Kopites might not want to hear it – but one day, Jurgen Klopp will leave Liverpool.
At some stage, the Anfield hot seat will be void of the gregarious German who’s re-established the Reds as a European force.
When Klopp took the reins in October 2015, he was tasked with bringing the glory days back to Liverpool.
With a sixth Champions League and a first Premier League title now adorning the trophy cabinet as well a recent EFL trophy, that mission has already been accomplished.
With a few years remaining on his current deal, Klopp won’t be satisfied with his achievements on Merseyside so far. More silverware is the sole aim.
But come 2024, it could be the end of one of the most entertaining eras in the club’s history.
Klopp’s has said in the past that he’s likely to depart the Reds when his contract culminates.
It might be two-and-a-half seasons away but you can bet that there’s a contingency plan already in place for his successor.
Managers up and down the country, across Europe and beyond will be carefully tracked by owners Fenway Sports Group. It’s paramount they get the appointment right.
Select the wrong candidate and it could lead to Liverpool surrendering their berth in the upper echelons of world football.
With that in mind, we take a look at who might be in the frame at this formative stage.
The obvious one
Jose Mourinho was the ‘Special One’. Klopp dubbed himself the ‘Normal One’.
And if Steven Gerrard was to land the Liverpool job, he could be given the moniker the ‘Obvious One’.
The Anfield hero has long been tipped to follow in Graeme Souness’ shoes to both captain and manage the Reds – although Gerrard would be expected to carry out a much better job than the Scot.
After retiring in 2016, the 2005 Champions League-winning skipper took up a coaching role in Liverpool’s academy before he was appointed under-18s boss the following year.
In 2018, Gerrard landed his first managerial gig, at Rangers where he won his first piece of silverware when leading the Ibrox outfit to the Scottish title, stopping bitter-rivals Celtic from claiming 10 successive crowns.
He joined Aston Villa this season after the departure of Dean Smith and has already done a decent job there.
Gerrard will certainly be considered for the role when Klopp leaves Anfield.
A potential return
If Klopp were to leave tomorrow, Jamie Carragher believes Brendan Rodgers would be top of Liverpool’s list – had he not been sacked, of course.
Still, Rodgers did a grand job at Anfield on reflection. The 2013-14 season was the highlight, with the Reds finishing second and two points behind Man City in the Premier League.
The Northern Irishman’s axing, in hindsight, been the best thing for his career. He led Celtic to two Scottish titles and has now ensured Leicester are challenging for Europe every season.
Last term, he guided the Foxes to a first FA Cup in the club’s history and just missed out on Champions League football with a fifth-place finish.
One advantage is that FSG already know Rodgers’ way of working and he’s quite clearly become a better manager since his departure.
The trusted lieutenant
So could FSG imitate that approach and hand Klopp’s No.2 Pep Lijnders the top job?
The Dutchman first arrived on Merseyside in 2014 to join the academy coaching staff, having previously worked under Vitor Baía and André Villas-Boas at Porto.
He worked his way up the ladder to join the first-team set-up.
Lijnders had a brief spell away from Anfield when he took the driving seat at NEC in his homeland in January 2018 but returned the following June to help Liverpool claim the Champions League and Premier League.
The 38-year-old always comes across well when he gives interviews and could carry on Klopp’s fine work.
An established European boss
The reason why FSG appointed Klopp was to take Liverpool from pretenders to the throne to the footballing elite.
They could well want to take that approach again and appoint a manager who’s been there and done that as Klopp had at Borussia Dortmund.
Julian Nagelsmann took RB Leipzig to second in the Bundesliga last season. Perhaps if he’s unable to conquer the mighty Bayern Munich, like so many others, he’ll look to move on for trophies.
The fiery Diego Simeone has worked wonders at Atletico Madrid. He’s spoiled the Barcelona-Real Madrid monopoly by winning two La Liga titles since taking charge in 2011 – the latest coming last term.
There might come a time when Simeone looks for a fresh challenge.
You never know where Antonio Conte – who won the Premier League with Chelsea – will be in a couple of years while Thomas Tuchel may well have left Stamford Bridge by 2024.
FSG may want someone who they already know but has substantial managerial experience.
Step forward, Neil Critchley.
The 43-year-old was a highly-respected figure during his seven years in the club’s academy. He first was under-18s head coach before being promoted to the under-23s in 2017.
Under his tutelage, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Curtis Jones, Harvey Elliott, Caoimhín Kelleher and Neco Williams all made their way into the first team.
Critchley also stood in as first-team manager for games against Aston Villa in the Carabao Cup and Shrewsbury in the FA Cup.
The former Crewe midfielder left in January 2020 to take his maiden managerial role at Blackpool – and has done a sterling job so far.
In his first full season, he guided the Seasiders to League One promotion via the play-offs. This term, Blackpool sit a highly respectful 12th in the Championship.
If Critchley continues in the same vein, he’ll be poached elsewhere. Come 2024, he could well be punching above his weight in the top flight – and convince Liverpool he’s the right man.
The xG king
Speaking of managers punching above their weight, that’s what Brighton are currently doing under Graham Potter.
The Seagulls have always threatened to kick on since he was appointed chief in 2019.
They created enough chances in the past two campaigns but couldn’t put the ball away. That’s why they got the nickname the expected goal kings.
Potter’s recruitment on the south coast has been shrewd, unearthing the likes of Yves Bissouma, Tariq Lamptey and Alexis Mac Allister.
Pep Guardiola labelled Potter the best English manager in the game. With a couple more years under his belt, he could be ready for a most prestigious role.