Liverpool walking dangerous managerial tightrope

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Liverpool’s owners have a very big decision to make this summer, and all initial reports suggest it’s proving difficult to find the right man to replace Kenny Dalglish.

Fenway Sports Group met with the Scot in America last weekend, and relieved the 61-year-old of his duties after a season to forget in the Premier League.

Silverware was simply not enough to save ‘King Kenny’, who led the Reds to League Cup glory in February but fell at the final hurdle in the FA Cup against Chelsea.

A club legend, Dalglish was handed huge finances to build a squad capable of challenging for a return to the Champions League. He’d spend over £100 million on the likes of Luis Suarez, Andy Carroll, Stewart Downing and Jordan Henderson.

Whilst some of his signings were a hit, too many missed the mark at Anfield, and an eighth-placed finish behind Everton was simply not good enough for the expectant owners from the USA. The trigger was pulled, and Liverpool are back to square one.

A handful of contenders have already been thrown into the frame, but worryingly for the Reds, many have been quick to rule themselves out of a possible appointment on Merseyside.

Swansea City boss Brendan Rodgers was one of those to say no, with the Northern Irishman believing he’s got more to offer the Welsh outfit after an encouraging first campaign in the Premier League.

Ajax boss Frank De Boer is the latest to do the same, admitting he was ‘honoured’ to be considered but not willing to leave the Eredivisie winners ahead of a season in the Champions League.

That is one of the big problems for Liverpool – they can’t offer European football at the highest level. Whilst the Europa League is on the table, some managers see it as more of a burden than an opportunity.

The situation leaves the club realistically looking at the ‘second tier’ of managers, unable to attract the very best as might have been the case ten years ago.

Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola are understandably high on the wish list, but that’s the closest they are going to get to the top job at Anfield. Whilst the club is historically great, modern-day managers are more interested in the present than the past.

That’s going to force John W. Henry and his colleagues to look at less attractive options, and with the likes of Rodgers willing to shut the door on Liverpool before he’s even got close to opening it, their search might not be as easy as potentially imagined.

Andre Villas-Boas is currently the bookmakers favourite. Unemployed after his exit from Chelsea, the former FC Porto chief may feel like he has a point to prove in England, and that would be a positive factor for the Reds should they make the move.

Next on the list is Roberto Martinez. The Wigan boss produced a miracle in keeping the Latics up last season, playing a style of football worthy of a top team in the division rather than perennial strugglers.

However, news that he’s been allowed to hold talks with the club was met with a frosty reception from Liverpool fans last week, and that might put the owners off making such a move.

Rafael Benitez is third favourite, with the Spaniard in-line for a second spell in charge on Merseyside were he to get the nod from FSG.

Benitez took the club closest to a league title back in 2008-09, falling just four points short behind Manchester United. He also won the Champions League during his first reign at the club.

Outside of that, the list gets long, with names like Didier Deschamps, Frank Rijkaard and Fabio Capello all said to be in the mix. In truth, it could be a lottery as to where the owners turn, and it should be remembered that they have little experience in this particular area of football.

"The American owners have set the bar high by sacking him because they are saying only the Champions League matters. This is increasingly true but you have to remember where Liverpool were when he came back,” noted club legend and close friend Alan Hansen on BBC Sport.

“If you went into Anfield in January 2011 it was the worst it had been in 30 years - the club was on its knees, so you were not going to get straight back into the Champions League."

Instant pressure to reach Europe’s elite club competition could be another factor working against an appointment, as anyone who takes the job will know that their job is on the line if a fourth-place finish can’t be guaranteed.

That said, some managers thrive on such situations. It’s up to FSG to find that man.

Good luck.

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