Ljinders returns to Liverpool

Ljinders left Anfield in January

Ljinders left Anfield in January

PEPIJN LIJNDERS has returned to Liverpool after six months as head coach of NEC Nijmegen in Holland.

The 35-year-old left the Dutch club at the end of May after they failed to win promotion to the Eredevisie. Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp was particularly keen for him to return to Anfield, not least because of the exit of his long-time assistant Zjelko Buvac.

Buvac stepped down last month citing personal reasons, but endured a sometimes fractious relationship with Klopp last season. It is not known whether he will return to the club or not.

Ljinders brought a three-and-a-half-year stay at Anfield to an end in January when he took up the reins at NEC.

He was previously development coach at Anfield and had been described as ‘unbelievably important’ by Klopp. Lijnders first joined Liverpool in 2014, taking charge of the Under-16s, before being promoted to the newly-created position of Development Coach in the summer of 2015.

The role involved managing the transition from Academy to first team and assisting Klopp with the team's style of play. In August last year, Klopp identified Lijnders as one of six staff (along with Buvac, Peter Krawietz, Andreas Kornmayer, John Achterberg and Mona Nemmer) he could not do without.

“I am nothing without them,” he said. “Without them, I didn’t want to do the job – and I couldn’t do the job anymore. That’s how it is.

"Pep [Lijnders] has become unbelievably important in a short time because he writes everything down, he is also part of ‘the brain’ because he is our mind to remember the things what we did in previous sessions.

“He brings us the next coaching generation; we are not old but we are already that long in the business, so it’s normal that you have routines, you use them and they are good.

“We try to stay open all the time, but with Pep he is our connecting point to the present and the future, so that’s really, really important.”

When Ljinders left, Klopp said: “It’s such a strange mix of emotions talking about Pep leaving us. Firstly, I am gutted to be losing such a valuable member of our coaching team and such a brilliant person from our group.

“But that is tempered by the fact I am very excited for him to have this opportunity and as much as we would have loved for him to remain with us, we cannot stand in his way for what is a fantastic opportunity.

“It is hard to undersell the role Pep played in helping us settle, educating us about football life in England and then contributing ideas to the progress and development of this team.

“He has such a big football brain, but it’s his willingness to learn and absorb information and always look to improve and be better as a coach that makes him stand out.“Of course, one of his biggest legacies at LFC will be the development and integration into the first-team squad of so many young and exciting players.

“The role he played in making us aware of these players and then helping us get the best out of them will have a lasting impact here, beyond him leaving.

“On the personal side, his wonderful family have also become part of our lives and we will miss them so much.

“There will be no greater supporter of NEC Nijmegen in Liverpool than me and I know this is the very start of a long journey for Pep – one where he will undoubtedly become a success.”

NEC were second in Holland’s second tier when Lijnders took over, but finished third behind Jong Ajax and Fortuna Sittard, meaning they missed out on promotion to the Eredevisie.

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