Arne Slot's quiet trip to Anfield to seal transfer as new Liverpool boss got hint at future

-Credit: (Image: John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)
-Credit: (Image: John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)

It's over seven years ago now since Arne Slot got his first, fleeting taste of Anfield and its alluring atmosphere.

It was back in February 2017 when the Dutchman was flown to Merseyside as a guest of then assistant manager Pep Lijnders to watch Jurgen Klopp's Reds take on Tottenham Hotspur in what was the standout fixture of the Premier League's weekend.

Slot, who was head coach of SC Cambuur at the time, was invited to Merseyside by Lijnders and Michael Edwards, with a view to meeting Julian Ward, then head of loan pathways, to discuss a potential temporary switch of midfielder Pedro Chirivella.

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And while Slot was treating the visit like the business trip it was, a raucous Anfield - aided by Sadio Mane's quick-fire double in a pulsating 2-0 win - certainly left an impression. The same, however, can be said of the Reds' new head coach, who is now preparing to take the club in a different direction after the wildly successful Klopp era came to a close at the end of May.

"At that moment I was at Cambuur Leeuwarden and we didn’t play at the highest level in Holland, so there was a big difference between where I was then and now," Slot says of his maiden voyage to Anfield.

"Of course, the league here and facilities were bigger, and there were a lot more people, but at Feyenoord I was at a club which was in the Champions League and outplaying some clubs in the Champions League so, of course, there is a difference, but not as much as there was six or seven years ago when I was at Cambuur.

"I went with the former sporting director (Edwards). We spoke a bit and I had a look and feel for the club, but not in such a way that I would assume that seven years later I would be in this position.

"We were like two fans going to the game. It was before they won the league and Champions League. You know better than anyone that people liked what Jurgen did here. He changed the style of play and the amount of times the team won. Everyone was positive even back then without the team at that stage winning trophies."

The rise of both Liverpool and Slot as a coach in the years since have been dramatic. Under Klopp, they finished inside the top four that campaign and then went all the way to the Champions League final the following season.

By the summer of 2020, Klopp's team had lifted the European Cup, a first-ever Club World Cup and the Premier League before adding two League Cups and an FA Cup to the haul along the way. In weight of silverware alone, it was an impressive period, but that also does scant justice to the transformation undertaken by the club and its worldwide fanbase during Klopp's time on Merseyside.

Following that is the almost impossible job, but for Slot, amassing a similarly glittering haul does not feel beyond the new-look Liverpool regime going forward.

“That depends of course on what you define as success," he says in a chat with a handful of publications including the ECHO at the AXA Training Centre on Friday morning. "Trophies? I think if you work at a club like Liverpool, that’s the aim. The players have that aim, the club has and the fans have.

“We’re here to win something. We’re here to become better players, to become a better team and as an end result of that, we want to win trophies. We come here on a daily basis because we want to improve and we want to play special games.

“But we’re here at this level because every player, and the manager as well, have a burning desire inside of him that he wants to win. Probably because you want to win so bad, that’s also the reason why you want to improve if that makes sense.

“It’s difficult to find the number because if you follow the Premier League, you follow Liverpool, you follow some other teams, so you see them a lot but more in a general way.

“But then the moment you get to know that you will become the next Liverpool manager, and you have seven weeks holiday, which was quite long for me, there was a lot of time to watch many games. It’s a compliment to Jurgen that many games looked the same.”