Top 4 Candidates to Replace Kenny Dalglish as Liverpool Manager
High-quality managers are a rare commodity. Liverpool must take extreme care with their next managerial appointment–we cannot afford another Roy Hodgson situation.
Here are, who I deem, to be the top five candidates to replace Kenny Dalglish.
The best solution can come from within.
Clarke has been an assistant his entire professional coaching career, including previous stints at West Ham and Chelsea before coming to Liverpool.
Clarke has built a fantastic rapport with all his players. He has a reputation as a tactical master who plans his training sessions right down to the finest of details. But more importantly, Clarke is known as being an approachable coach.
Former Chelsea midfielder Alexy Smertin credits Clarke as the best ever assistant he played for in his 16-year career. While he does acknowledge Clarke’s footballing nous, he believes his greatest attribute is his character. He told Goal.com:
“Clarke was very approachable and could talk to the players at the same level. You could be honest with him. He was a funny guy as well. I don’t know too many players who didn’t like him.”
Perhaps Clarke’s most ringing endorsement comes from the ‘Special One’ himself, Jose Mourinho, who is on record as saying:
“This is what I think about Steve Clarke: if he had the chance to manage a club, even a big club like Chelsea, he would be ready for that. He is that good.”
Steve Clarke has been on record stating his ambitions to become a Premier League Manager. While an injection of new blood may be best for Liverpool, Clarke deserves a chance in the spotlight.
This would be by far the riskiest appointment.
Like Roy Hodgson, Brendan Rodgers is a manager from a small club who has never experienced the pressure and expectation associated with a top-tier club such as Liverpool.
However, unlike Hodgson, Rodgers has Swansea playing a beautiful brand of football. They play an up-tempo, pass and move game that has them exceeding everyone’s preseason expectations. Rodgers has also successfully nurtured young talent, something Hodgson also had not done before coming to Liverpool.
More importantly, his side is playing attacking football. They have scored 35 Premier League goals with a £3.5 million strike force; Liverpool have scored 36, just one more than Swansea, with a £60 million front line.
Scott Sinclair and Nathan Dyer, previous underperformers, have thrived under Rodgers' management and are now two of the most talented youngsters in England. Currently, Liverpool are stock-piling young talent that is waiting to break out. Raheem Sterling, Suso and the other academy graduates could become superstars under the right manager.
The biggest issue with Rodgers is that he is being lined up to replace Harry Redknapp at Tottenham. Redknapp himself is full of praise for Rodgers. From The Daily Mail:
"I can't speak highly enough of the job he has done there,' he said. 'He has got players playing that have come from Torquay, they have come from Stockport County, they have come from everywhere. They play, they pass the ball and they take risks on the ball."
While the risk associated with Rodgers is great, the reward could be spectacular for Liverpool: Rodgers could be manager for the next 20 years.
Andres Villas Boas
Unlikely, but not impossible.
There is no doubt that Villas Boas struggled at Chelsea, but I for one put this down to the massive egos in the Chelsea dressing room rather than managerial ineptitude. The ‘big boys’–Drogba, Lampard and company–did not take well to a new manager trying to revive a stagnating club. They were happy with their personal situation and as a result, did not cooperate fully with Villas Boas. However, as John Terry told The Sunday Telegraph (via goal.com), Villas Boas was not as bad as it may have appeared.
"You know on nights like this you don’t forget things like that. He won’t be forgotten. It’s disappointing really because we would have loved things to go on [with him] and he had a vision and a plan and unfortunately that gets cut short with disappointing performances from us really."
The other problem Villas Boas encountered at Chelsea was the immense pressure for success, particularly in the Champions League, which stemmed from mega-money owner Roman Abramovich. Since Jose Mourinho left, Abramovich has hired and fired five managers. Villas Boas was also not helped by the fact Chelsea paid £13.3 million to get him–they expected an immediate return on their investment. It seemed as if Villas he was walking on egg shells right from day one.
However, in a comparatively less scrutinised environment at Liverpool, I believe that like he did at Porto, Villas Boas would thrive. Some fans will rightly ask if he isn’t good enough for Chelsea, why should he be good enough for us? We must remember that it was not a lack of footballing knowledge that caused failure at Chelsea, he did make mistakes, but so does every manager. Rather, it was the pressure and dressing room disharmony that spelled the end for Villas Boas.
Like Rodgers, Villas Boas is a young manager oozing with untapped potential.
Rafael Benitez is by far the most controversial candidate.
Benitez recently made it clear that he has ambitions of returning to Liverpool, a club where he believes he has unfinished business. Via goal.com:
"Every time that I talk about Liverpool, I try to be respectful because of my relationship with the fans and the city. I'm a professional and I'm looking for a new job. At this time Kenny is the manager and I have a lot of respect for him. No rush. If Kenny retires in 10 years and I'm available, I would be pleased. I want to manage in the Premier League because I know, with my team, we can win trophies."
Benitez left Liverpool in 2010 under acrimonious circumstances after overseeing one of the most tumultuous periods in Liverpool history. He never received the full backing of the American owners, Tom Hicks and George Gillett, and as a result, struggled for consistency and finished seventh in the league. While Benitez struggled in his final year in charge, he enjoyed early success, including a Champions League triumph.
Tactically, he showed versatility as he changed his game plan week to week depending on the opposition. This style of management led to a string of wins against the likes of Chelsea and Manchester United, as well as success in the slower-paced European competitions.
What I believe to be Benitez’s best attribute is the way he understood each player, particularly the Spanish speakers, and was able to get the best out of them. He turned Pepe Reina, Daniel Agger and the now infamous Fernando Torres into some of the best players in the world. While he did unearth these players in the transfer market, he also had his fair share of failures, most notably, Alberto Aquilani. With the addition of transfer guru Damien Commolli, one would hope these failures would now be avoided.
Benitez would be a shock return, but I believe, not necessarily a bad one.
Liverpool's next managerial appointment is one of their most crucial ever; the long-term future of the club depends on it.
Also, let me stress these are the realistic candidates—we would all love someone like Jose Mourinho, but it's not likely.
Any other possibilities? Let me know in the comments below.