Following a 1-1 draw with Everton in the season’s first Merseyside derby at Goodison Park, Brendan Rodgers was relieved of his duties at Liverpool Football Club, 16 months after he guided the club to its best-ever Premier League campaign.
After a stuttering finale, the curtain has been drawn on Brendan Rodgers’ tumultuous and short-lived Liverpool career. He departs the club trophyless and in much the same position, both on the field and on the league table, as when he arrived; a fact that belies the Jekyll and Hyde drama of the intervening three years.
Despite a fondness for grandiose statements extolling the virtues of his footballing philosophy, which often, and understandably, drew ridicule and ire, he remains the man who came closest to Liverpool’s most desired and elusive prize.
Of course, Rodgers should know better than most that actions speak louder than words, and for all his tactical certitude off the field, he leaves a side deeply lacking in identity and self-belief and without the Premier League trophy that was so agonizingly close in April 2014.
Once so headstrong and progressive, Rodgers oversaw Liverpool’s unlikely title charge in 2013-14, reigniting the club’s belief and passion and uniting a set of fans who’d had precious little to celebrate in the preceding years. He has since burned through the subsequent goodwill with a prolonged period of faltering and tepid performances that left the fans divisive and angry.
As is often the case, his dismissal carries a certain sense of melancholy, like the decision to euthanise the family dog whose youthful energy has since given way to increased lifelessness and a feeling that the best days are behind them.
It is fitting that his departure comes in the wake of Liverpool’s lacklustre 1-1 draw with Everton, a match that lacked the passion of derbies past, mired by stifled attacking play and a series of egregious defensive errors – a 90-minute microcosm of the last months of Rodgers’ reign.
His legacy will be the victim of limitless dichotomies, as fans and pundits alike debate and dissect the extent of Rodgers’ role in all that went right or wrong. The dualities of perception of a big-talking snake oil salesmen whose few successes owe more to the mercurial genius of Sturridge and Suarez than his own tactical acumen, or a visionary young manager whose big ideas were hampered by unrealistic expectations, off-field obstacles and the modern game’s ruthless impatience.
A victim of his own success or a victim of his own inflated ego.
A manager who blew near £300m on a squad that now appears as dysfunctional as when he first took over, or a manager hamstrung by the continual sales of star players and the meddling of the much-maligned transfer committee.
It seems likely that posterity will apportion Rodgers a share of both the credit and the blame in what is ultimately a frustrating chapter of the Liverpool story, an era of near-misses and opportunities missed. Regardless, the vocal dissatisfaction from a large and growing section of the fan base effectively made his position untenable.
After surviving a summer of speculation over his future and entering the new season armed with a number of expensive acquisitions, Rodgers’ seemed to enjoy FSG’s support in the short-term, forgiven for his failures on the promise things would improve. They didn’t and it looked simply a matter of time before Liverpool’s owners, Fenway Sports Group, pulled the trigger.
Given the timing of the dismissal it seems likely FSG have acted in the knowledge a suitable replacement is now available, an opportunity that perhaps was not presented to them in the summer.
Rumours suggest the suitor is Jurgen Klopp, the 48-year-old German whose title-winning pedigree with Borussia Dortmund suggests he is the ideal man to get Liverpool punching above their financial weight.
His likely appointment will herald an era of optimism and expectation in equal measure – a relief that Liverpool is in safe hands and a belief that he is the man to return the club to its former glory. Klopp’s impassioned and dedicated approach to the game should satiate a set of supporters who paradoxically demand success but never expect it to eventuate.
In the meantime, Rodgers can leave proud of what was accomplished and rueful of what was not, a fitting ending to an outsider who embraced the ethos of a club built equally on tragedy and victory.
As the shadow of the new Anfield stand looms over the club, a symbol of the promise of the future emerging from the weight of the past, so the sun has set on another false dawn that, just for a moment, burned so bright.