'He's done a phenomenal job' - Surprise manager named as outside candidate for Liverpool

While all the focus is on Xabi Alonso as Jurgen Klopp's successor, Liverpool still have an 'interest' in outside candidate Franck Haise of Lens, according to one journalist at least.

Liverpool face the process of recruiting a new head coach for the first time in almost nine years, as Klopp prepares to step down at the end of the current season.

The legendary boss cited diminishing energy levels as a reason for stepping aside in a statement back in January, but vowed to give everything as the Reds chase an unprecedented quadruple in his final campaign.

Though there is much at stake in this last few weeks and months, thoughts are already turning to who will replace Klopp, with Alonso the clear frontrunner.

The Bayer Leverkusen boss is unbeaten this season as his side chase a first-ever Bundesliga title, while the 42-year-old is already popular on Merseyside from the five years he spent there as a player.

However, with Bayern Munich also pursuing Alonso, Liverpool need to make contingency plans, with Roberto De Zerbi (Brighton), Julian Nagelsmann (Germany) and Ruben Amorim (Sporting CP) among those linked.

One more name in the frame could be Lens boss Haise, according to journalist Jonathan Johnson.

Little known outside of France, the 52-year-old has an impressive track record and even similarities to Klopp's own career which, supposedly, have not gone unnoticed by Liverpool.

Franck Haise RC Lens, Trainer, Geste, Gestik, gestikuliert , Fussball, UEFA Europa League, Play-off 2. Spiel, 2023/2024, SC Freiburg vs. RC Lens, 22.02.2024, Europa-Park Stadion , Freiburg im Breisgau, Deutschland Freiburg im Breisgau Europa-Park Stadion Baden-Wuerttemberg Deutschland *** Franck Haise RC Lens, Coach , Gesture, gestures, gesticulates , Football, UEFA Europa League, Play off 2 match, 2023 2024, SC Freiburg vs RC Lens, 22 02 2024, Europa Park Stadion , Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany Freiburg im Breisgau Europa Park Stadion Baden Wuerttemberg Germany Copyright: xGrantxHubbsx

Johnson told CaughtOffside: “Although we’ve heard a lot about names like Xabi Alonso and Roberto De Zerbi, Lens manager Franck Haise has also been linked as one potential outsider for the Liverpool job after his impressive work in Ligue 1.

“My understanding is that, yes, there has been interest in him going back a couple of years now, not just from Liverpool but also from other clubs across Europe.”

Parallels to Klopp at Dortmund

He continued: “I don’t think you can underplay the massive role that he’s played in the restoration of Lens to being one of France’s major clubs once again. Lens has huge cultural significance to French football, a huge fan-base, and there are a lot of parallels between them and Borussia Dortmund, which perhaps makes sense as him being linked as someone who could follow Jurgen Klopp. Still, in terms of what he’s done on the pitch he’s not had quite the same amount of time with Lens as Klopp had with Dortmund, so he doesn’t have the silverware or European runs to boast.

“What Haise has done, though, is ensured Lens got back into the Champions League this season, after finishing just a point behind champions PSG last term, and they’ve never finished lower than 7th under the 52-year-old. They are statistically the most in-form team in France in 2024, so if you bear in mind that he’s done all this with a fraction of the budget of PSG, he has done a phenomenal job.

“He keeps improving players as well, if you look at the names the club have sold at a major profit, while he’s also kept the team competitive even after they’ve left, so it’s hard to underplay what a terrific job he’s done, and it’s not gone unnoticed by English clubs, with Brighton looking at him before appointing Roberto De Zerbi to replace Graham Potter.

Roberto De Zerbi

Brighton and Hove, England, 3rd February 2024. Roberto De Zerbi, Manager of Brighton and Hove Albion celebrates after the Premier League match at the AMEX Stadium, Brighton and Hove. Picture credit should read: Paul Terry / Sportimage 

“While I’d expect Haise to continue being on the radar of top clubs around Europe, there might be some issues with the language barrier at Liverpool, but in terms of the overall fit I don’t think it’s a nonsensical story at all.”

A former midfielder largely operating in France's second tier, Haise, who took over Lens in 2020, was named Ligue 1 Manager of the Year in 2022/23 after guiding his side to second place.

Currently, his side sit fifth in the table, but are just four points off second.

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