Having said all that, the Liverpool manager’s job is also about more than coaching, and the club are aware that the man who leads the team also has to connect with Anfield emotionally and even politically, given the city has not returned a Conservative MP since 1979. FSG’s due diligence will have to take this into account, which always makes it trickier at Liverpool than at other clubs.
But who might emerge over the next two years who will naturally ‘get’ Liverpool? What if Xabi Alonso – currently managing Real Sociedad ‘B’ team – takes a high profile European job and thrives? Which sides might emerge in Germany, Spain and Italy to disrupt the status quo, led by young, vibrant coaches who can pick up Klopp’s baton?
Who will lead the search?
Michael Gordon and sporting director Julian Ward, who will replace Michael Edwards this summer, will lead, while in the background the data team led by director of research Ian Graham are tasked with keeping a due diligence file on every coach (and players) of interest.
Welshman Graham – a Cambridge graduate with a PhD in physics – joined Liverpool in 2012. He had previously worked at Decision Technology, forecasting consumer behaviour to enable businesses to maximise their profits. At Anfield he formed a four-man unit independent of the coaching staff, providing dossiers which have contributed to the club’s successful recruitment policy.
Graham tracked Klopp for years and was instrumental in reassuring FSG that he had to be Liverpool’s number one target when the decision was taken to dismiss Rodgers, presenting the owners with a research paper on the German manager’s 10 Bundesliga seasons. For example, Graham’s data regarding Dortmund’s performances showed that a decline in Klopp’s final season in Germany was an anomaly which did not reflect the quality of performances.
Liverpool-born Ward has worked alongside Edwards for the last nine years, having previously scouted for Manchester City and the Portugal national team. When Edwards announced he was leaving at the end of this season, FSG confirmed Ward’s promotion. Some might argue Edwards saw a tricky future ahead if Klopp leaves. Finding a successor will be an unenviable task. A more positive appraisal is what better way to choreograph a new sporting director’s introduction than to credit him for having convinced Klopp to commit for another two years. Perhaps that is too cynically optimistic.
FSG president Gordon is Liverpool’s modern Peter Robinson. Never heard, rarely seen, completely without ego, but smart and resolute when it comes to ‘sticking to the plan’. The relationship of trust between him and Klopp is at the heart of the Anfield revival.
You can be sure the more Gordon and Ward are searching and researching, the greater their hope their number one choice – Klopp himself – is seduced by the chance to go beyond his 10th anniversary. As Klopp accepted in 2019, walking away from a dream job, and a dream team, is easier in theory than reality.
Is continuity a key consideration?
Liverpool will face the same dilemma as Sir John Smith and Peter Robinson in 1974: how do you replace the Godfather of your success?
When Bill Shankly stepped aside they found the answer within. Current assistant Pep Lijnders will hope the spirit of boot room transition lives on. There is no suggestion from the top that Lijnders is being primed to be the next Bob Paisley or Joe Fagan, but as someone who knows the training ground drills, and is integral to the culture it would be insane if a Klopp exit triggered a ‘brain drain’ of his backroom staff, especially as so many of the squad have deals beyond 2024 and are so comfortable with the current routines.