Liverpool hired Swansea’s Brendan Rodgers to replace Kenny Dalglish as coach as the English soccer club seeks to rebound from its worst Premier League season in 18 years.
Rodgers, 39, told a televised news conference today he signed a three-year contract with the 18-time English soccer champion. Dalglish was fired May 16 by the club’s U.S. owner Fenway Sports Group.
“Brendan was the only person we made an offer to,” Liverpool Chairman Tom Werner told the news conference. “He was the first choice and the right choice.”
Rodgers will try to reinvigorate a club that finished eighth in the Premier League last season even after spending about 100 million pounds ($152.9 million) on players since the start of 2011. Rodgers guided Swansea to 11th in its first season in the top flight since 1983.
“I’m blessed to be given this opportunity,” Rodgers said in the Liverpool statement. “I promise to dedicate my life to fight for this club.”
Liverpool, which last won the English title in 1990, finished 37 points behind champion Manchester City and 17 points off fourth place, which is typically the Premier League’s final Champions League qualification spot.
Although Dalglish guided the Reds to their first trophy in six years with the Carling Cup title and also took them to the F.A. Cup final, his team lost 14 of its 38 league games and finished with 52 points -- its lowest tally since the Premier League began in 1992.
Swansea drew 0-0 at Anfield in November in front of John W. Henry, Liverpool’s principal owner, and won 1-0 when the teams met in Wales on the final day of the season.
“The style of football Brendan is associated is exactly what we want to see at Anfield,” Werner said in the statement. “Swansea was a revelation last season with their brand of entertaining football.”
Still, the hiring of a manager inexperienced in handling a big club represents a gamble, according to former Liverpool players including Mark Lawrenson, who won five league championships and the European Cup with the Reds in the 1980s.
“It’s an incredible throw of the dice and perhaps illustrates that the American owners do not understand the soul or heartbeat of the club,” Lawrenson wrote in his column in the U.K.’s Daily Mirror. “Managing Swansea is one thing but Liverpool quite another.”
A native of Northern Ireland, Rodgers was the youngest manager in England’s Championship when he joined Watford in November 2008 at 35. He’d worked under Jose Mourinho at Chelsea before leaving for the second-tier team.
Rodgers, whose playing career was ended early by injury, ran Reading’s youth team for nine seasons before moving to Chelsea when Mourinho joined the west London team. He was Chelsea’s youth-team manager for two seasons and then was promoted to oversee the reserve squad.
“When he joined us at Chelsea he was a young coach with lots of desire to learn,” Mourinho was cited as saying by the Sun. “But he was also a coach with ideas, who was ready not just to listen but also to communicate and share.”
Rodgers coached Watford for seven months after leaving the Blues and then joined Reading for a six-month stint until December 2009. He was hired by Swansea at the start of the season before last, and the club beat Reading in the playoff final to move into the Premier League.
Rodgers’s appointment continues a revamp at Liverpool. Dalglish joined director of football Damien Comolli, head of sports science Peter Brukner and communications director Ian Cotton in leaving as Fenway Sports Group -- which also owns Major League Baseball’s Boston Red Sox -- restructures.
FSG, controlled by hedge fund trader Henry, bought Liverpool in October 2010 after lenders to former owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett forced a sale when the pair defaulted on a loan linked to their 2007 buyout.