I reckon it's safe to contemplate who I'd like to replace Rafa. Something I never thought I'd end up doing. This isn't a true wish list; I'm trying to be realistic with these three names, but I'm still probably aiming too high. Writing about anything Liverpool these days is not helped by my natural pessimism. Nonetheless, I've seen all three mooted at some point by actual media outlets over the last few days. Of course, we've also seen the likes of O'Neill (sigh), Hughes (Manc), Redknapp (S*n columnist), and Eriksson (please kill me) similarly mentioned.
So anyway. I'd go for one of Manuel Pellegrini, Michael Laudrup, or Slaven Bilic.
Pellegrini's record at Villarreal and Madrid speaks for itself. Villarreal's a tiny club that only became a La Liga fixture in the last ten years. Now they routinely finish in the top half. In Pellegrini's first season, they finished third, qualifying for the Champions League for the first time in the club's history. The next season, they narrowly lost to Arsenal in the semi-finals of the competition after beating Benfica (who ultimately knocked out defending champions Liverpool), Rangers, and Inter. The club never finished lower than seventh under Pellegrini (3rd, 7th, 5th, 2nd, 5th). Then came Perez and Madrid. I'm sure I don't have to go over last season in La Liga – one Sid Lowe rightfully called "fucking barbaric." Despite leading Real to its highest points total ever, he was fired a few weeks ago. Finishing second and going out of the CL in the first knockout round (as usual) just won't satisfy Florentino (are you listening, Mourinho?).
Laudrup was a brilliant player, schooled in the Ajax academy, who did surprisingly well with Getafe only to resign after one season. He doesn't have a ton of experience, but his teams played aesthetically-pleasing attacking football – something many Liverpool fans are clamoring for. It's also worth noting he played a key part in Agger's development while at Brøndby. But he spent less than a year in his last two jobs – Getafe and Spartak Moscow – and hasn't taken a new gig since being sacked by Spartak in April 2009. Which is weird.
And Bilic, despite being a shade over 40 with a short resumé (as well as a former Evertonian), is a personal favorite of mine, simply for being outrageous. A man who sent England into hysterics during Euro 2008 qualification while chain-smoking on the sidelines is a man after my own heart. Plus, it's not as if the blue half of Merseyside remembers his playing days fondly. The Liverpool job, even with the situation the club's in, is probably too much too soon for Slaven, but I've got a soft spot for the psycho. He has a tremendous record with Croatia, and I'm almost positive his contract runs out after the World Cup. Compensation prices matter, which is why I'm contemplating three men Liverpool wouldn't have to pay for.
Obviously, I like my foreign managers more than the Brits on offer. But if we're limited to them Isles, I'd plump for Roy Hodgson. Which is ultimately what I expect to happen. That and I still question why any of the above three – let alone "bigger" names – would take the job when it's seemingly a semi-permanent one.
Once again, the sooner Hicks and Gillett sell up, the better.