The sacking of Kenny Dalglish was not unexpected given that rumours had been circulating for days prior to his dismissal – but once it was confirmed it left me feeling empty inside. Since I’ve been old enough to fully appreciate football I’ve agreed with the decision whenever past Liverpool managers have parted company with the club, until now. Even though I had genuine concerns about certain aspects of Kenny’s tenure, I still believed he deserved to be in charge next season and hoped it would be the case. However, it wasn’t to be, and FSG have made one of what will be several major decisions they have to make over the coming weeks and months. Decisions that they simply cannot afford to get wrong if they want to make progress both on and off the pitch.
As is always the case, speculation has been rife as to who Dalglish’s successor will be. The likes of Brendan Rodgers, Paul Lambert and Roberto Martinez have all been mentioned after impressing in the Premiership last season, whilst ex-Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez has been linked with a return to the Anfield hot seat. Whilst Benitez has clearly achieved more as a manager as the other aforementioned names, the thought of any of them getting the job just fills me with despair. FSG clearly felt like a fresh start was needed, and now that Kenny is no longer in charge I am of the same opinion. We need something new, something different. Whilst I’d love somebody like Pep Guardiola or Jurgen Klopp to get the job, I simply don’t either as being realistically attainable targets.
There is one man who, for me, stands out from the rest as being the perfect candidate to replace Kenny Dalglish. A man that I admired as a player and that has impressed as a manager. A man who I hoped would replace Rafa when he left in 2010, but who turned us down because the club was in a state of turmoil. That man is Didier Deschamps, the gestapo leather jacket wearing, mob boss looking midfield general - and no, not just because ‘DESCHAMPIONS’ would be the greatest newspaper headline of all-time when he leads us to Premiership glory next season. Wait, what are you all laughing at? Anyway, despite still only being 43, which is a pup in managerial terms, Deschamps has been successful in every job that he has taken so far.
The likes of Brendan Rodgers, Paul Lambert and Roberto Martinez have all been mentioned after impressing in the Premiership last season...the thought of any of them getting the job just fills me with despair
Deschamps’ first job as manager came in 2001, when he performed miracles at Monaco who were in severe financial difficulties. After keeping them in Ligue 1 during his first season full season in charge, the following season he transformed them from relegation battlers to league challengers, taking them to within a point of winning the league whilst also winning the French League Cup. The club was then actually relegated to Ligue 2 by the French Professional League for amassing debts of over €50m, although this was later overturned on appeal. Still, the 2003/04 season saw Monaco finish third – yet they got to the Champions League final, beating the likes of Chelsea and Real Madrid on the way, but were eventually beaten by Jose Mourinho’s Porto. He left in September 2004 after a disagreement with the board (incidentally Deschamps’ last game in charge was actually a 3-0 loss against Liverpool at Anfield).
His next job in management came nearly two years later, when in summer of 2006 when he replaced Fabio Capello at Juventus - the club where he enjoyed much success as a player in the 90’s. He took over in the aftermath of the Calciopoli scandal when Juventus were found guilty of match fixing and were demoted to Serie B and penalised nine points, leading to several key players such as Lilian Thuram, Fabio Cannavaro, Gianluca Zambrotta, Patrick Viera and Zlatan Ibrahimovic all leaving the club. Still, Deschamps led the Bianconeri to the Serie B title in his first and only season - but left the club at the end of the season, again after disputes with the board.
After another two year sabbatical he returned to management, taking the Marseille job in the summer of 2009 - another club where he had been successful as a player. In his first season at the helm not only did he guide them to their first Ligue 1 title in 18 years, he also won the French League Cup, which enhanced his already legendary status at the Stade Velodrome. The following season saw Marseille narrowly finish second to Lille in Ligue 1 - but they won the French League Cup for the second year in a row. This season has been a different story; a third successive League Cup victory and reaching the quarter-finals of the Champions League have been overshadowed by an incredibly poor league campaign, as Marseille finished 10th in Ligue 1 during which they went nearly three months without a league win. An almost identical season to Liverpool in many respects, well, minus the Champions League run.
This was his first ‘poor’ season as a manager, and even then he still won a cup and progressed to the quarter finals of Europe’s elite competition
There are mitigating circumstances for Marseille’s poor season, though. Deschamps has spent most of his time at Marseille at war with Jose Anigo, their sporting director who looks like Ray Wilkins’ long lost brother, over the club’s transfer policy. When Mamadou Niang, the club’s top scorer, was solid in 2010, Deschamps wanted an experienced striker to replace him – both Luis Fabiano and Alberto Gilardino were strongly linked – whilst Anigo wanted young, French talent. In the end Anigo got his way, and both Loic Remy and Andre-Pierre Gignac were signed. Whilst Remy has been relatively successful but not prolific, Gignac has been an unmitigated disaster and will likely be sold for a heavy loss this summer. The past two years have seen the club rein in their spending and there has been no real significant investment in the squad. Any time the club has spent a decent chunk of money, it has been because they have recouped most of it through player sales and, as is often the case with the Director of Football model, the players that did arrive were not always the preferred choice of the manager. As Liverpool fans unfortunately know all too well, it’s difficult for a manager to maintain a certain level of success when the playing squad continues to get weaker.
He gets the best out of his players, too: at Monaco, Rafael Marquez, Patrice Evra, Emmanuel Adebayor and Ludovic Giuly all thrived under Deschamps; at Juventus, see Federico Balzaretti and Claudio Marchisio; at Marseille, Andre Ayew, Mathieu Valbuena, Stephane M’Bia. Whilst being successful as a player does not guarantee success as a manager, it certainly is an advantage, and few have been as successful as Deschamps. He was the youngest captain ever to win the Champions League and he also captained France as they won the World Cup in 1998 and the Euro‘s in 2000. Over his playing career he won practically everything there is to win as a player (five league titles, two European Cups and six other cups) so is undoubtedly someone that his players will respect in terms of what he's achieved as a player and a manager, and on the flip side he'll be able to relate to his players as he knows what it takes as a player in order to be successful at the very highest level.
Deschamps ticks all the boxes. He’s a talented, ambitious and progressive manager, has won league titles, managed and been successful in the Champions League, wins trophies on a regular basis, has plenty of experience at huge clubs so understands the sort of pressure and expectation that comes with it, and has been successful on a modest transfer budget. This was his first ‘poor’ season as a manager, and even then he still won a cup and progressed to the quarter finals of Europe’s elite competition. As a club that have been out of the Champions League for what will be three years heading in to next season, Liverpool need a manager with experience in that competition to get them back in there. After sacking the man that embodies everything good about Liverpool Football Club, a man who still had the support of the majority of the fans, FSG must go out and get a top calibre manager, not somebody who has performed admirably under no pressure whatsoever. It is too much of a risk to hope that a small fish can step up in a big pond.
Let’s hope the King did not abdicate his throne in order for the Joker to take it.
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