Next Jurgen Klopp and how Liverpool can find him
Jurgen Klopp has reached the sixth anniversary of his appointment as Liverpool coach and has now been working as a coach for more than two decades.
It is interesting to think about what he achieved in football at that time. A constant in his career has been the need to fight with clubs who can afford to spend more on players and wages.
He led Klopp Mainz to the top of the German Football League for the first time in its history, battled Bayern Munich to win two Bundesliga titles with Borussia Dortmund and led Liverpool to become champions all around when other teams in England received significant financial advantages.
Despite being far from being the only coach to produce compressed teams, the ability to shut down opponents aggressively is certainly a hallmark of the style of football that Klopp calls “heavy metal”.
There is no doubt that it will have an impact on the next generation of coaches across Europe, and here are some who may reach similar goals in similar ways. Are they potential successors to Klopp at Liverpool?
The 39-year-old has been Rayo Vallecano’s coach since the start of 2020/21 and led his side to promotion on the first time he asked thanks to their 3-2 aggregate win over Girona.
Despite having the fourth lowest wage bill in La Liga, Los Vallecanos have started this season well, winning four of their opening eight games to finish sixth in the league table.
Only three teams in La Liga pressed their opponents so much in 2021/22, and they all had less possession as well. Vallecano is eighth in Europe’s top five leagues to create opportunities from crosses, a table currently topped by Liverpool.
Is the Bayern Munich coach too obvious to include here? He may be, but his rise and style of play make it impossible to omit Julian Nagelsmann.
From Hoffenheim as assistant manager – to a team including Roberto Firmino – the German then coached RB Leipzig for two seasons before moving to Munich last summer.
The 34-year-old (and therefore younger than James Milner) may not have titles on his resume just yet, but he does have a style that puts pressure on Klopp.
Leipzig ranked second in the five major leagues for its pressure on the success rate last season, and the third for pressure in the last third (for FBRef) and with a coach younger than Klopp now when he took charge of Mainz.
Former midfielder Paolo Zanetti spent last season achieving something with Venice similar to what Klopp was able to do at Mainz: He lifted them to the top flight after a 19-year absence.
It won’t be easy to keep them there – they are bottom four after seven games – as their wage bill last season represented a quarter of their smallest salary in Serie A.
Venice doesn’t score much, but he’s far from counter-attack, scoring goals this season and playing with a 4-3-3 formation like Liverpool. Wide striker Dennis Johnson will not come close to the scoring level scored by Mohamed Salah, but he is pressing at the same rate and is one of the top 10 players in the Italian league to dribble and carry the ball in the penalty area this season.
The newly appointed Strasbourg manager may not have had time to make much of an impression there, but his record with Rennes is definitely worth a closer look.
While still in his 30s, he took them to third place in Ligue 1 in the 2019/20 season, the club’s highest ever. It also means that Stefan brought football from the Champions League to Roazone Park for the first time as well.
Another 4-3-3 defender, he established Rennes’ success in a tight defensive record. They conceded fewer goals in open play than PSG in 2019/20, and in Eduardo Camavinga – now Real Madrid – they had the most pressing teenager in the major leagues.
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It’s only right to end our tour of young Klopp-style coaches in Germany, few of whom come from players richer than Sebastian (Dieter’s son, Ole’s nephew) Hoeness.
He already had experience with the youth teams of RB Leipzig and Bayern Munich (as well as reserves in the latter) when he became Hoffenheim coach in August 2020 at the age of 38.
While the results were mixed (wins in 11 and lost 13 of 34 league games last season), there was not much controversy with the press. Hoffenheim managed 33 per cent of his pressure in 2020/21, the sixth-best injury rate in the major leagues and the best of any England-trained team.
Tactically versatile – he used six different formations last season – Hoeness is another young coach who could work his way up the football ladder just as Klopp did before him.