Pep Lijnders confirms Jurgen Klopp successor talks as Erik ten Hag casts Arne Slot Liverpool verdict

Lijnders and Klopp spoke about him becoming the next Liverpool manager
-Credit: (Image: Roland Krivec/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)

There is set to be a manager merry-go-round this summer but Liverpool have already got their ducks in a row.

Arne Slot is due to officially start his tenure next Saturday after Jurgen Klopp’s exit last week and will have a head start over the coaches of some of his rivals. Chelsea, for instance, are looking for a new boss after Mauricio Pochettino’s shock exit on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Manchester United could be seeking a replacement for Erik ten Hag, who could shortly be sacked despite just lifting the FA Cup. Liverpool could well have had a different man in the dugout, though, according to outgoing assistant Pep Lijnders.

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Lijnders reveals manager talks

Lijnders has admitted that Klopp had spoken to him about becoming his successor multiple times in recent seasons but rejected the proposal each time.

He revealed that the German asked him twice this season before Fenway Sports Group president Mike Gordon made the call to explain why he wouldn’t be approached for the role. Speaking to The Athletic, Lijnders said: “Over the past three years, I said ‘no’ to a lot of clubs.

‘The reason I always stayed was out of loyalty to Jurgen and FSG. I already really wanted to go and show what I could do.

“Jurgen asked me about [succeeding him] a few times in recent years. The season before I got the question from Jurgen and two times this season, but each time I said ‘no’.

“The first reason was I really felt that this was a project of ‘us’. Jurgen led it and I really felt we should end this project together.”

He added: “Secondly, I’ve been at Liverpool for nearly 10 years. I was ready for a new experience: new people, my own staff, my own players. I gave everything I had to this playing group.

“I think the team would continue with the same ways if I stayed here. I feel that the team as well needs something new. But I never knew 100 per cent what my response would be if Mike Gordon called me. You say ‘no, no, no’ but then…”

“Mike said, ‘Pep, we really considered you, but I think it’s fair for you that we don’t put you after Jurgen’. Mike is a good guy. He knew as well. I’d made my ambition clear. It was best for the future.”

The ECHO says: “Liverpool have a history of seeing the assistant succeed the manager such as Shankley and Paisley and then Fagan. Not many Liverpool fans would complain about Lijnders following Klopp but it’s understandable why he wouldn’t want the job immediately.

“The comparison would always be there and - in the words of Gordon - that would not seem fair in light of all of his efforts as number two. After all, the football climate has changed since the 1980s.

“It’s obvious why Klopp wished for Lijnders to take over but for the Dutchman himself, he clearly wants to be known as something other than Klopp’s protege, despite their inseparable friendship. Sometimes, the most obvious move is not the right one.”

Erik ten Hag casts verdict on Slot switch

Fellow Dutchman Ten Hag reckons Slot is walking into a ‘better’ situation at Liverpool than he did at Man United two years ago. He described the Red Devils as “a mess” when he arrived at Old Trafford, following Saturday’s FA Cup win.

Speaking prior to the final, Ten Hag was asked to give his verdict on former Eredvisie rival Slot getting the job at Anfield. He said to “This is great for the Dutch trainers’ guild, and Arne Slot also fits Liverpool with his philosophy.

“He ends up in better waters than I did when I went to Manchester United from the Netherlands, in terms of structure in the club, in terms of balance in the squad.”

The ECHO says: “There is no doubt that Liverpool have been left in a terrific place by Klopp, which affords the new coach little excuse. But it is no secret that the club’s financial transfer resources are not as abundant as that of United’s.

"Ten Hag has spent more than £400m in two years, figures FSG would be unlikely to supply in the same timeframe. Arguably, Ten Hag had nothing to lose when he arrived - Slot would have to go some to remotely emulate Klopp.”