Friday’s news that Jurgen Klopp will be standing down as Liverpool manager at the end of the season brought the football world to a standstill and has become the dominant plot across the sport since.
Klopp’s near-nine year spell at Anfield is coming to an end, but his departure is so seismic it feels like he’s actually set up camp on Merseyside for decades.
90min reported over the weekend that former Reds midfielder Xabi Alonso, who is now in charge of Bayer Leverkusen and enjoying a wonderful campaign, is a target for Liverpool, but is also under consideration by Bayern Munich.
Bayern may yet stand by Thomas Tuchel, but it has to be Alonso for Liverpool. Here’s why…
The general rule of thumb Liverpool’s decision-makers should follow when looking to replace Klopp is not to bring in someone they think is or could be identical to him.
Klopp is a one-of-one, a truly special manager who will go down among the game’s greats. The way he transmits charisma and passion onto his squads is his greatest strength – you know exactly what his team will look like and will give you. You simply won’t find another Klopp.
Alonso, meanwhile, has let his football do all the talking while in charge of Bayer Leverkusen. He is not overbearing or high maintenance, but rather considered and measured. What happens on the pitch leads to winning games and scoring a bucket-load of goals, but not in the same rock-and-roll manner of Klopp’s teams.
As first noted by John Muller in The Athletic, Leverkusen play more short passes than any other team in Europe and love to play in the half-spaces. It would be a shift for Liverpool, but certainly not a reinvention of the wheel.
This would be the perfect evolution of a Liverpool side that, despite their ambitions of winning the quadruple, are still growing and will still be rebuilding for another few years.
If you were to construct a Liverpool XI in a one-to-one mould of the 3-4-3 Leverkusen have played this season, you’d get a pretty effective team capable of playing Alonso’s way.
The two main beneficiaries of Alonso’s system have been wing-backs Jeremie Frimpong and Alex Grimaldo, who have a staggering 36 goal contributions combined so far this season.
While there are obviously two standout candidates to fulfil those spots, Liverpool’s rebuild has allowed them to stack up on a lot of younger players who are still figuring out their best roles, while seniors like centre-back Virgil van Dijk and forward Mohamed Salah will have a bit more freedom to operate.
Alright, hands up, this one is a bit of a cop-out, but hear us out.
Liverpool is a cerebral club which does become infectious if you are within its boundaries for an extended period. It will matter to fans that whoever comes in is one of them. Klopp, having arrived from an almost sister-club in Borussia Dortmund, got it straight away.
The familiarity of having played for Liverpool boosts Alonso’s case above some other candidates, such as Julian Nagelsmann or Roberto De Zerbi who have no prior connection or relationship to the club. It’s not about DNA so much as about feeling the privilege of the Reds.
When Manchester United went about replacing Sir Alex Ferguson, the job almost fell to David Moyes by default. Pep Guardiola, Jose Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti and Klopp himself all had other plans in place.
That’s not to say the same will happen to Liverpool, but there is an added importance of securing a top target when others are vying for them.
Bayern are interested. Barcelona may throw their hat in the ring after Xavi’s exit. The managerial merry-go-round could be more competitive come the summer. If Alonso is Liverpool’s main candidate, they need to act like a big club and move swiftly.
READ MORE ON JURGEN KLOPP’S SHOCK LIVERPOOL DEPARTURE