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Change of plans, Xabi Alonso was not always Liverpool's first option

By Charles Cornwall

Change of plans, Xabi Alonso was not always Liverpool's first option

Liverpool’s top brass knew back in November that Jürgen Klopp would be leaving.

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When news broke last month that Jürgen Klopp would leave Liverpool at the end of the season, it was a massive surprise to all but a select few. Even the players were taken completely unawares. That had the potential to cause a certain amount of disgruntlement, with leaders in the Liverpool squad like Virgil van Dijk and Trent Alexander-Arnold perhaps entitled to expect a degree of prior warning. But Klopp had kept his secret almost entirely under wraps, wanting to ensure that he and the club had total control of the announcement.

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Even when the announcement came, Klopp conceded he would have preferred to wait until the end of the season. It’s not difficult to see why, with speculation around Xabi Alonso and others now almost as rife as discussion of the quadruple push happening on the pitch. But the Liverpool boss felt the secret was becoming untenable, with his backroom staff approaching the point where they would want to speak to prospective new employers.

But in the corridors of power, certain key figures had been made aware of the news on a need-to-know basis months earlier. Klopp first told Mike Gordon, FSG president and the owners’ most hands-on presence at Liverpool, way back in November, he will play a big role in deciding who is appointed next, with Alonso widely considered a leading candidate. A report from Foot Mercato even claims that Liverpool sounded out Alonso in November. It’s a little hard to believe: an ‘approach’ would have needed to be of the utmost discretion, and it doesn’t seem to tally with the wider strategy surrounding Klopp’s departure.

But regardless of whether or not Liverpool made contact with Alonso, it was certainly not sitting idly between November and the public announcement. Klopp gave FSG the gift of two extra months of planning for the biggest decision it has had to make since appointing him in the first place, and the owners have not been wasting that time.

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He turned the topic around

This is not the place for a deep dive into Bayer Leverkusen’s tactics, but suffice to say there are enough similarities to suggest Spearman will have come across him in the data. Like Klopp, Alonso sees pressing as one of the fundamental elements of the game, that outweighs relative trivialities like using different formations. Ultimately, though, Liverpool is doing things with data that the layman could not even dream of; it has always been ahead of the curve. Hopefully the math leads to Alonso, but if not then we can only trust the process, which has been underway in one form or another since November.

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