Football

The impossible task of following an iconic manager

Managers

Only three managerial reigns have lasted longer than Jurgen Klopp’s at Liverpool. Now all eyes will start to look towards who dares to follow him, as it has proved to be a poisoned chalice to be the one who comes after the icon.

Not many Premier League managers get to the point to earn ‘iconic’ status. It’s defined by those who’ve changed the ethos of a club, where fans become used to their presence that life without them seems unthinkable.

In more recent years, it’s become harder for managers to last longer with the: financial battles, increased competitiveness and not as many squads sustaining levels for long. That’s why this era of Klopp vs Pep Guardiola has been a throwback to Sir Alex Ferguson vs Arsene Wenger, two legends challenging at the top year after year.

As it proved for those succeeding Ferguson and Wenger, after their 22 and 27-year reigns respectively, it’s hard to move out of the shadow that the icon has left behind.

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David Moyes had his own incredible tenure at Everton, taking them from relegation threatened to a Champions League qualified club. They so often over-performed and regularly shocked the then ‘Big Four, that Fergie himself chose his fellow Scotsman as United’s next boss.

Taking over a vastly experienced and Premier League winning group, the sheer aura of Ferguson was impossible for Moyes to match and things quickly went down-hill. Bar a decent Champions League run, they fell away dramatically in the league and in a cruel irony, he was sacked just days after losing 2-0 away at, Everton. From 27 years to 10 months.

In North London, Unai Emery arrived as a serial cup winner with Sevilla and did start well during his first season. Yet, a failed push for a top-four finish alongside a humiliating Europa League final loss to Chelsea set the wheels in motion for a down-turn.

A mix of dressing room rumblings and the enormous pressure of reviving a football club in free-fall, it was too much for Emery to overcome and he was dismissed. 22 years to 18 months.

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Sometimes, iconic managers are born by just building the connection with fans and whether success comes with that or not, they are heroes to supporters. Sir Bobby Robson and Rafa Benitez came into Newcastle United and Liverpool as both clubs looked lost, needing direction.

Sir Bobby guided United into European qualification in back-to-back seasons whilst always playing entertaining football that the Geordie faithful could enjoy.

Benitez brought his Spanish influence to Merseyside and with immediate effect, provided Anfield with some of its greatest nights on their way to Champions League glory in Istanbul.

Polar opposite styles, but both forever remembered now at St James’ Park at Anfield. As for the managers that came next, Roy Hodgson just about made it half-way through the 2010/11 season before departing Liverpool. Graeme Souness just couldn’t keep the spirit of Sir Bobby going at United and after two seasons he left, his last job in management.

Whether it’s Liverpool legend Xabi Alonso or tactical mastermind Roberto De Zerbi, the task of coming after Klopp will be seismic. Supporters may back them and players will no doubt be ready for a new era, but living up to an icon will be the biggest job they ever take.

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