Here we find ourselves, at the start of a new decade, with Liverpool FC in an almost perfect footballing position. Many older reds who have followed us since Shankly have said that this is the greatest Liverpool side they have ever seen. You'd also argue that if they able to finish the job they've so brilliantly started this season, could even go down as one of the greatest sides in footballing history.
The main reason we're in the position is largely down to one man, Jürgen Klopp. Whether it be his input in signings, his tactics or the way he simply rejuvenated a slowly-stagnating Anfield atmosphere from day one. The majority of the plaudits deserve to go to him. But I've been wondering a bit lately - would we be in the position we are now, if we managed to clinch the title in 2014?
Obviously we had a different man at the helm 6 years ago, Brendan Rodgers. He took us within a whisker of the title that year, in a season which was a world apart from the two & a bit mediocre campaigns which sandwiched it. Brendan was eventually given his marching orders a couple of months into the 2015/2016 season following a poor start. This was after a fairly dismal 2014-2015 season, which seen Liverpool drop from 2nd to 6th, crash out of the Champions League at the group stages (Managing only one victory after two games against Real Madrid, Basel & Ludogorets - And even that required a last minute penalty!), Crash out of the Europa League to Besiktas and probably, the most frustrating result of all - crash out of the FA Cup to Aston Villa in the semi finals (The same Aston Villa, who were relegated 12 months later).
It was as though the stars aligned at the time Rodgers was eventually sacked, as within a week or so, Liverpool had their replacement. Jürgen Norbert Klopp, a man who had left Borussia Dortmund several months earlier at the end of the 2014/2015 season. Upon leaving his position Klopp stated that he wanted a rest from football after seven intense years in Dortmund and wouldn't be accepting any jobs in the summer. After 5 or 6 months free of football he was ready to return and his chosen destination was Liverpool. And the rest, is history
But would this all have happened if Rodgers would have won the title in 2014? Personally, I think we'd have still regressed the following season. I've read interviews with the squad from that year who have stated that they felt as though it was a "now or never" sort of moment. They aware that the team was riding the crest of a wave to some extent and have openly said that they knew it would be much tougher the following season, with the likes of City & Chelsea inevitably flexing their financial muscles.
One of the main reasons for our regression was the departure Suarez, I'm still pretty convinced he would have left even if we managed to win the title. His heart was set on Real Madrid and Barcelona, as are most South American / Spanish-speaking players from a very young age. I believe there was some sort of gentleman's agreement made when he signed his new contract in the winter that he would be allowed to leave if he got his head down & did everything he could to fire the club back into the Champions League. Obviously he would have been financially rewarded for this in his new contract and it also would have given the club a better hand when negotiating a fee with any potential suitors.
Signings? I don't think we would have made swayed too far from what we brought if we'd have won the league. The big one was missing out on Sanchez, who would have been a perfect like for like replacement for Suarez. But his reasoning behind wanting to join Arsenal was a geographical one, him & his family wanted to live in London. So I don't think a title the previous season would have done much to change his mind.
And the big one in terms of us hiring Klopp & being in the position we are in now - What would have happened with Rodgers? You'd presume if he delivered our elusive 19th title he'd gain godlike status on Merseyside & it may have been a lot harder to remove him from the helm. As we know when things go wrong for a successful or popular manager, it's often the board who get the blame and vice versa when the manager is yet to earn popularity with the supporters. I think FSG would have found it a lot harder to wash their hands of Rogers had he guided the club to the title. Many supporters are still appalled by the way they gave Kenny the boot, so doing the same to Rodgers might have caused an uproar among fans & put them in a bit of an awkward position.
So he stays on - Do we miss the boat on Klopp? Would he have even been interested in coming? I think one of the things which drew him to Liverpool was the longing for the title & the prospect of being the man who can finally deliver what so many have failed. Would it have been as appealing to him if the feat had already been accomplished a couple of years earlier? Man United parted ways with Louis Van Gaal a few months after we sacked Rodgers. In an alternate universe, would Klopp have made a trip the opposite way down the East Lancs road?
If that's the case, nice one Stevie!