There’s nothing quite like the glow of a 6-0 away win to turn rose-tinted glasses a rich shade of puse. But hell, why not enjoy it when the going’s good and pose yourself this question;
Right here, right now, in the modern age of greedy agents, high-pressing football and Thursday press conferences, is there a manager in the history of football that you’d sooner have in charge of Liverpool Football Club than Jurgen Klopp?
How would Bill Shankly manage Daniel Sturridge’s training regime if he was airlifted into the Anfield hotseat? Would Bob Paisley cope in the age of rolling news and thrice-weekly press conferences? And it’s not just from the pantheon of great Liverpool leaders, either. Surely no one would ever consider having Sir Alex at the helm? On that modern note, would Jose Mourinho or Pep Guardiola be a better alternative to Klopp?
Let’s consider the main contenders in this strictly hypothetical head scratcher. Oh, and all abuse forwarded to @AlexMiller91, if you please.
“Shankly made us famous..” as the song goes. And so he did. Make no doubt about it, when a 46 year-old Bill Shankly was appointed manager of a failing Liverpool Football Club in 1959, not even he could have envisaged the effect he would have on what would become an international sporting institution.
It would be interesting to see how Shankly’s man management style would stand up to modern standards. Whilst the records suggest that he was immensely popular with his players, it’s highly questionable whether his no nonsense, autocratic style of leadership would work amongst highly-paid and ego-filled footballers in 2016. The question remains – how sensitively would Shankly nurture Daniel Sturridge’s career?
Whilst the style of Shankly’s Liverpool was a forebearer for the passing game across Europe, you’d have to consider the tactical sophistication and fitness levels of 1960s football against today’s standards. There’s no doubting Shanks’ status as one of the greatest managers of all-time, but whether the great man could adapt quickly enough would be the million dollar question.
Verdict – Klopp
“Paisley made us sing..” is the song’s next line. And so he did. Whilst Shankly laid the foundations for the LFC we all know and love, Bob Paisley built the pantheon. His softly-softly approach was completely at odds with Shankly’s extroverted management style, but how it prospered, with three European Cups and six league titles sitting there to represent the most successful period in LFC’s rich history.
Like Shanks, the only questions around Paisley’s suitability are around obvious generational differences. His man management style, you’ve got to think, would be more suitable than his predecessor, but again, would his style of play and attitude to ultra-professionalism stand him in good stead? You’d have to wonder.
Verdict – Klopp
Two European Cups with the unfancied Nottingham Forest and a level of charisma that chalked his name into football folklore, ‘Old big ‘ed’ was a tour de force that in many ways transcended the sides he managed.
It’s fairly widely accepted that Clough’s cocksure approach to man management would be unsuited to the demands of modern man management, and whilst the idea of someone of Clough’s confidence and charisma could be well suited to LFC, ultimately his simplistic style of play would probably contribute to failure in the modern game.
Verdict – Klopp
The godfather of Dutch football is often comically overlooked when it comes to discussing the greatest managers of all-time, partly because of his low profile and the fact he never managed in England. Michels’ reputation was built when he took Ajax from relegation candidacy to European champions, developing a style of ‘Total Football’ that came to define a generation. He won titles with Barcelona and FC Koln, and a European Championship with Holland.
FIFA named Michels the manager of the century in 1999. His attitude to leadership surrounded on discipline, but he remained popular with his players, allowing them to express themselves
within the confines of his system. The Dutchman’s preferred style of play could be transferred to the nuances of football in 2016, along with his firm but fair personality. Michels and Liverpool would be a good fit, and it would be a fascinating prospect.
Verdict – Michels
Sir Alex Ferguson
No thank you.
Verdict – Klopp
Sure, Mourinho’s trophy cabinet is up there with anyone else’s in the history of the game, and before his time is out, it’s likely to grow even more, wherever he ends up next. His rivalry with Rafa Benitez puts him at odds with the Liverpool fan base, as does a showreel of quotes and actions that suggest his arrogant persona would not suit the Liverpool Way.
Liverpool is a special club that goes about things a certain way, and whilst Mourinho’s success should be admired, that integrity should be preserved ahead of any short-term gain.
Verdict – Klopp
Very much the daddy of modern football, Guardiola has presided over the nurturing of two of modern football’s superpowers in the Barcelona and Bayern Munich sides of 2008-12 and 2013-16 respectively. Now confirmed as the next Manchester City manager, Guardiola will take his place in an Anfield dugout soon enough.
Klopp and Guardiola are often mentioned in the same breath, having done battle in the Bundesliga in recent years, building one of modern football’s great rivalries. Guardiola has 13 trophies under his belt to date, although you can bank on that number increasing in this, his final year with Bayern.
Guardiola is perhaps a more likely alternative to Klopp than some of the more senior considerations on this list, and whilst the German’s ‘pull’ remains to be seen, Guardiola would surely be more able to attract the very highest calibre of player. His charisma doesn’t quite measure up to that of Klopp, but Guardiola’s record at huge clubs suggests he will be able to stand up to the rigours of leadership at LFC and in the Premier League. The issue would be whether the Spaniard’s history of leaving clubs in the search of new challenges within a few seasons.
Verdict – Begrudgingly, Guardiola