Premier League • England

Next Liverpool manager: FSG appoint ‘world’s greatest leader’ to boost search as one man is told succeeding Klopp is ‘his destiny’

Linda Pizutti and John Henry are owners of Liverpool and are seeking a successor to Jurgen Klopp as manager

Liverpool owners are ramping up their quest to appoint a successor to Jurgen Klopp after bringing in an elite sports executive to lead the hunt and ensure the Reds settle on the best possible candidate to become their new manager.

It’s now been over 10 days since Klopp stunned the footballing world by announcing his decision to step down from the Anfield hotseat at the end of the season after nine largely glorious years in the hotseat. The German will depart Merseyside as one of the greatest managers in their history having led Liverpool to six trophies, including the Premier League and Champions League, as well as four major European finals.

While speculation over where Klopp will manage next appears to have eased off with the acceptance being that the “tired” coach just wants a period out of the game to recharge his batteries, talk over whom Liverpool choose as his heir continues to provoke debate.

FSG have themselves something of a headstart in that quest, having known of Klopp’s intentions to quit since November. As a result, the club’s American owners are already some way down the line in doing due dilligence on several of the leading candidates.

With that in mind, a report last week claimed Liverpool had reduced their shortlist to just two names in Roberto De Zerbi and Xabi Alonso.

Of the pair, the Spaniard seems well placed to take the job, given his links to Anfield and amid suggestions Alonso has already got his eyes on a €75m-rated star as his first Liverpool signing.

He is excelling in his first managerial role with Bayer Leverkusen, who are top of the Bundesliga table and battling to end Bayern Munich’s 11-year reign as champions.

READ MOREFive reasons why Xabi Alonso would be the perfect Jurgen Klopp successor

FSG appoint sports executive to lead Liverpool manager hunt

There are plenty who feel Alonso ticks all the boxes Liverpool need in a manager, while the fact he is already held in such affection by their supporters only further his chances.

Furthermore, De Zerbi has also tipped his cap to the 42-year-old, while also dropping a bit of a tease on his Brighton future and amid links to the Anfield hotseat.

FSG, for their part, will do their utmost to ensure speculation on exactly who they choose for the job remains a guarded secret.

That hunt was expected to be led by FSG president Mike Gordon and aided by head of research William Spearman. Any final decision, however, would be left to majority shareholder and Reds owner John Henry and chairman, Tom Werner.

However, it’s now reported that Fenway Sports Group are taking something of a holistic approach to finding Klopp’s successor. And it’s now been revealed they have brought in a world-leading American sports executive to lead that hunt after bringing in Theo Epstein into the club.

The 50-year-old, born in New York, is the former president of baseball operations for the Chicago Cubs.

Epstein has previous experience with FSG too, having been vice president and general manager for the Boston Red Sox.

But with the new title of senior adviser, Epstein will become  the lead consultant to Gordon and Spearman as the Reds bid to pick Klopp’s successor in the hotseat. Epstein also becomes a part-owner of Fenway Sports Group in the process, so has a vested interest in ensuring he gets it right.

Both Gordon and Epstein have what is described by The Athletic as a “long-standing relationship” that “goes back years”.

Xabi Alonso to Liverpool considered ‘inevitable’

Considered a ‘world-leading figure’ in the field, Epstein ranked as No 1 in a 2017 list by Fortune magazine of ‘The World’s 50 Greatest Leaders’.

He also has the Pittsburgh Penguins, RFK Racing, Boston Common Golf and a role with the PGA Tour on his CV.

Sam Kennedy, who is chief executive officer of FSG, told The Athletic: “Given the desire to win everywhere, we viewed this as tripling down on our commitment to winning.

“If our teams and clubs aren’t winning, there’s nothing to talk about. No one knows better how to win than Theo.”

Henry told the Boston Globe of the appointment: “There is no question that Theo left an indelible mark on our history that represented a transformative era.

“With his strategic mind, leadership, and unwavering passion for sports, Theo brings invaluable assets that will drive us forward across our diverse enterprises.”

With the process of picking a next manager well underway, BBC Football Focus pundits feels there is an air of ‘inevitability’ that Alonso ends of taking on the Anfield hotseat.

Top Anfield job is his ‘destiny’

Asked about his impact at the BayArena, former Arsenal star Martin Keown described him as the “brains” of the midfield as a player, having also taken that outlook into his managerial career.

“He’s won everything there is to win in the game and has played under Pep [Guardiola] and [Carlo] Ancelotti, [Jose] Mourinho, [Rafa] Benitez… it’s all their stored and now he’s putting that to great affect. It’s quite remarkable what he’s done there…”

On the possibility of replacing Klopp, Keown added: “It seems as if it’s his destiny now to arrive at Liverpool.”

Fellow pundit Rachel Brown-Finnis added: “I live in Liverpool and I know what type of fit is needed to manage the club and succeed Jurgen Klopp…the whole mood and charisma around the football club stems from Jurgen…. so I agree, they need a replacement with a similar type of character – and someone who can become the new captain of the ship.”

Keown concluded: “It’s going to be inevitable, he takes the job.”

Alonso has 24 wins from 28 games in all competitions this season, giving him an astonishing win percentage record of 86%.

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