The Touchline

Five More Minutes of Football
— Every Tuesday and Thursday

Join The Touchline - a free, twice weekly newsletter with analysis, stories and interviews from the world of football.

Can ANYONE Replace Klopp?

5 minute read Published January 30, 2024

Of the current managers in the Premier League, no-one has had a bigger impact on the club than Klopp. He came in and took the club from underperformers to performers, from chokers (remember the slip?) to iron willed, and from losers to winners. 

Klopp brought a winning culture back to a Liverpool that hadn't won a Premier League the 1990 and hadn’t won a European competition since 2005. Klopp won them both. From 2019 until February 2020, Liverpool won 103 out of a possible 105 points through 35 games. 

When he came to Liverpool from Borussia Dortmund he’d already had success. He’s still to this day the last manager to win with a team other than Bayern Munich and in 2011/2012, his Dortmund even won the domestic treble and in 2012/2013 they finished as runners up in the Champions League.

They also did this in the era of, possibly, the most dominant team ever in the Premier League, Pep Guardiola's Manchester City. They also did it with significantly smaller means than the oil money backed club.

The German is also great at developing talent. During his reign superstars have broken through at Liverpool, both from the academy and players brought in. Players like Mane, Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson were all promoted or brought in and developed by Klopp. In fact, every single current Liverpool player was brought in during Klopp's time at the club.

But besides his winning, which is a big part of his legacy, what’s really stood out about Klopp's time at the club is his charisma and connection to the supporters. He’s shown very clearly that he loves the club, he’s been engaging with the fans after games and he’s impressed not only Liverpool fans but all football fans with his interviews and relationship he’s formed with the players.

So that’s what Liverpool has to try to replace but who could ever live up to that?

Xabi Alonso

The most talked about, possible replacement is Xabi Alonso and for good reason, the Spaniard ticks a lot of boxes. He’s a former Liverpool player who’s doing something incredible with Bayer Leverkusen, a team he took charge of last season when they were in 17th and managed to finish sixth and this season he’s still unbeaten and top of the Bundesliga. While he’s not as outspoken and charismatic as Klopp, he does have that quiet charm.  

There’s a lot of players currently on the team that fit the style of play that Alonso has implemented at Leverkusen but there are question marks. Most crucially, Alonso doesn’t play with wingers or fullbacks, so what happens with the biggest stars - Salah and Trent? 

Trent could possibly slot into the very offensive inverted wing back role Alonso has been playing at Leverkusen, switching the very wide offensive role of the right wing back that Frimpong currently plays to Andy Robertson the left. Would Salah move up as a striker where he would be expected to do some hold up play as well or into a central attacking mid, feeding balls in to Nunes up top? 

Another question mark is his experience. He’s doing so well at Leverkusen it’s easy to forget that this season is only his first ever full season in charge of a top flight team. Liverpool is a huge job with a lot more pressure and complexity than the one he’s got at Leverkusen.

Roberto De Zerbi

Alongside Alonso, De Zerbi is the manager that has been spoken about the most. He’s done a great job at Brighton and is considered one of the best young managers in the world. His playing style is based more on possession with patient build up, more similar to the Guardiola brand of football but they both emphasise aggressive pressing in defence.

Unlike Alonso, De Zerbi has no relation to the club and he isn’t really the kind of manager to form a close relation with the fanbase or the players.

Despite being just 44 he has almost a decade of experience from first team coaching, mainly in Italy. What he misses though, is titles. So far in his managerial career he’s only got two titles - the Serie C league cup in Italy and the Ukrainian Super Cup, the Community Shield equivalent in Ukraine. De Zerbi hasn’t proven that he can make a team winners.

Steven Gerrard

Can’t mention Liverpool without mentioning Gerrard. He’s one of the biggest living club legends and he’s stepped into management. He is absolutely beloved by the Liverpool fans and would fill the shoes that Klopp has left behind when it comes to forming that connection.

The problem is that he’s just not that good. At least, his results aren’t. Seeing what happened to Aston Villa's results after he was replaced by Unai Emery is very damning. So, while it would be a lovely story bringing him back, it would probably be a bad idea.

Other options

Graham Potter is currently without a club and there’s been rumours that he’s up for the job. After his less than successful stint at Chelsea, a lot of supporters would probably be hesitant to bring him on. He’s clearly a good coach though and has been somewhat vindicated by the continued poor performance since Pochettino took over.

Another coach that’s been discussed is Thomas Tuchel but he just recently threw his hat in for the job at Barcelona by stating that he’d love to coach in a new country. Eddie Howe and Ange Postecoglou are other names that have been thrown around, and while Ange has a similar charismatic aura to Klopp, it’s hard to imagine their clubs would be willing to let them go to Liverpool or that they’d want to.

Final thoughts

Everything points to Xabi Alonso at this point, even if De Zerbi still has a chance at the job. Xabi has been very deliberate with his moves through his coaching career so far, careful not to take too big a step each time he’s changed jobs. This would be a big step.

Liverpool has also said that they’ll have a data driven process to find the new manager, whatever that means. It does make it sound like they’re trying to give themselves the option of not appointing Alonso.

Football Stories Like This, Twice a Week

Join thousands of subscribers getting The Touchline - a free, twice weekly newsletter with analysis, stories and interviews from the world of football.