For a manager currently doing so well, there has been an awful lot of talk regarding the future of Jurgen Klopp in recent weeks.
The German has been riding the crest of a wave at Anfield and has enjoyed near universal popularity with the fans. However, talk of his contract expiring in 2022 and the reluctance of the former Borussia Dormant boss to discuss his future beyond his current deal has seen some considerable talk of succession plans on Merseyside.
A lot of that talk has been focused on Kop idol Steven Gerrard and how the Huyton-born Liverpool legend would be the ideal man to replace Klopp in just over two years. The former Reds captain has been, to use a horrible political term, the populist choice amongst the fan base since he returned to manage the club’s under-17 and under-18 squads from 2017 through to the following year.
The logic of such a succession is flawless for some fans. However, you cannot help but feel that for Gerrard and indeed Liverpool, such a move would be marred with risk and tainted with an emotional charge which could eventually hang like a millstone around the neck of the former European Cup winning captain.
There can be no denying Gerrard’s icon status at Liverpool. 710 games, 186 goals, nine major honours and countless mediocre sides dragged to glory by the sheer force of nature that the young midfielder represented as he harnessed the club’s destiny during his meteoric rise to the top of the game. But the cold hard reality is that none of this makes him a shoe-in to be a top class manager. Nor does a couple of solid seasons north of the border with Rangers to be quite frank.
For sure, the 39-year-old has done some good work at Ibrox and an unbeaten home record in Europe is nothing to be sniffed at, nor is a 60% win record. However we are talking about the Liverpool job here. Any candidate hoping to eventually replace Klopp in the dugout is going to need virtually everything in their managerial armoury if they are to succeed in filling such a massive vacuum at the club.
This is not to disregard Gerrard’s work or the integrity of success in the Scottish League. However, the former Liverpool midfielder need only look at his former gaffer Brendan Rodgers for a suitably cautionary tale.
The Ulsterman departed Liverpool under a cloud in 2015, having been just three games from delivering the holy grail of a Premier League title just over twelve months earlier. Rodgers had come to Anfield in 2012 as a young, energetic coach who possessed a clear ideology of how he wanted to the take the club forward.
While there has been plenty of dismissive comments regarding the former Swansea manager’s tenure at the club, only an ardent critic would deny that Rodgers was a talented coach who improved players and delivered, at times, some decent results and entertaining football. The problem was though, he was learning on the job. That’s never an is never an ideal situation at a club like Liverpool.
Mistakes were common on and off the pitch and the recent revelations about his attempts to play political games with the club’s hierarchy over transfers betrayed the smooth-talking Northern Irishman’s immaturity and alarming naivety for one entrusted with the destiny of such a huge football institution.
Now it would be unfair to say that Gerrard’s lack of top level managerial experience would see him struggle in the same way, however, it is so often a big risk to appoint a rookie at the highest level of the game and the added layers of complexity at a club like Liverpool only exacerbates this issue.
Frank Lampard’s success with Chelsea is by no mean’s a blueprint for Gerrard’s transition to Liverpool either. While some may point to the Blue’s iconic status and his early strides within the managerial dugout at Stamford Bridge; you must also factor in the game-changing condition of the transfer ban imposed on the West London club. This would have made the job far less attractive to a more established coach, when the Chelsea director’s were looking for Maurizio Sarri’s successor in the summer.
Indeed Gerrard would be wise to look at how Rodgers flourished at Leicester City. The 46-year-old is reported to be a lot calmer and less jingoistic in his approach to managing a club with big ambition. The old burning ambition is definitely still there, bubbling away below the surface and you would not back him to remain loyal to the Foxes should a more established big six club come knocking on his door.
Leicester City or a similarly wealthy and ambitious top flight club would be the perfect type of job for Gerrard to tackle next, should he harbour serious hope of one day taking over as Liverpool boss. Rangers have so far represented a fairly solid foothold into club management. The next step up through the managerial ranks though should not be his beloved Reds.
There is also a hidden, emotional factor for Gerrard to consider. Having failed to win a league title as a player, the common narrative from the media would almost certainly focus in on whether he could lift his Premier League curse and win the trophy as a manager. Such a narrative would serve as an almighty distraction for any manager, let alone, one with such a reputation and hero status at the club.
Klopp himself has openly endorsed Gerrard to be replace him in the hot seat at Liverpool. Whether this romantic notion becomes a cold, hard reality remains to be seen. However there can be no denying that, despite the populist demands from the terraces, it represents a boldleap of faith for both parties which may not play out in the way that some would hope and dream of.