Jurgen Klopp has confirmed that he will leave Liverpool at the end of the season in a bombshell announcement.
The German will bring an end to a trophy-laden career with the club, in which the 56-year-old has led the Reds to seven trophies. Those triumphs include Champions League success and a drought-breaking league title in 2019/20, as Liverpool were crowned champions of England for the first time in 30 years.
Klopp’s decision to move on will cause surprise and concern among the Liverpool fanbase, with attention set to turn to who could replace him at the helm.
We profile five managers who could be in the frame.
Next Liverpool manager: Who is in the frame?
Xabi Alonso (Bayer Leverkusen)
Arguably the outstanding candidate, the former Liverpool midfielder has had a brilliant start to his career in management. After three seasons honing his craft with Real Sociedad B, he joined Bayer Leverkusen last season and took the German outfit from the relegation places into Europe.
This time around, Leverkusen are top of the table, unbeaten in all competitions, and chasing a maiden Bundesliga crown. Alonso has Leverkusen playing some of the best football in Europe this season with his team four points clear of defending champions Bayern Munich in the title race.
This season, Xabi Alonso’s Bayer Leverkusen became the first team in German football history to remain unbeaten after the first 25 games of a campaign across all competitions.
The heir to Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool throne? 👑 pic.twitter.com/QPiNSqsMEf
— Squawka (@Squawka) January 26, 2024
An up-and-coming coach with connections to the club, Alonso has regularly spoken of his fondness for Liverpool after five seasons at Anfield as a player. The affection from the fanbase is mutual, which might provide added patience as Liverpool transition out of the Klopp era.
SportBILD claimed recently that Alonso has a clause in place which lets him leave at the end of the season to any three of his major former clubs: Liverpool, Bayern Munich or Real Madrid. The latter recently re-signed Carlo Ancelotti to a new deal, leaving Liverpool in a strong position to appoint Alonso.
On the evidence of his coaching career to date, Alonso looks an ideal option.
Roberto De Zerbi (Brighton)
Roberto De Zerbi is perhaps the frontrunner among the Premier League’s proven options. The Italian’s adventurous brand of football has won admirers since he arrived at Brighton, where he led the Seagulls to a top-six finish and European football for the first time last season.
De Zerbi’s Liverpool, if nothing else, would be an entertaining watch with bravery on the ball a non-negotiable. Brighton are in contention for European qualification again, though De Zerbi may feel he needs a bigger stage to challenge for major honours.
Our World Cup winner. 👏 pic.twitter.com/yqpUA85U8V
— Brighton & Hove Albion (@OfficialBHAFC) October 9, 2023
He has continually brought the best from the talent he has available, with the likes of Solly March and Lewis Dunk reaching new levels under his management. An ability to keep Brighton moving upward, despite the regular sales of top talent, shows his coaching credentials.
Ruben Amorim (Sporting Lisbon)
Ruben Amorin has been touted as a candidate for each major vacancy in English football of late, having built a reputation as one of the best young coaches on the continent at Sporting.
Amorim led Sporting to a Taça da Liga and Primeira Liga double in 2020/21, ending the club’s 19-year wait for a league title.
The 38-year-old’s Sporting side presses intently from the front in echoes of Klopp’s best Liverpool teams, though there’s flexibility in his fluid 3-4-3 system, which can revert to a low-block five-man defence when pragmatism is required, and an interchanging forward line.
Amorim is understood to have a release clause of around €10m (£8.7m) in his Sporting contract.
Julian Nagelsmann (Germany)
Julian Nagelsmann’s rising star has slowed of late after being sacked by Bayern Munich at the end of last season, though the German remains one of the most highly-rated young coaches in the game.
Nagelsmann, still just 36, led Hoffenheim into the Champions League in his first managerial role, before guiding RB Leipzig to the semi-finals of the same competition. He earned an opportunity at Bayern Munich from that body of work and won a Bundesliga title and two DFL-Supercups with the German giants.
He was sacked at the end of last season, despite a win percentage of 71.4%. Only four Bayern managers, Pep Guardiola, Hansi Flick and Carlo Ancelotti, averaged more points per Bundesliga game.
Nagelsmann accepted a short-term deal to coach the German national team in September and will lead Die Mannschaft at a home European Championship in the summer. However, he has won just one of his opening four games in charge.
Andoni Iraola (Bournemouth)
Could Andoni Iraola become a wildcard option for Liverpool?
The Spaniard has overcome a sluggish start at Bournemouth to impress during his debut campaign in the Premier League, with the Cherries one of the form teams in the league in recent months.
Iraola’s game plan focuses on high-intensity from the front, hallmarks of the current Liverpool side who lead the Premier League for presses per defensive action (9.2).
• Using the flanks
• Midfield dominance
• The long option
• Playing direct
• Change of structure without the ball
— The Coaches’ Voice (@CoachesVoice) January 25, 2024
Bournemouth, at 11.6 presses per defensive action, rank seventh in the Premier League, and eighth for high turnovers that lead to a shot. Crucially, the Cherries are finding success when winning the ball back in advanced areas of the pitch, with no team having scored more goals (6) when winning the ball back from high turnovers. Bournemouth also score highly for direct attacks (7th), another metric Liverpool top this season.
Though relatively unheard of in English football circles before the summer, Iraola could position himself in contention if Bournemouth’s recent form is maintained.