energetic. A viral clip of the Spaniard shaking hands with Bayer Leverkusen fans after their final home game of last season has already got the Liverpool faithful convinced that he is all about the fanbase, but it’s not exactly fist-pumping to the masses after each and every game.
Whereas as Klopp and De Zerbi offer chaos, Alonso prefers control and maybe that stretches to his relationship with the fans. His strong affiliation with Liverpool from his time as a player there though means, Alonso could evolve as a manager in familiar surroundings.
“The soul, the stands, the lights, it’s different and it’s pure football. That’s why we love it as a player, as a fan, as anyone that comes. It’s the best stadium in the world”, Alonso said after a Liverpool legends match at Anfield in 2022.Embed from Getty Images
Alonso has on so many occasions openly expressed his love and passion for Liverpool and there’s no denying the culture, the fanbase and the city captured his heart before he went onto pastures new at Real Madrid and Bayern Munich.
As cliche as it sounds, he seems like the perfect fit and one that Liverpool fans surely have a preference for. Alonso has instilled a winning mentality and a fighting spirit at Leverkusen, not dissimilar to what Klopp has built at Liverpool.
In 29 games across all competitions this season, Leverkusen are undefeated and sit, at the time of writing, two points clear of Bayern Munich at the top of the Bundesliga and won their Europa League group.
They play an exciting, possession-dominant, intense style of football in a 3-4-2-1 system. His team can also be pragmatic when required, albeit not quite the “heavy metal” football Liverpool have played under Klopp.
However, Alonso is like De Zerbi in that he is adaptable, and his system is very much based on the players at his disposal. For Liverpool, it’s mouth-watering to imagine what he could do with Klopp’s crop of personnel.
Alonso performed at the highest level as a player and appears to be more than capable of coaching at it too. His love for the club and his time there as a player gives him the edge and he will most likely be the new man in the Liverpool dugout next season.