Five interim managers panicking Liverpool should consider before Alonso drive in 2025

Matt Stead
Jose Mourinho, Liverpool director Michael Edwards and Rafa Benitez
It's time for Liverpool to start thinking outside the box

The two favourites for the Liverpool job are no longer thought to be in the running and the manager market looks sparse. Jose Mourinho as an interim it is.

Xabi Alonso is staying in Germany. Liverpool ‘are on stand-by’ when it comes to Ruben Amorim but that move is now said to be ‘unlikely’. There is no obvious replacement for Jurgen Klopp.

The ten favourites to become the next Liverpool manager makes for difficult reading. Unai Emery or Thiago Motta, anyone?

What Liverpool might do is stand by their ‘brave over popular’ remit for the Klopp successor search and go down a route Bayern Munich are said to be considering: an interim appointment before going all out on Alonso in 2025. In which case, who could take the Anfield wheel on an entirely provisional basis?

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Jose Mourinho
Arsenal are top of the Premier League. A European Championship is fast approaching, which England are among the favourites to win. Ipswich, Norwich and West Brom are fighting for promotion from the second tier. David Moyes is splitting a discontented fanbase. And because the summers of 2004 and 2024 are essentially indistinguishable, Liverpool are searching for a new manager, with Jose Mourinho barging in on the conversation.

He was thought to be the club’s first choice when it came to replacing Gerard Houllier two decades ago. Mourinho was definitely part of a shortlist which also quite brilliantly featured Alan Curbishley, Gordon Strachan and Martin O’Neill. But Roman Abramovich tempted the Portuguese to Chelsea instead and that timeline is far more palatable than the alternative.

READ MOREKlopp was not Liverpool’s first choice either – Mourinho, Wenger offer Liverpool hope after Alonso ‘snub’

Mourinho has been intrinsically linked with Liverpool since. He has faced them more times (31) than any other opponent, winning his first trophy in English football and losing two Champions League semi-finals against the Reds.

The rivalry – as they tend to with Mourinho – became bitter, personal and resentful, but he respects the club deeply.

While on punditry duty for the 2022 Champions League final, he sat and listened to those same Liverpool supporters he once antagonised and shushed after a Steven Gerrard cup final own goal at the Millennium Stadium, saying: “This is more beautiful than what we can say.”

Whether Liverpool reciprocate that deference has always been part of the problem. Former chief executive Rick Parry once said that Mourinho’s Old Trafford touchline celebration caused him to wonder if he really ‘characterised the club’s values’; water has long since submerged that bridge and truthfully, manager and club are no longer close to being on the same level.

Mourinho’s stock is low after a fourth straight sacking, the first three of which came in the Premier League. He is openly discussing the prospect of managing West Ham or Brighton. His reputation among the elite is indelibly tarnished and it is impossible to shake the sense that the game has moved on.

But needs must. Liverpool are struggling to identify a suitable Klopp replacement, a manager who can build on these foundations and embark on another dynastical reign. No such option seems to exist in the current market; Xabi Alonso has bottled it to take unbeaten possible Treble winners Leverkusen into the Champions League next season and could be available next summer, yet the Reds must reach that point first before chasing a dream appointment again.

A season-long interim coach would be precisely the sort of ‘brave over popular’ choice the Liverpool hierarchy might consider. Mourinho is laughably far from a natural fit but is one of few with the requisite character to replace such a beloved figurehead and a 12-month arrangement would avoid the Portuguese’s usual third-season scorched-earth policy. He would also know this is his absolute final shot on such an illustrious stage and could take complete credit for all the academy products Klopp has actually helped bring through. And he was at the Fulham game so the deal is pretty much done.

As his agent told the club when they met in 2004: “Jose Mourinho would like to come and manage Liverpool.” Twenty years later, they might need him.

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Rafa Benitez
In what would become not quite a theme but certainly a common enough occurrence, Benitez beat Mourinho to the punch in 2004. He delivered the Champions League to England before his nemesis as absolutely everyone expected, won three more trophies, held a press conference that one time, tried to swap Alonso for Gareth Barry and left after frequently clashing with the owners.

Benitez’s reign fizzled out but his impact extended far beyond what were six largely excellent years. The Spaniard formed a deep-rooted relationship with the fanbase through his Hillsborough charity donations and work in the community; he still has property and friends on Merseyside, although his most recent post was at Celta Vigo.

Those ill-advised seven months at Everton undoubtedly spoiled that connection somewhat, even if Agent Rafa doing his utmost to relegate the Toffees should have strengthened the bond.

Benitez actually lasted longer at Chelsea, despite the specifically interim arrangement of his appointment in November 2012. That season ended with Europa League glory, a third-place finish and two cup semi-finals. When it comes to Liverpool, he Knows The Club but also how to steer a ship through difficult waters as a temporary – and unpopular – captain.


Niko Kovac
An apparent actual candidate, which says more about Liverpool’s increasing desperation and lack of viable alternatives than Kovac’s credentials.

Sacked by Wolfsburg in March, Monaco in January 2022 and Bayern Munich in November 2019, Kovac does nevertheless tick one necessary box to be considered by Liverpool as a former Bundesliga champion. The Croatian dragged the biggest and best team in the country over the line while Klopp and Alonso brilliantly built underdogs to challenge that hegemony, but still.

More ambitious Liverpool supporters will have been pleased to hear Kovac himself say there is “no truth” to the recent speculation linking him with the post. It would be a strange choice. But five of Kovac’s jobs have lasted under two years and the other only exceeded that threshold by a couple of months.

He is an innately short-term manager, would not need compensation sorting as a free agent and can work actual miracles: the most league appearances Thiago has ever made in a single season is 30, when working under Kovac at Bayern in 2018/19.

📣 TO THE COMMENTS! Should Liverpool wait for Alonso? Join the debate


Gary O’Neil
The current fourth-favourite for the permanent Liverpool manager job, there are obvious question marks against O’Neil’s name. His relative inexperience is a difficult factor to overlook, while his style and philosophy has suited Bournemouth, Wolves and the general Premier League mid-to-lower table perfectly. How that translates to title challenges and trophy tilts is unknown.

If the 40-year-old’s trajectory continues then the most left-field of shouts would slowly move front and centre over time, but it requires a fair few considerable leaps to link him previously working with Michael Edwards and Richard Hughes, to them appointing him as Liverpool’s head coach now.

But there are two points in O’Neil’s favour. First, the fact he started his coaching career at Liverpool. Made assistant manager to the U23s squad in August 2020, he helped develop Caoimhin Kelleher, Jarell Quansah, Conor Bradley and some other players the Reds might chuck on to win a future League Cup final.

Second, it is not actually humanly possible for O’Neil to be in charge of a club’s pre-season. Bournemouth appointed him in the middle of a campaign and Wolves made him manager five days before theirs started. He excelled both times.

Liverpool should let everyone keep thinking they have no idea what they’re doing, then appoint O’Neil in August and win the sodding lot.

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Frank Lampard
It’s that time of year when he starts popping up in executive boxes and planting seeds in the most pliable of minds. Todd Boehly was no coward. Liverpool might be.

More: Liverpool | Jurgen Klopp’s replacement