Liverpool’s first choice for the manager to succeed Kenny Dalglish was Brendan Rodgers, but he turned down the initial offer. Maybe it was money, maybe he wasn’t yet convinced. Two weeks later, after the rumor mill circled around all potential and imaginary candidate, Rodgers is the man who gets the job.
What did Rodgers do this past season to put him ahead of Rafa Benitez, Roberto Martinez, Andre Villas-Boas and other names? Well, he took Swansea to the 11th position while gaining wins over Manchester City and Arsenal along the way, without any substantial funds or stars to lead the way.
The finish was the best among the three promoted clubs, all surviving their first season out of the Championship. But Rodgers has more going for him. Style seems to be something many are infatuated with. Maybe it’s the criticism and asterisk the media and fans love to label ‘unworthy’ champions with. Liverpool’s chiefs want to win, but they want innovation, and style.
Kenny Dalglish was old-guard. The last relic of the great 80’s side, as player and as manager, put in his position so he could bring back the glory days. In exchange, not by his fault alone, an imbalanced squad was created, that rarely succeeded in rising above mediocrity and disappointment. Add the fact that there was a lot of badly spent money under his watch, and the FSG people quickly realized he wasn’t the man to put Liverpool back among the best in English & European football.
Rodgers has yet to deal with something like this. Big stars, or at least some who consider themselves as such; Big egos, although those run freely through every dressing room in the country. Swansea seemed like a different story. They quickly won over the neutral fans’ votes for playing well, not just for being underdogs. The insistence on a fluid and passing style was what caught the eyes of many, not just the achievement of an 11th place finish.
A gamble? A big one. Liverpool are still a big name, but their are deep and severe problems with the squad. I’m not sure they can all be addressed in one offseason. Rodgers needs a certain kind of team around him to implement his style. Think Andre Villas-Boas, who worked under one of the least patient bosses in England. Dalglish thought of using these players for pass and move. It didn’t really work.
Rodgers is also a step into a new road. Maybe cutting the ties with the glory days of the past, of being judged by them, for the final time. The club is light years away from those days, when they were the most fearsome side in Europe. They don’t attract the same kind of attention from managers these days as well. Rodgers and Martinez seemed like the likeliest of candidates, not exactly the top tier of European managers.
Maybe it’s a new direction, that’s all. But maybe it’s also recognizing the depth of the problem and long road ahead to restore Liverpool’s place among the top 4 clubs in England, with the Champions League as the next destination and goal. Rodgers has never faced anything like this, and he might not get the patience and relaxed working environment he had in Wales once he officially becomes an Anfield man.