Liverpool’s unenviable search for Jurgen Klopp’s replacement is still in its infancy but there has been no shortage of potential successors touted both publicly and privately.
Bayer Leverkusen’s Xabi Alonso, a former Reds midfielder, continues to lead the bookmakers’ odds, followed by Brighton’s Roberto De Zerbi and Sporting’s Ruben Amorim.
However, as they did with the appointment of Klopp in 2015, the club will take a scientific approach and not just go for the man who appears to be the best fit.
Here, the PA news agency looks at how Liverpool will go about their search.
Where do they start?
Our CEO Billy Hogan today discussed Jürgen Klopp’s decision to step down as Reds manager at the end of the current season.
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) January 26, 2024
Where Fenway Sports Group always start, with the data. Since buying the club in 2010 the American owners have instigated an analytical model for many aspects of the business, most notably in relation to their transfer policy which they modelled on a system pioneered by their Boston Red Sox baseball team. “The way we operate as a football club is to ensure that we’ve looked at all the information, all the data, we’ve done our proper due diligence and then we’ll make a decision,” said chief executive Billy Hogan.
How will that work?
Will Spearman, a Harvard PhD graduate in particle physics, was last year appointed successor to departing director of research Ian Gordon, a key figure in the data department since 2012, and will be significantly involved in identifying key areas which are not always immediately visible to casual observers of a manager’s style and performance.
Who else is involved?
Mike Gordon, FSG president, is the group’s main ‘football guy’ and the man who has been the transatlantic bridge between the two parties. It was he who received the bombshell phone call from Klopp saying he would be leaving at the end of the season. Gordon was the man who led the identification and pursuit of Klopp after Brendan Rodgers was sacked and will assume that key role for the ownership again. Theo Epstein, the former president of baseball operations for MLB team the Chicago Cubs and ex-general manager of the Red Sox, has joined FSG as a senior adviser and is likely to be involved in the consultation, as will Hogan to a lesser degree.
And what of the main candidates?
Alonso has been the favourite from the moment Klopp’s departure was announced. The former Spain, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich midfielder has extensive, top-level playing experience and this season has displayed a key FSG metric in elevating underrated players to a higher level having guided Leverkusen, unbeaten all season, to the top of the Bundesliga. His football is not as direct or as press-heavy as Klopp’s so there would be some adaptation required by the current squad. Brighton’s De Zerbi has impressed since his arrival in England last season and his place on the list is largely due to the similarities in his style with Klopp’s, however results have been up and down recently having scored four in a victory over Tottenham yet lost 4-0 to Luton. Amorim’s Sporting, who also have a similar pressing style, are two points off the top of the Portuguese Primeira Liga with a match in hand having dropped just eight points all season.