Pep Lijnders: Jurgen Klopp started making Liverpool exit plans over a year ago

Steven Chicken
Pep Lijnders and Jurgen Klopp
Pep Lijnders was Jurgen Klopp's trusted deputy almost throughout the German's time at Liverpool

Departing Liverpool assistant Pep Lijnders has admitted that Jurgen Klopp asked him more than once if he would be interested in taking the reins as Reds boss once he stood down – but that everyone eventually came to the same place with the idea.

Klopp inherited then-development coach Lijnders from Brendan Rodgers upon his arrival at Anfield but took a shine to the Dutchman and promoted him to be his right-hand man for the first team.

Lijnders: Klopp tried to make me go to interview but I said no, no, no

Aside from a five-month spell away for his ill-fated time in charge of Dutch second-tier side NEC in 2018, Lijnders has been alongside Klopp every step of the way, so it was only natural that the idea of taking the step up to Liverpool’s big chair would be floated at some point.

Interestingly, Lijnders said that Klopp first asked the question during the 2022/23 season, suggesting the German was already making plans to depart long before his announcement in January.

But Lijnders will instead become manager at Austrian side RB Salzburg after deciding to leave the club alongside Klopp this summer, with Arne Slot coming in as the new Liverpool gaffer instead.

Lijnders said in a more wide-ranging The Athletic interview that is well worth your time: “Jurgen had made his mind up and I was quite clear that it was the right time for me to make my own way.

“Over the past three years, I said ‘no’ to a lot of clubs. The reason I always stayed was out of loyalty to Jurgen and FSG. I already really wanted to go and show what I could do.

“Jurgen asked me about [succeeding him] a few times in recent years. The season before I got the question from Jurgen and two times this season, but each time I said ‘no’.

“The first reason was I really felt that this was a project of ‘us’. Jurgen led it and I really felt we should end this project together.

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“Secondly, I’ve been at Liverpool for nearly 10 years. I was ready for a new experience: new people, my own staff, my own players. I gave everything I had to this playing group.

“I think the team would continue with the same ways if I stayed here. I feel that the team as well needs something new. But I never knew 100 per cent what my response would be if [FSG president] Mike Gordon called me. You say ‘no, no, no’ but then…”

When Gordon actually did call following Klopp’s announcement that he was going to depart, Lijnders says the conversation went as follows: “Mike said, ‘Pep, we really considered you, but I think it’s fair for you that we don’t put you after Jurgen’.

“Mike is a good guy. He knew as well. I’d made my ambition clear. It was best for the future.”