Big news stories around Liverpool over the last couple of weeks have forced fans to at least start considering uncomfortable eventualities.
First it was the Mohamed Salah transfer saga. While the Egyptian ultimately did not sign for the Saudi Pro League, it has increasingly begun to appear as though this could be the final season at Anfield for Liverpool’s all-time top Premier League goalscorer.
As if thinking about Salah’s departure wasn’t enough, then came reports that Jurgen Klopp was top of the German FA’s shortlist to take over the national team job.
While Klopp’s own agent has ruled him out of contention, the fact remains that Klopp, whose current contract is due to expire in 2026, will have to leave Anfield some day.
As the Premier League’s current longest serving manger and Liverpool’s most successful/popular boss of the modern era, replacing Klopp will be some task.
Here are eight men who could be in the frame when the time comes, ranked by their chance of getting the job.
8. Steven Gerrard (Al Ettifaq)
© Proshots – Steven Gerrard
There was a time when Gerrard would’ve topped these types of list, but the last couple of years have not been kind to Liverpool’s legendary former captain.
After his title-winning turn at Rangers, Gerrard’s experience at Villa was a chastening reality check for anyone who thought he was already at the front of the speeding boarding queue for Anfield.
The 43-year-old was practically booed out of Villa Park after a dirge of a start to the 2022/23 season, while Unai Emery has since proven that the tools were all there for success.
Taking a job in the Saudi Pro League (and bringing Jordan Henderson with him) rather than sticking around for a shot at redemption in Britain or Europe is not going to shorten Gerrard’s odds of succeeding Klopp, but his status at the club means he will always be in the conversation… just nowhere near the centre of it, anymore.
Likelihood rating: 1/10
7. Steve Cooper (Nottingham Forest)
Steve Cooper, ProShots
To use a classic football cliche, the Welshman knows the club, having spent several years as a youth coach at Liverpool, and is even credited with helping to develop talents like Raheem Sterling and Trent Alexander-Arnold.
After leaving Liverpool, Cooper went on to win the Under-17 World Cup with England – with Rhian Brewster famously lighting up the 2017 tournament in India.
Now at Nottingham Forest, all aspects of Cooper’s managerial ability have been tested as he lifted a struggling Championship club into the Premier League before having to handle a recruitment overhaul rarely seen outside of Stamford Bridge.
Having secured Premier League survival in 2022/23, and with a more stable squad, this season may provide a clearer idea about Cooper’s true potential.
Likelihood rating: 2/10
6. Thomas Frank (Brentford)
Unlucky to miss out on a nomination for Premier League Manager of the Season in 2022/23, Frank remains one of the more underrated coaches in England’s top flight.
His Brentford side have been an impressive addition to the Premier League, finishing ninth last year despite their relatively limited resources, while playing an easy-on-the-eye, high-pressing style of football, often in a 4-3-3 formation. Sound like another team you know?
The former Brondby manager has helped bring on a host of impressive talents in west London and hardly missed a beat when they’ve moved on.
Frank’s record against the big teams is very good too, with Brentford having being the only team to beat Man City home and away last season, while they’ve also taken impressive scalps against Man Utd and Liverpool.
The former teacher is, however, untested at a higher level…
Likelihood rating: 3/10
5. Thomas Tuchel (Bayern Munich)
Thomas Tuchel, ProShots
The man who followed Klopp at Mainz and Dortmund, Tuchel is now ploughing his own path across Europe, having secured big jobs at PSG, Chelsea and Bayern.
In terms of name recognition and top-level experience, there are few who compare in modern football. Tuchel has won league titles in two countries and reached two Champions League finals (winning one).
A tactical nerd, whose philosophy has many similarities to Klopp’s when it comes to pressing and counter-attacking, there’s a lot to like about Tuchel on paper.
The downside, however, is that he is a notoriously demanding coach, who has had some fairly spectacular fallings-out with players and club chiefs.
His spells at Dortmund, PSG and Chelsea all ended in varying levels of acrimony with Todd Boehly allegedly once describing the German as a ‘nightmare’.
Since leaving Mainz in 2014, he has never lasted more than two years in a job.
Likelihood rating: 4/10
4. Roberto de Zerbi (Brighton)
Roberto De Zerbi, ProShots
Where De Zerbi’s stock will be when Klopp actually leaves is anyone’s guess, but right now he is very much flavour of the month.
The former Napoli midfielder turned unfashionable Sassuolo into one of Italy’s biggest overachievers, before a spell a promising spell at Shakhtar was cut short by the Russian invasion.
It’s at Brighton though where he has really earned admirers (at least in England), succeeding Graham Potter and taking the Seagulls to another level as they secured Europa League football last season – while making Graeme Souness look a bit of a turnip.
Preferring a 4-2-3-1, De Zerbi’s Brighton are one of the Premier League’s great possession sides, regularly controlling games with over 70% of the ball, while being largely press-resistant. His style of play has drawn lofty comparisons with Pep Guardiola and Klopp.
The Liverpool manager is a fan too. Back in May, Klopp praised the Seagulls 6-0 win over Wolves by saying: “Brighton played one of the best football games this weekend that I have ever seen in my life, I have to say.
“Mr De Zerbi, wow!”
There are question marks, however, over Brighton’s defensive sturdiness this season and like with several others on this list, he has never managed at a club of Liverpool’s stature.
Likelihood rating: 5/10
3. Xabi Alonso (Bayer Leverkusen)
© Proshots – Xabi Alonso
Since Gerrard’s managerial demise, there had been a void in the next Liverpool manager odds for popular former midfielders. Enter Xabi Alonso.
The classy playmaker who spent five years at Anfield, winning the 2005 Champions League and 2006 FA Cup, can now be found raising impressed eyebrows not with his passing range but his coaching CV.
Liverpool’s former number 14 started his coaching journey at Real Madrid Under-14s, before proving his nous by winning promotion to Spain’s Segunda Division with Real Sociedad B in 2021.
From there it was a big leap to Bundesliga heavyweights Bayer Leverkusen, who he directed away from a relegation fight and to the semi finals of the Europa League last season, before earning a contract extension until 2026.
It is said that the contract includes a break clause should Alonso be made an attractive offer from, say, an England-based former club.
While the very image of Alonso prowling the Anfield touchline suited and booted is the stuff of dreams, it is very early in his career for a job like Liverpool. But just maybe by 2026…
Likelihood rating: 5.5/10
2. Julian Nagelsmann (Unattached)
Julian Nagelsmann, ProShots
A former scout under Thomas Tuchel at Augsburg, Nagelsmann became the most expensive manager of all time in 2021 when Bayern Munich paid €25m to release him from his contract with RB Leipzig.
Considered the hottest young coach in football back then, the still only 36-year-old was sacked in his second season at Bayern, who gambled on bringing his former mentor Tuchel in to take over in order to have the best shot at the Champions League and Bundesliga. The won the latter, at least.
Nagelsmann still ended his time at Bayern with a league title and an impressive 71.4% winning rate, while he took Leipzig to the semi finals of the Champions League and second place in the Bundesliga.
A tactical innovator who preferred a three-man defence at Leipzig but used a hybrid system at Bayern, Nagelsmann is also known for his focus on the psychological elements of of coaching.
Writing for The Players’ Tribune, Dani Olmo described his former manager: “To be honest, I’m not even sure what the best adjective would be to describe him…. He is Nagelsmann. Pure intensity, pure emotion. It’s like … whatever comes to him, he lets it out. And the most important thing is that you know what he wants.”
Tottenham, PSG and Real Madrid have all been linked with the ‘Mini-Mourinho’, while he currently tops the DFB’s shortlist to be the next Germany manager.
Likelihood rating: 6/10
1. Pep Lijnders (Liverpool)
Pe Lijnders, ProShots
In a move evoking the Liverpool Boot Room of old, Lijnders could well be the man to slide over in the dugout when Klopp’s time finally comes to an end.
It would be a continuity appointment, with Lijnders – the man who literally wrote the book on how Liverpool work – better placed than anyone to continue the approach developed at Anfield over the last few years.
The reasons for Lijnders eventual ascension are obvious: it would be a smooth transition, he knows the club inside out and has helped the Reds win everything going as Klopp’s right-hand man since his return from a stint as NEC manager in 2018.
The Dutchman is not a ‘number two’ who shuns the limelight and would likely relish the opportunity to take centre stage, but whether he has the skills required for the promotion is a question that will only likely get answered if and when given the chance.
Lijnders’ solo stint as a head coach ending in a sacking, as he failed to get NEC promoted to the Eredivisie in his four-month stint at the club back in 2018.
Likelihood rating: 7/10