FORMER Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas last night emerged as a leading contender to replace Kenny Dalglish after Liverpool’s American owners brought the Scot’s second spell in charge to an abrupt end.
Newcastle’s Alan Pardew, Wigan’s Roberto Martinez and Swansea’s Brendan Rogers form a trio of rising stars also touted for the Anfield hot-seat, while ex-Reds boss Rafael Benitez has been linked with a sensational return.
Dalglish was sacked yesterday 24 hours after returning from showdown talks in the United States, where he was taken to task over Liverpool’s lowest Premier League finish for 18 years and worst points tally since 1954.
Idolised by the club’s fans for his previous success as player and manager, Dalglish’s popularity and a Carling Cup were not enough to offset the owners’ fears that he could not deliver Champions League qualification.
Chairman Tom Werner said in a Reds statement: “Results in the Premier League have been disappointing and we believe to build on the progress that has already been made, we need to make a change.”
Dalglish’s departure, and that of No2 Steve Clarke, leaves Liverpool without a manager, assistant, director of football, head of sports science and head of communications following a spate of sackings.
Results aside, Dalglish also attracted criticism for spending more than £100m on players such as Jordan Henderson, Stewart Downing, Andy Carroll and Charlie Adam who have made modest impacts. The 61-year-old, whose dismissal is thought to have cost the club around £8m, used the club statement as a reminder that his 16-month tenure had reaped some silverware.
“Of course I am disappointed with results in the league, but I would not have swapped the Carling Cup win for anything as I know how much it meant to our fans and the club to be back winning trophies,” Dalglish said.
Ironically, the sacking came on the day that Roy Hodgson, the man swiftly dispensed with by then-new owners and replaced by Dalglish, named his first England squad.
Former Porto boss Villas-Boas is the most intriguing candidate to be Liverpool’s fourth manager in as many seasons, having only been fired by Chelsea in March after just seven months in charge.