Brendan Rodgers was fired as Liverpool manager on Sunday, paying the price for the club’s 18-month slump since almost ending its long wait for an English league title.
Liverpool’s American owners, Fenway Sports Group, chose the day of the Merseyside derby against fierce rival Everton to announce that Rodgers’ three-year stint at Anfield was over. About three hours after the 1-1 draw at Goodison Park, Rodgers had his contract terminated.
”All of us have experienced some wonderful moments with Brendan as manager and we are confident he will enjoy a long career in the game,” the FSG’s ownership group said. ”Although this has been a difficult decision, we believe it provides us with the best opportunity for success on the pitch. Ambition and winning are at the heart of what we want to bring to Liverpool and we believe this change gives us the best opportunity to deliver it.”
Liverpool said the search for Rodgers’ replacement was underway, with much of the media speculation centering on Juergen Klopp, who is on a break from football after leaving German side Borussia Dortmund at the end of last season.
The timing of the announcement caught many by surprise, but the upcoming international break means Liverpool’s next league game isn’t until Oct. 17 – at Tottenham – giving the club two weeks to hire a replacement.
Liverpool is in 10th place in the Premier League after winning three of its first eight games.
Heralded as one of English football’s brightest coaches, Rodgers was hired in June 2012 to revive one of England’s biggest clubs after a period of financial and ownership problems. Initially, he proved the perfect fit.
With the prolific Luis Suarez pouring in goals for the side, Liverpool launched an unexpected title challenge in the Premier League in the 2013-14 season and came up just short, finishing two points behind Manchester City in second place.
Rodgers was admired for his style of football, his tactical awareness and his insistence on giving youth – and English players – a chance. He also conducted himself well in all the engagements that came with the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough Stadium tragedy, in which 96 Liverpool fans died during a crush at an FA Cup semifinal.
But things turned for Rodgers once Suarez left for Barcelona in July last year. With fellow striker Daniel Sturridge spending half of last season out injured, Liverpool struggled for goals and ended up finishing sixth to miss out on the Champions League. Rodgers’ gamble in signing Mario Balotelli failed and the mercurial Italy striker was loaned to AC Milan two months ago.
Liverpool was one of the biggest spenders in the Premier League this offseason, overhauling its playing group after selling Raheem Sterling to City and losing long-serving captain Steven Gerrard to the MLS. Rodgers won’t be given time to see if newcomers like Christian Benteke, Roberto Firmino and Danny Ings can make a difference.
Rodgers had been the second longest-serving manager in the Premier League, behind Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger.
”I’m always sad when that (a firing) happens because I think he’s a quality manager,” Wenger said Sunday after being told of Rodgers’ dismissal. ”The pressure is always bigger on the manager.
”He was very unlucky to not win the Premier (League). But that’s the way it goes now. I wish him luck and I’m sure he’ll find a job again.”
Rodgers had said after the Everton game that he knew ”there is pressure from outside, but there is nothing for me other than working well every day.”
On Sunday, FSG chose to retain the manager of the other team in its ownership – the Boston Red Sox – despite its disappointing MLP season under John Farrell.