Obvious Jurgen Klopp replacement said no to Liverpool job three times before Arne Slot

Departing Liverpool assistant Pep Lijnders rejected the chance to replace Jurgen Klopp no fewer than three times.

Both Klopp and Lijnders confirmed in January that they would each be leaving Anfield at the end of this season. The latter first arrived on Merseyside in 2014 as a development coach under Brendan Rodgers, but he ascended to become Klopp's No2 for the vast majority of his highly successful tenure with the Reds.

Lijnders saw his stock rise massively during that time, evidenced by the fact he'll take over as Red Bull Salzburg boss at the same time Arne Slot takes the wheel at Liverpool. But his career could have taken a much different turn had he warmed to one of Klopp's numerous offers to succeed him.

“Jurgen had made his mind up and I was quite clear that it was the right time for me to make my own way,” Lijnders says, describing how also decided to leave once Klopp said his time was up at Anfield. “Over the past three years, I said ‘no’ to a lot of clubs. The reason I always stayed was out of loyalty to Jurgen and FSG. I already really wanted to go and show what I could do.”

Asked whether he had ever made himself available for the position, he told The Athletic: “Jurgen asked me about it a few times in recent years. The season before I got the question from Jurgen and two times this season, but each time I said 'no.'

“The first reason was I really felt that this was a project of 'us'. Jurgen led it and I really felt we should end this project together. Secondly, I’ve been at Liverpool for nearly 10 years. I was ready for a new experience: new people, my own staff, my own players. I gave everything I had to this playing group.

obvious jurgen klopp replacement said no to liverpool job three times before arne slot

Pepijn Lijnders

“I think the team would continue with the same ways if I stayed here. I feel that the team as well needs something new. But I never knew 100% what my response would be if [Fenway Sports Group president] Mike Gordon called me. You say ‘no, no, no’ but then. . ."

Lijnders, 41, went on to say he received a call from Gordon this past February, not long after Klopp had gone public with his plans to step down. The FSG chief contacted Pep to say he was "really considered" for the role, but ultimately the board and Lijnders both felt it was "best for the future" of Liverpool if he moved onto pastures new.

It was confirmed earlier in May that Lijnders would take over Austrian champions Salzburg, days before Slot was officially announced as the new Liverpool boss. The Reds ultimately plumped for the first Dutch coach in the club's history, a title that might have belonged to Lijnders in another life.

Slot, 45, will have to endure considerable pressure following the lead of Klopp, who ended Liverpool's 30-year wait for a Premier League crown and clinched their sixth Champions League title. Lijnders, meanwhile, will end his decade-long stay at Anfield and hope his second senior managerial role works out better than his six-month stay at NEC Nijmegen in 2018.

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