Nobody likes to think about it, but it won’t be long before Jurgen Klopp causes FSG a big problem at Liverpool. His expected 2024 departure is still a long way off, and the best thing for supporters is to enjoy the ride until then, but behind the scenes there must be some concern about the looming uncertainty.
FSG knows how to be opportunistic when necessary. Luis Díaz’s move was accelerated by six months when Tottenham started sniffing around. But even this was merely a continuation of an existing strategy, not an entirely non-committal move. Careful planning is what has brought Liverpool back to the pinnacle of world football, and it’s not clear whether they will be able to do that in view of Klopp’s departure.
Not to mention losing the best manager in the world, FSG will have to deal with the fact that it is very difficult to plan future hires for coaching. Usually everything comes down to timing. Even Klopp’s first appointment at Liverpool was largely due to fortune, with his departure from Borussia Dortmund coinciding with a downfall of Brendan Rodgers.
READ MORE:Thiago has created a Liverpool blueprint for Jürgen Klopp to finally unleash a £52.75m masterplan
READ MORE:Liverpool ‘agree on terms’ over £67m transfer as Real Madrid ace makes cryptic Mohamed Salah comment
When it comes to playing staff, some sort of apprentice model can be used when charting future seasons. Diogo Jota learned from Roberto Firmino. Díaz was added in January to gradually take over from Sadio Mané’s traditional berth on the left wing. In defence, Ibrahima Konaté has been put on a similar path. Other than attempting to rekindle the ill-fated relationship between Roy Evans and Gérard Houllier, FSG cannot carry out the same sort of planning when it comes to replacing Klopp.
But maybe they can just do the next best thing. Pep Lijnders is regularly mentioned as a potential Klopp successor: after many years working as an assistant, he is the closest FSG comes to eliminating aspects of the unknown. The Dutchman will certainly be available at the relevant moment, he is clearly a convincing candidate for continuity and the Liverpool side are known to like him.
All of these arguments are pretty worn out, and they always run into one major sticking point: what about his lack of experience? A failed six-month stint in the Netherlands, after which Lijnders returned to Liverpool, is the only board appointment on his resume. Ultimately, FSG will have to weigh up these pros and cons. But they may have already given an important hint about their mindset, and Díaz could be at the heart of that.
After all, when he joined Jota to make up for two-thirds of the Liverpool attack of the future, Díaz added a distinctly Portuguese touch to Anfield. Although he is Colombian, he spent three of his formative development years in Porto, where he broke his teeth in the European game in the Primeira Liga. Jota, for his part, also spent time in Porto, after coming through the ranks at Paços de Ferreira.
Klopp has talked about his respect for Portuguese football in the past, but it won’t be long before he knows where his influence comes from. Lijnders spent eight years in Porto, including at the academy there. He knows all about the untapped potential of the country. It may be that FSG is already shaping the future team in its image.
Vitor Matos was even more recently in Porto and would presumably step down to become Lijnders’ main man under this potential FSG scheme. Taking on a team that already has a strong Portuguese influence seems like a smart way to put them both on the road to success.
A player from Portugal is a coincidence. Two is a pattern, especially considering that both Jota and Díaz have roots at the same club as Lijnders. If the latest links to Benfica’s Darwin Núñez come to fruition, it would become impossible to avoid the conclusion that FSG is no longer building solely on Klopp’s image.
Of course these players do perfectly under Klopp and any future manager would be lucky to work with them. FSG has certainly left themselves room for expediency, and if a clearly better candidate is available in 2024, they will take that step. But the nature of the latest signings only adds to the creeping feeling that Liverpool’s future could well lie with Lijnders.