Jurgen Klopp Replacement: 5 “Moneyball” Top Managers Liverpool Should Consider for the Anfield Job

When Liverpool approached Jorg Schmadtke to be their sporting director in the summer, he initially perceived the offer as a jest.

Schmadtke, previously in semi-retirement, received the call unexpectedly, viewing his selection as somewhat unconventional. His inclusion stemmed largely from the prospect of providing support and camaraderie for Jurgen Klopp during a crucial transfer period. Nevertheless, he promptly embraced the opportunity.

This decision marked an uncharacteristic departure for Fenway Sports Group (FSG), known for their methodical approach as the owners of Liverpool. Reports indicate that FSG now intends to return to their typical modus operandi as they deliberate on Klopp’s successor and seek a new sporting director to oversee the club’s football strategy.

Indeed, the club are presently engaged in an internal assessment of football operations, as indicated by an individual familiar with their ongoing quest for a new sporting director.

This comprehensive audit is purportedly examining various aspects, including a reevaluation of the multi-club model, raising intrigue about the possibility of Liverpool entering into such a sphere. Notably, thus far, they have been hesitant to emulate the approach taken by title rivals Manchester City in pursuing this path.

“They are looking at all the club’s processes and strategies on the football side before bringing people in,” the source said.

“It is a sensible thing to do because replacing Klopp and bringing in a new sporting director are both huge decisions in their own right. Most clubs would have their hands full doing one of those things, but doing both at the same time is a big, big challenge.”

Methodical, meticulous – supporters may not always appreciate FSG, but it is a business approach that garners plenty of admirers and emulators within the industry.

The evaluation also demonstrates Liverpool’s hierarchy comprehensively understanding the challenges of replacing a coaching luminary like Klopp, who will depart alongside his entire support staff, creating a significant void. Despite the clamor for Bayer Leverkusen’s sought-after manager, Xabi Alonso, Liverpool’s priority remains securing the right individual and structure rather than hastily appointing a trendy figure.

Adjusting processes and redistributing some of the responsibilities accumulated by Klopp as he constructed his legacy on Merseyside – particularly in areas such as recruitment – appears logical considering the impending changes.

Initial signs suggest that Liverpool aim to finalize the appointment of a sporting director before appointing a new manager, although no imminent developments have been reported on that front.

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Following Klopp’s departure, a call from FSG president Mike Gordon to Michael Edwards, the widely respected former director of football now heading a sports advisory group called Ludonautics, was promptly declined, prompting the club to widen its search.

It will be Gordon who ultimately decides on both the manager and sporting director, but there is a notable group of voices providing support, including director of research Will Spearman and Theo Epstein, an FSG advisor, who will offer input.

According to one Premier League executive interviewed, the club are “likely to go abroad again” for their sporting director, although considering an internal appointment or possibly sharing responsibilities among existing club figures is also on the table.

Among the external candidates, some are currently free agents – such as Paul Mitchell, the former sporting director of Monaco and RB Leipzig. Last summer, conversations with AS Roma’s Tiago Pinto were promising before opting for Schmadtke, but now Pinto, who has left Roma, is available. Also available is former AC Milan director of football Frederic Massara, who has been mentioned in recent reports.

Once a sporting director is in place, or a preferred candidate is identified, the club will be able to expedite the process of selecting Klopp’s replacement and structuring the team around the new manager.

Data analysis will continue to play a significant role, as it did in Klopp’s appointment, challenging the notion that Alonso is the sole realistic candidate.

As reported earlier this month, Alonso’s potential appointment is not guaranteed, as FSG adopts a cautious approach. They are not inclined to rush into any decisions simply because Bayern Munich is also in search of a manager for the next season.

A reliable source familiar with the situation emphasized FSG’s commitment to thoroughness in the selection process. “They’re making it clear that they are leaving no stone unturned in ensuring they make the right decision,” the source stated.

The Top Data Picks

i commissioned Analytics FC, a football consultancy firm known for their data-driven manager ID search, which has been utilized by clubs across the top four divisions and leading sides overseas, to identify potential replacements for Klopp at Anfield.

This task is particularly challenging, as Alex Stewart, head of content at Analytics FC, acknowledges.

“Klopp was something of a unicorn, tactically brilliant, a motivator, charismatic, attuned to the ethos of the club and indeed the city of Liverpool,” he says.

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“He was also comfortable working within a data-driven structure. No-one is going to tick all of those boxes.”

Finding a stylistic match for Liverpool poses a challenge due to Klopp’s evolution as a coach. Initially known for gegenpressing in 2015, characterized by “direct domination,” Klopp’s teams now prioritize “full control.” This entails high possession, pressing, and dictating play in the opposition’s defensive third. Consequently, replacing Klopp entails seeking a coach with a different approach.

Here’s the top picks- coaches whose teams excel in ball control, possession, and perform at elite levels.

Xabi Alonso

The clear choice aligns closely with Liverpool’s current playing style. It might require acquiring a skilled number 10 akin to Florian Wirtz to replicate the tactics of his successful Bayer Leverkusen team. The most compelling argument for his recruitment is his team’s significant improvement from the previous season, coupled with his ability to handle pressure, which was previously a challenge for Bayer Leverkusen. He emerges as a clear frontrunner.

Arne Slot

Showing similar “aggression” in longer passes, he has consistently impressed during his time at Feyenoord. Data suggests he’s a “good stylistic fit,” and he was considered for the Tottenham job last season, though they ultimately chose Ange Postecoglou.

Ruben Amorim

Stewart suggests that the Sporting Lisbon coach is a potential surprise contender for the role, noting similarities in his team’s style of play to the 2024 Liverpool squad, characterized by ball retention and building attacks from the defensive line.

Edin Terzic

“A Borussia Dortmund team strives to emulate Liverpool’s style of play, aiming for a ‘close overall data fit.’ However, there are concerns about their execution, and they are currently facing challenges keeping up in the Bundesliga. Additionally, they are not leading in the data picks.”

Thomas Frank

Some consider him a frontrunner, but stylistically, he doesn’t quite align with the current Liverpool squad. Although his teams press and his club embrace data-driven strategies, they lack the same level of control seen in the Reds. This could be due to differences in player abilities, and while he possesses charisma to manage the transition, appointing him may pose a risk.

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