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Why Liverpool didn't hire Pep Lijnders to replace Jürgen Klopp as decision relayed in phone call

Pep Lijnders the assistant head coach / manager of Liverpool before the Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Wolverhampton Wanderers at Anfield on May 19, 2024 in Liverpool, England.
-Credit: (Image: Photo by James Baylis - AMA/Getty Images)


Liverpool has selected Arne Slot to be its next manager. Yet he was nowhere to be seen in the next manager betting until news broke that he was being approached by the club.

Before Jürgen Klopp announced he was leaving at the end of the 2023/24 season, his assistant Pep Lijnders was one of the favorites to take over. For many supporters this would have been the perfect move from FSG, a return to Liverpool’s famous boot room tradition of seamless managerial succession by promoting from within.

Klopp has been compared to Bill Shankly for the transformative effect both men had on the club. By that logic, Lijnders might have been the German's Bob Paisley, who took the Reds on to even greater success. So why didn’t FSG go down that route?

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There are no guarantees in sport. Replacing a manager with the charisma, presence and superb man management skills of Klopp is not an easy task. It would be wrong to assume a Paisley-style promotion for Lijnders (or any of the coaches at the club) would work out.

It’s not like the Dutchman has anything like the experience needed either. His managerial CV is just 22 matches with NEC Nijmegen in 2018. This would no doubt have been a factor when assessing his suitability for the role.

Speaking to The Athletic, Lijnders has revealed why he decided it was time to leave Liverpool once Klopp had told him of his decision to resign. “The first reason was I really felt that this was a project of ‘us’. Jürgen led it and I really felt we should end this project together,” he said.

“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,” Lijnders added. “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…”

The offer to take over never came though. FSG president Mike Gordon phoned Lijnders in February once the news that Klopp was leaving was public, as Pep explained.

“Mike said, ‘Pep, we really considered you, but I think it’s fair for you that we don’t put you after Jürgen’. Mike is a good guy. He knew as well. I’d made my ambition clear. It was best for the future,” Lijnders said. It will be fascinating to see how things pan out for the Dutchman at Red Bull Salzburg, and of course for Slot at Liverpool.

Liverpool.com says: Liverpool is understandably looking to make the transition from Klopp to the next manager as smooth as possible. Slot's Feyenoord play in a broadly similar way to the Reds, so in that sense his appointment is logical. But Lijnders could have maintained the style too.

His lack of experience must have counted against him, and FSG likely agreed with him that the team needed "something new". Ultimately, Gordon told Lijnders that it would 'not have been fair', and the burden of replacing Klopp now falls upon Slot.