It’s sad to think that, one day, Jurgen Klopp will leave Liverpool for good.
The German is the fourth longest-serving manager in Premier League history, closing in on 3,000 days in charge in the Anfield hotseat. He is, of course, Liverpool’s longest-serving manager of the modern era, too.
But all good things come to an end, one way or another, and there will be a time when the Reds faithful have to wave Klopp behind for good.
He will leave a legacy that includes a maiden Premier League title for the club – who knows, perhaps more are yet to come with the German in charge, while the Champions League victory of 2019 will also live long in the memory of Liverpool fans.
Those are some almighty shoes to fill then, but somebody will have to step up to the plate – despite the size of the task facing Klopp’s successor, you suspect there will be no shortage of interest in the position.
So who are the most likely candidates to replace Klopp as the next Liverpool manager?
The continuity of promoting Klopp’s assistant to the position of manager makes some sense.
Pep Lijnders has learnt from Klopp at close quarters, learning the tips of the trade that could stand him in excellent stead if he decides to embark on management again.
You can see from the success that Enzo Maresca has had as Leicester City head coach that working in the shadows of a top-class boss like Pep Guardiola has raised his game, while other legendary figures in Liverpool’s history – from Bob Paisley to Joe Fagan – actually started out as the assistant manager of the Reds before stepping up to the big time.
The only black mark against Lijnders’ name is his sole stint in management – he was sacked after just five months by Dutch second tier side NEC. There’s also the possibility that he will follow Klopp, as number two, in his next venture.
Klopp cut his managerial teeth in his native Germany, winning two Bundesliga titles with Borussia Dortmund and reaching the final of the 2012/13 Champions League with Der BVB.
It may be that the Liverpool board turn to a manager with a similar background as Klopp’s successor. Julian Nagelsmann, like Klopp, had a low-key playing career but one that allowed him to start cutting his teeth as a coach early on.
He started out coaching Hoffenheim’s junior ranks, before becoming one of the youngest Bundesliga managers in history when he was promoted to the senior side at the age of 28.
When Nagelsmann took charge, Hoffenheim were in danger of relegation – within 18 months, not only had he kept them up but, during the following season, masterminded a fourth-place finish and Champions League qualification.
His stock suitably risen, he was chosen to be the new manager of RB Leipzig, and runs to the Champions League semi-finals and second place in the Bundesliga cemented his soaring reputation.
Bayern Munich paid a world record ‘transfer’ fee to poach Nagelsmann, but after winning the Bundesliga title in his first season he was sacked midway through his second with Bayern struggling to defend their crown.
A one-year contract as manager of the German national team will neither make nor break Nagelsmann, and his next move back into club management is likely to be at a big club – perhaps even Liverpool?
There is a growing body of evidence to suggest that former Reds midfielder Xabi Alonso is developing into a top coach in his own right.
The Spaniard has coached the youth and reserve teams at Real Madrid and Real Sociedad, before getting the main job in charge of German side Bayer Leverkusen.
He’s turned around the fortunes of the previously relegation-threatened outfit, guiding them up the Bundesliga table and to a Europa League semi-final – while playing an eye-catching, progressive brand of football.
Alonso would be a popular appointment at Anfield – however, Liverpool may have to wait and see if Real Madrid get to him first.
What a reception Steven Gerrard is sure to enjoy if he ever becomes Liverpool manager.
But you fear the possibility that his reputation as a club legend could be tarnished if he struggled as boss – although the success of Kenny Dalglish as manager at least offers precedence that things can work out for the best.
The other concern is Gerrard’s managerial CV. He worked wonders at Rangers, breaking Celtic’s monopoly on the Scottish Premiership title, but a torrid time at Aston Villa – he ended with a win ratio of just 32.5% – does little to inspire confidence.
Perhaps the biggest misstep was his subsequent move to Saudi Arabian outfit Al-Ettifaq – not exactly a CV booster.