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Xabi Alonso is the obvious choice for Liverpool

When Ruben Amorim speaks, you listen. Anyone who’s worked with him as a player or coach appears to say the same thing. You believe in him, you want to follow him, you instantly understand his vision and buy into it.

Sporting CP head coach Amorim is only 39, yet he is considered not just one of the brightest managerial prospects in Europe, but one of its best managers full stop. His win percentage across four years in charge of Braga B, Braga and Sporting is a frankly ridiculous 70, a figure only topped by Pep Guardiola in Europe’s top seven leagues in the same period.

This is why Amorim is becoming increasingly heavily rumoured as a potential replacement for departing Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool and the beleaguered Mauricio Pochettino at Chelsea. He has been linked with almost every top job in Europe for the last two years, but it finally feels as though he is ready to make the leap.

Xabi Alonso is still considered by most to be the frontrunner for the Anfield hotseat after taking Bayer Leverkusen from the Bundesliga relegation zone to a title race within a year, but there are still question marks surround him.

Alonso has only ever had one senior managerial role, which will have lasted just over 18 months come the summer. He is subdued when facing the media and it can be hard to know what he believes.

It is unclear how well his rigid tactical philosophy will translate to this current Liverpool squad. He may be a club legend on the field, but that is no real indicator of how he will perform in the dugout.

Yet Amorim has none of these concerns attached. His clear and affable communication, both with his players and the media, is viewed as one of his strongest traits.

While he is not as abrasive as Klopp can be, he still speaks his mind, protects his players at every opportunity and knows when and how to take responsibility. Opposition fans may well be pleased to know he makes a rule of not commenting on refereeing decisions, not seeing any benefit to fuelling further discussion.

When Sporting right-back Ricardo Esgaio made an error which contributed to a Champions League group stage loss to Marseille in 2022-23, he was abused relentless by supporters.

“He’s not one of the fans’ favorite players, but he’s one of mine,” Amorim said. “As long as I am here, I will protect him as much as possible. He will never be abandoned by the manager and as long as I’m here there’s nothing you can do to Esgaio.” This is how the former defensive midfielder treats all his players.

Amorim had a long, if not illustrious, playing career. A Benfica fan, he didn’t make it in their academy before joining Belenenses, a smaller Lisbon side. He spent five years there before rejoining Benfica in 2008, where he would stay until his early retirement in 2017 with a knee injury, aged just 32, bar loan spells with Braga and Qatari club Al-Wakrah.

Despite never really securing a starting spot with Benfica, Amorim still managed 14 Portugal caps, including appearances at the 2010 and 2014 World Cups, as managers wanted his leadership skills and versatility in their travelling groups.

After retiring, he embarked on a High Performance Football Coaching course at the University of Lisbon, alongside starting his coaching badges. Yet he didn’t complete the qualifications in time to start his first managerial role, with third-tier side Casa Pia. The club were fined and Amorim resigned after just a few months in charge, although the side he built would then go on to promotion.

He was then offered the chance to return to Benfica and coach their B-team, but turned down that opportunity as he didn’t believe he’d be given the control and influence he feels is necessary to manage squads effectively. He instead took the Braga B job in September 2019, where he won seven of his first eight games en route to being awarded the first team job in December.

Amorim would only coach Braga for nine league games, winning eight and drawing the other, as well as winning the cup and beating Portugal’s “Big Three” – Porto, Sporting and Benfica – the first time Braga had beaten Benfica away in 65 years.

His current side, who were in a dire financial position at the time, saw such potential in him they paid his near-£9m release clause in March 2020. He has since won two further Portuguese cups, in 2021 and 2022, only losing the 2023 final to Porto.

He also led Sporting to their first Liga Portugal title in 19 years in just his first full season, aided by a 32-match unbeaten streak, a national record.

He then took Lisbon’s second team into the last 16 of the Champions League the following campaign, where they were only beaten by Manchester City.

Despite a disappointing 2022-23 by his high standards, Sporting still beat Arsenal in the Europa League. At the time of writing they are now second in Liga Portugal, two points behind Benfica with a game in hand, and into a cup semi-final against the same opposition.

Amorim has said he will not make any decision on his future until the summer, but reportedly has a £17m release clause.

In his relatively short managerial career, Amorim has almost exclusively used a 3-4-3 formation. He is primarily considered a brilliant motivator of men and developer of youth talents, having brought through the likes of Matheus Nunes, Pedro Porro and Goncalo Inacio while at Sporting.

This could also have a direct benefit on his next club. Sporting currently have some of Europe’s most exciting young central defensive prospects in Inacio and Ousmane Diomande, and Amorim may provide the necessary pull to bring these starlets with him.

While Alonso may seem the obvious choice at Anfield, Amorim may be the smart one. Liverpool fans should be very excited if the Portuguese maestro turns up on Merseyside.

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