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Amorim emerges as new front-runner after Alonso snubs Liverpool

Sporting Lisbon coach Ruben Amorim. Photo: Gabriel Bouys/AFP

Liverpool’s hopes of luring Xabi Alonso back to Anfield were dashed on Friday with the Spaniard deciding to stay put at Bayer Leverkusen, who he has on course for a first-ever Bundesliga title.

A Champions League winner during his time as a player at Liverpool, Alonso had been quickly installed as the favourite to succeed Jurgen Klopp after the German made his shock announcement in January that he will leave at the end of the season.

Sporting Lisbon coach Ruben Amorim is the new front-runner with the bookmakers ahead of Brighton manager Roberto De Zerbi and Germany boss Julian Nagelsmann.

Alonso’s decision to remain with Leverkusen, who are unbeaten in 38 games in all competitions this season, ends Liverpool’s hopes his arrival would soften the blow of Klopp’s impending departure.

The Reds’ fortunes on and off the field have been transformed during Klopp’s eight-and-a-half years in charge.

Liverpool won their first league title for 30 years in 2020, a year after lifting the Champions League.

Klopp is on course to leave in a blaze of glory.

Liverpool are behind Premier League leaders Arsenal only on goal difference with 10 games to go.

They also lifted the League Cup last month and could yet face Alonso’s Leverkusen in the Europa League final with both sides into the last eight.

‘Good moment to be with LFC’

Klopp believes he is passing the baton over at a perfect time with a squad packed full of young talent, aided by a core of world class veterans in Alisson Becker, Virgil van Dijk and Mohamed Salah.

“For the future it is important how good is the team, how good are the players, how good is the structure and how good is the organisation,” Klopp said earlier this month.

“That’s where my optimism comes from and that’s why I think it’s a rather good moment to be with LFC.”

However, following in the footsteps of a figure with such legendary status may have been one of the factors to discourage Alonso to make the jump.

Reports suggest his snub is set to open the door for Sporting’s Amorim.

At just 39, the former Portugal international has already made a name for himself in his homeland.

Amorim’s first job came at Braga in 2019, where he lasted just over two months and 13 games before Sporting paid his 10 million euro ($11 million) release clause to take over at the Lisbon giants.

That faith in his ability was well-rewarded as he delivered a first league title in 19 years in his first season in charge in 2020/21.

Sporting only managed to finish second and fourth for the past two years but are on course for a league and cup double this season.

De Zerbi has the perfect opportunity to make his case and spoil Klopp’s farewell when Brighton visit Anfield on Sunday.

The Italian’s first game in English football was a thrilling 3-3 draw away to Liverpool and Brighton then beat Klopp’s men twice in the Premier League and FA Cup at home least season.

But De Zerbi has struggled to maintain the same standards this season due to the demands of juggling the club’s first ever foray into Europe with the rigours of competing at the top end of the Premier League.

Nagelsmann was once considered the rising star of European coaching himself after impressing at Hoffenheim and RB Leipzig.

An ill-fated spell at Bayern Munich set him back, but he could redeem his reputation with Germany at a home European Championship.

After a difficult start to his time in charge of the national team, friendly victories over France and the Netherlands have given the German public hope of a summer to remember.

However, Nagelsmann’s involvement at the tournament could count against his case for the Anfield hot seat.

Liverpool’s first pre-season friendly against Arsenal comes just over two weeks after the final of the Euros.

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