Sunday Sport


Liverpool assistant Lijnders admits gaffer’s boots are impossible to ll


LIVERPOOL assistant manager Pep Lijnders believes it is impossible to replace Jurgen Klopp and the club should not try to find a replica but someone who can develop their own dynasty.

Klopp’s shock decision to step down at the end of the season began an unenviable task for owners Fenway Sports Group of finding a successor for a manager who has won every club honour – bar the Europa League – during his time at Anfield.

The German has the chance to add to his tally of trophies this weekend in the Carabao Cup final against Chelsea on Sunday and the finale to the season could see them contend for another three in what would be a remarkable send- off.

But Lijnders, who with the rest of Klopp’s backroom staff is also leaving, insisted there was no point in trying to find someone who would be a clone of the 56- year- old, with former Reds midfielder Xabi Alonso currently the leading candidate.

“No one can replace Jurgen Klopp. But I think the past showed already a few difficult transition­s,” said the Dutchman.

“What was the most difficult transition inside this club was ( Bill) Shankly saying ‘ That’s me’. ( Bob) Paisley stepped up and was completely different from Shanks.

“It shows, as a club, we have to search for someone who wants to grow, who has the mindset to develop.

“I think we did the right thing by announcing early so the club has real time to make this transition smooth but the past has already shown that it is really impossible.

“The ( Pep) Guardiola team of Barca, he says out of nothing ‘ That’s me’ and then Tito ( Vilanova) took over and has the highest win ratio ever – that was probably the most difficult transition in the last 15 years.


“What I’m trying to say is they don’t have to replace Jurgen, they have to find a good, good manager because nobody will replace Jurgen.”

There was a concern that Klopp’s announceme­nt could possibly derail a team which leads the Premier League, faces Southampto­n in the FA Cup next week and is favourite for the Europa League, having been drawn against Sparta Prague in the last 16.

However, that has not been the case with five victories and just one defeat since the news broke and Lijnders said that was down to the mentality within the dressing room.

“I think you underestim­ate our squad, the personalit­ies in it,” he added.

“They have been through a lot already, in recent history but also how they grew up; a lot of these boys had to show character from a young age – not everything went easy for them.

“A lot of us get a lot of criticism but we grow with this, it only feeds us. All these boys know how to deal with it.

“A lot of these boys didn’t win anything with Liverpool yet so of course they give everything despite the manager saying he is leaving.

“We are stable enough to deal with it. That’s what I thought before – but you never know.

“It is in the back of your mind but I, we, trust the squad enough that

they can deal with that. We never make it more complicate­d than it is and I like that. It is the next game, that’s our final – and it is a final so let’s give everything on this planet to win this one and give joy and emotion to the fans.”

Liverpool will make a late decision on the fitness of forwards Mo Salah and Darwin Nunez, who both missed the midweek win over Luton, and midfielder Dominik Szoboszlai, who has not played since the league win over Chelsea at the end of January.

Meanwhile, former Liverpool defender Stephen Warnock reckons Roberto De Zerbi is the club’s first choice to replace Klopp – not Xabi Alonso.

The left- back played alongside the Spaniard at Anfield but thinks the club will go for someone with Premier League experience.

Warnock said: “From Liverpool’s point of view, and the owners FSG, they’ll have always been looking at the long- term solution to Klopp leaving and his potential successors.

“They’ll have been keeping tabs on other managers pretty much from when Klopp started.

“Making sure they were ready for the day that either leaves or goes through a bad patch.

“Xabi Alonso will have only come on to their radar in the past year and there may have been someone else in the back of their mind they were thinking he could be the replacemen­t for Klopp.

“The manager I imagine is the leading candidate is Roberto De Zerbi.

“He’s done an incredible job and almost works within the resources that Klopp has had to work with as well. I think he would be an ideal fit for the club.”

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 ?? Success ?? TOP TEAM: Klopp and Lijnders have had plenty of
ON SHORTLIST: Roberto De Zerbi
Success TOP TEAM: Klopp and Lijnders have had plenty of ON SHORTLIST: Roberto De Zerbi

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