Liverpool has one of the richest traditions of any European professional football team, and they have been a mainstay of the upper half of the English Premier League standings since the league started in the early 1990s. Throughout Liverpool history, there have been many players to make their way through the ranks, but only a handful of managers.
With just over 20 managers in a history that dates back well over a century, the Liverpool managers have had varying success. Of these men, which ones have proved themselves as the best? Here are our picks for the top five managers in Liverpool history. Before we begin, some of the managers who just missed the cut include Rafael Benitez, Joe Fagan, Tom Watson, and Roy Evans.
French native Gerard Houllier had a lengthy playing career, spending most of his time with Le Touquet in the 1970s. Houllier would then go on to manage the club, and then spent time with several other clubs including Lens and Paris Saint-Germain. After managing the French national team and U18/U20 squads, Houllier made his way to Liverpool in 1998, sticking around for six years.
The one thing that Houiller is truly missing from his resume is winning the top league title in England. However, there were many other accomplishments, including a winning percentage of 52.12%. Houllier was also able to win the FA Cup and EFL Cup, finishing his career with six total club honours.
Like Houllier, Bill Shankly had a long playing career, with almost all of his time spent with Preston North End. The right-half had nearly 300 appearances with the club and immediately went into managing after his 1949 retirement. Shankly had short stints with Carlisle United, Grimsby Town, Workington, and Huddersfield Town before taking over in Liverpool, which would be his final stop that lasted for 15 years.
Shankly didn’t have the extremely high winning percentage like the other managers on the list had, but he did have absurd longevity compared to the rest. Shankly managed 783 matches during his career, winning 407 of them and drawing another 198. Shankly finished with three top league titles and a pair of FA Cups.
We now turn our attention to by far the youngest man on the list, Jurgen Klopp. The German native spent more than a decade playing for Mainz 05, scoring more than 50 goals in 325 appearances. After retiring in 2001, he took over as the club’s manager where he spent seven years before spending another seven managing Borussia Dortmund. In 2015, Klopp became the 21st manager of Liverpool after the club offered a lucrative contract based on advanced analytics.
After his first seven years, Klopp had the third-highest winning percentage in Liverpool history at over 60 percent. Klopp is the only German manager that Liverpool has had, and he helped guide the team to an English Premier League title to go along with an FA Cup and UEFA Champions League title, making him one of just four managers to do that.
Kenny Dalglish began his senior playing career with Celtic, making more than 200 appearances and scoring 111 goals. The forward then joined Liverpool in 1977 and played in 355 matches between then and 1990. Beginning in 1985, Dalglish served as a player-manager for the rest of his playing career, slightly extending into his retirement from the pitch. Dalglish resigned in 1991, then went on to manage Blackburn Rovers and Newcastle United in the 1990s before returning for one more stint in 2011-12 with Liverpool.
Dalglish holds the Liverpool record for win percentage at 60.91%, putting him slightly ahead of coaching pair William Edward Barclay and John McKenna in the late 19th century. Dalglish won three First Division titles as manager and four FA Charity/Community Shields.
The top spot belongs to Liverpool legend Bob Paisley, who began his playing career with Bishop Auckland for two years before joining Liverpool as a player for 15 years. After 253 appearances, Paisley retired and took some time away from football before coming back as an assistant manager for more than a decade. Paisley then became the primary manager, spending another decade in charge before ultimately retiring.
Paisley was the manager for 535 matches, and the club won 308 of them while only dropping 96. His 57.57% win percentage is good enough for fourth all-time in Liverpool history, but what really helped Paisley stand out was his league trophies. Nobody has more top league titles in England than Paisley, winning six of them in his career. Bill Shankly is second all-time in Liverpool club trophies with 11 while Paisley is far ahead of anyone with 20.