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IAN LADYMAN: Jurgen Klopp must get Liverpool moving on an upward trajectory again next season

In an interview published at the weekend, Steven Gerrard was perfectly clear about his long-term ambitions.

‘Would I love the opportunity at some point to be the Liverpool manager? 1,000 per cent,’ Gerrard told The Times.

‘Do I want that now? Am I ready for that now? No.

Gerrard is currently in charge of Scottish giants Rangers

Steven Gerrard (right) wants one day be a successor to current boss Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool

‘Do I love the club? Yes.

‘Do I have unfinished business there? Yes.’

Gerrard is manager of new Scottish champions Rangers. He is still relatively new to the profession. Liverpool, meanwhile, have a very good manager of their own. But watching Jurgen Klopp’s team beat Manchester United at Old Trafford last Thursday, it was hard not to think about what might be if Liverpool do not return to something like their recognisable selves next season.

It was Liverpool’s third goal that did it. It was born of desire and energy and killer instinct, Liverpool’s midfield terrifying United into mistakes and then punishing them. It was reminiscent of last season but not this one.

This one has been about regression and disappointment and relative failure.

Klopp’s team have lost key players to injury. Take two central defenders and a captain out of any team in the world and watch them suffer.

In 2020-21, Klopp's Reds have been a shadow of their all-action best of the past few seasons

In 2020-21, Klopp’s Reds have been a shadow of their all-action best of the past few seasons

In contrast, Steven Gerrard has guided Rangers to the Scottish league title this campaign

In contrast, Steven Gerrard has guided Rangers to the Scottish league title this campaign

But the truth is that Liverpool have lost more than that this season. They have lost the very essence of what made them so frightening to play against over the previous two years and it will be interesting to see if they can get it back.

There is a theory in some circles that Klopp’s teams have a shorter shelf life than others, that some players simply cannot play his brand of fast-forward football for more than two or three seasons. It is not proven. But it exists. When the engine stalled during his years at Borussia Dortmund, things fell away quickly and what happens next at Liverpool will be viewed in that context, especially with someone like Gerrard in the background.

Klopp has a contract at Anfield until 2024 and has already said he will leave at that point. It feels about right.

It gives one of the stellar coaches of his generation time to refresh his team in a similar way to Pep Guardiola at Manchester City. Klopp deserves that time and more. However, football does not always work that way. It is an emotional sport and if Liverpool do not find themselves back on an upward trajectory again next season, then the calls for Gerrard will begin quickly.

Klopp has set the bar high. Two Champions League finals and a Premier League title. There have been times when it was almost impossible to spend an afternoon at Anfield without going home feeling utterly exhilarated.

Klopp's spell in charge has included a Premier League and Champions League (pictured) title

Klopp’s spell in charge has included a Premier League and Champions League (pictured) title

But all those memories have served to make the last few months feel even more barren.

It is not necessary for Liverpool to win the league next season. City will begin as favourites. However, it does feel as though Klopp’s team must revert to type and quickly. If they don’t, it is clear what will happen.

‘Nothing says that Steven Gerrard, the ex-player and Rangers manager, will be at any point the automatic choice to be Liverpool manager,’ said Gerrard at the weekend.

‘There might be some clamour for it.’

Rather unwittingly, Gerrard cut to the heart of it there. Klopp must get Liverpool moving again next season if the clamour is not to grow.

One bad season does not really matter. A second would be a different thing entirely.

Liverpool fans will clamour for Gerrard to succeed Klopp sooner if they're poor next season too

Liverpool fans will clamour for Gerrard to succeed Klopp sooner if they’re poor next season too

We need to talk about ‘the knee’

There was some booing when Leicester and Chelsea took the knee at Wembley and that was regrettable.

However, scepticism about whether to continue with the gesture runs deeper in football than you might think.

One manager told me last month: ‘Some of us think it has run its course but we can’t stop. If we do we will get hammered.’

English football says it is committed to a more diverse future. Time will tell on that.

In terms of an act that has become symbolic of our times, it would be dreadful were it now to become divisive.

At the very least, a conversation needs to be had about where we go from here.

Fans at Wembley seemed to boo Chelsea and Leicester players taking the knee before kick-off

Fans at Wembley seemed to boo Chelsea and Leicester players taking the knee before kick-off

Both sets of players, coaching teams and match officials made the gesture before kick-off

Both sets of players, coaching teams and match officials made the gesture before kick-off

Roy Hodgson says he doesn’t know where his future lies and we hope he is fibbing. Crystal Palace have started interviewing potential replacements such as Frank Lampard. It would be very wrong indeed if Hodgson really doesn’t know.

Roy Hodgson's future at Crystal Palace is looking increasingly like it's coming to an end

Roy Hodgson’s future at Crystal Palace is looking increasingly like it’s coming to an end

Why Mount is getting my vote

My Footballer of the Year vote went to Mason Mount of Chelsea.

It would be a huge surprise if someone from new Premier League champions Manchester City doesn’t win it.

But Mount has been peerless nevertheless.

Starting the campaign under Frank Lampard and having to listen to questions about his selection for England ahead of the people’s choice Jack Grealish, the 22-year-old is finishing it as a certainty for the Euros and arguably the most important member of Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea team.

Uncertainty and change can unsettle footballers and young ones are even more susceptible.

But Mount has carried the responsibility of his creative role lightly on his shoulders and has already played more than 50 times for his club – more than any other player.

He would be a worthy winner.

Mason Mount has been brilliant for Chelsea this season and got my Footballer of the Year vote

Mason Mount has been brilliant for Chelsea this season and got my Footballer of the Year vote

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