EPL

Slot pursuit shows Liverpool running out of options, suggests Carragher

By Sports Desk April 24, 2024

Liverpool's pursuit of Feyenoord boss Arne Slot proves there is "a dearth" of elite coaches currently on the market, according to former Reds defender Jamie Carragher. 

On Wednesday, widespread reports claimed Liverpool have entered talks with Feyenoord, who will reportedly demand at least €10million (£8.5m) in compensation to part with Slot.

Slot joined Feyenoord in July 2021 after leaving AZ Alkmaar, leading the Eredivisie giants to the Europa Conference League final – which they lost to Roma – in his first campaign at the helm. 

The club's second league title in 20 years followed in 2022-23, and though Feyenoord are set to relinquish their crown to PSV this term, they beat NEC Nijmegen to lift the KNVB Cup on Sunday.

Xabi Alonso was thought to be Liverpool's primary target to replace outgoing boss Jurgen Klopp, but the former midfielder – who was also interesting Bayern Munich – has announced his intention to stay with Bayer Leverkusen.

Sporting CP's Ruben Amorim was also linked with the post, but it is thought he is no longer a leading candidate. 

Speaking in his role as a Sky Sports pundit ahead of Wednesday's Merseyside derby between Liverpool and Everton, Carragher warned the job will be a major step up for Slot if he is appointed.

"What I would say is I think going from Feyenoord to Liverpool is a huge jump, and I think it shows at this moment that there's probably a dearth of real top managers out there," he said.

"Initially it was Xabi Alonso, it's only his first full season as a manager. Then there was talk of Ruben Amorim from Sporting, again he's only 39. Now Arne Slot looks like he's the favourite.

"I don't think it's like Rafael Benitez coming in, or Jurgen Klopp. Benitez came in off the back of two LaLiga titles and a UEFA Cup, Klopp had won a couple of league titles with Borussia Dortmund.

"Liverpool were in a different space back then, certainly the team I was part of with Benitez… we were a team looking to qualify for the top four. It was the same when Klopp came in.

"Liverpool are in a different area now, fancying themselves to challenge for the Premier League every season, and in next season's Champions League they'd expect to reach the quarter-finals at least.

"I think it's a huge jump but he's obviously a great coach with a great track record with the clubs he's been at so far. We'll see."

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    Bayer Leverkusen were "not interested" in maintaining their unbeaten record, according to Granit Xhaka, who acknowledged his frustrations after Wednesday's Europa League final disappointment.

    Xabi Alonso's Bundesliga champions had not suffered defeat since the final game of last season against Bochum, but succumbed to their next loss in the decisive moment against Atalanta in Dublin.

    Ademola Lookman stole the headlines with a remarkable hat-trick, powering Gian Piero Gasperini's team to their first title in 61 years, when Atalanta won the Coppa Italia.

    A 3-0 defeat ensured Leverkusen will have to settle for, at most, a domestic double as they look to bounce back on Saturday in the DFB-Pokal final.

    Yet Xhaka insisted Alonso's side never had the undefeated streak in their minds as soon as kick-off arrived at the Aviva Stadium.

    "Honestly, we're not interested in the unbeaten record," the former Arsenal midfielder said to RTL. "We didn't care about that from the start.

    "It's about the game and unfortunately we lost a final today. That's football.

    "We said yesterday that it would be a difficult game. Compliments to Atalanta."

    Leverkusen's unbeaten streak spanned nine months and 51 games this season, starting their 2023-24 campaign with a first-round DFB-Pokal thrashing of lowly Teutonia Ottensen in mid-August.

    Alonso's impressive men triumphed in 42 of those matches during their historic unbeaten run across all competitions, drawing the other nine as Leverkusen coasted to their first Bundesliga title in history.

    Scoring 143 goals and conceding just 39 across that dominant period, not many would have expected Gasperini's side to shutout Leverkusen and beat goalkeeper Matej Kovar three times in the process.

    Leverkusen are the first league-title winners to lose the UEFA Cup/Europa League final in the same season since Benfica in 2013-14, and the first German side to do since Borussia Dortmund in 2001-02.

    In single-game only finals, this was also the biggest margin of defeat for a German team since Eintracht Frankfurt lost 7-3 to Real Madrid in the 1960 European Cup, perhaps explaining Xhaka's annoyance.

  • Europa League misery will not taint Alonso's Leverkusen pride Europa League misery will not taint Alonso's Leverkusen pride

    Xabi Alonso will not allow Bayer Leverkusen's Europa League final defeat against Atalanta to alter his pride, after their historic 51-game unbeaten run ended on Wednesday.

    The Bundesliga champions were eyeing an unlikely treble, with the DFB-Pokal final to come this weekend, but those plans came crashing down in a 3-0 loss to Atalanta.

    Ademola Lookman single-handedly powered Gian Piero Gasperini's side to their first title in 61 years, producing an individual performance for the ages with a decisive hat-trick.

    European heartbreak marked Leverkusen's first loss this season, with their last defeat coming to Bochum on the last day of the 2022-23 Bundesliga campaign, as Alonso's side were finally stopped.

    Yet the former Liverpool and Bayern Munich midfielder says nothing can take away from Leverkusen's memorable campaign.

    "For me the result today does not change one bit how I feel about my players or what we have been doing," the Leverkusen head coach told TNT Sports.

    "It hurts because we wanted to lift the trophy but you can't have everything. We lifted the Bundesliga and we have the chance to lift the DFB-Pokal on Saturday."

    Leverkusen are the first team to win the league title but lose the UEFA Cup/Europa League final in the same term since Benfica in 2013-14, and the first German side to do since Borussia Dortmund in 2001-02.

    "This season and achievements have surpassed all expectations," Alonso continued.

    "I was hoping and getting ready to maybe do something great but this has been so much more.

    "To achieve what we have for a club like Leverkusen is great. To be in the last week of the season having lifted the Bundesliga and then going for the Pokal too means a lot.

    "First year as a coach, it is going quite well!"

    A monumental occasion at the Aviva Stadium marked Atalanta's first-ever major European trophy as they became the 10th different Italian side to do so, second only to teams from England (13).

    Alonso was unsurprised by the excellence of Gasperini and his Atalanta side, however.

    "It is not something they have just done this year, they have been doing it for many years," the Spaniard said, acknowledging the work of 66-year-old Gasperini.

    "They are a special team. Normally we get in better positions ourselves but today we could not.

    "We were not able to come back and get that back. It was not meant to be.

    "The unbeaten run has come to an end but congratulations to Atalanta, they deserve it, so nothing more to say."

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    Gian Piero Gasperini and Ademola Lookman both cherished creating Atalanta history after ending Bayer Leverkusen's unbeaten run and securing Europa League glory.

    Lookman produced a performance worthy of the most important European moment in Atalanta's history, securing the club's first-ever major trophy on the continent after his dazzling hat-trick.

    The Nigeria winger is just the sixth player to manage a treble in a major UEFA final and the first since Jupp Heynckes’ for Borussia Mönchengladbach against Twente in 1975.

    Lookman will be the toast of Bergamo when Gasperini's side head home, boasting their first trophy in 61 years – after the Coppa Italia – following a 3-0 triumph to end Leverkusen's 51-game unbeaten run.

    "One of the best nights of my life," the hat-trick hero told TNT Sports in Dublin.

    "Amazing performance from the team, we did it, we did it, we did it! I haven't got much else to say, but fantastic."

    Lookman is also just the second player to score a treble for an Italian side in the final of a major European competition, after Pierino Prati for Milan against Ajax in the 1969 European Cup

    Preparing to leave the Aviva Stadium with the Europa League trophy in hand, Lookman could not wait to celebrate a seismic moment in the club's history.

    "We've got to celebrate, we made history tonight," he added.

    Gasperini, aged 66 years and 117 days on Wednesday, is the oldest coach to win his debut major European final, and the second Italian coach to win the Europa League after Maurizio Sarri in 2019.

    The veteran Atalanta mastermind echoed Lookman's sentiment, after securing just a second trophy in the Italian club's history.

    "I think we wrote history, also for the way we won it," said Gasperini, speaking to UEFA's official media channels.

    "It was just extraordinary, we defeated Liverpool, Sporting who won the championship. When we faced Liverpool they were first in the Premier League... And now the German champions.

    "Incredible. The boys were extraordinary, a memorable performance."

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