Arne Slot, Sparta Rotterdam - GBDPYA Soccer - Dutch Eredivisie - Feyenoord v Sparta Rotterdam - De Kuip Stadion (PA Images / Alamy Stock Photo)

Not the quickest, but always 3 steps ahead – What Arne Slot was like as a player!

Arne Slot takes a huge step in his career by taking on the role at Liverpool FC, his first job out of his native Netherlands as both a player and manager. But what was he like as a player?

The 45-year-old has been a manager since 2016, three years after his playing career ended after 18 years and more than 400 appearances for three different clubs.

Slot played in midfield and never once left his homeland, plying his trade for FC Zwolle, NAC Breda and Sparta Rotterdam from 1995 to 2013.

A long playing career that saw him lift two honours, but he was always destined to take the coaching route.


Slow, but quick where it mattered

Slot’s playing career began at amateur side VV Bergentheim, the club located in the city of his birth, before then moving to FC Zwolle and being drafted into the first team as a 17-year-old.

It is perhaps why he has always valued youth as a manager, a huge boost for Liverpool in the wake of Jurgen Klopp‘s exit.

An attacking midfielder, Slot initially struggled with injuries and Rob McDonald, former assistant coach at FC Zwolle, recently told Sky Sports that Slot “was not the quickest, but he had a great touch.”

He added: “He was always one of these who looked around, a bit like [Paul] Gascoigne, and a bit like a couple of the other top players who had that ability to just keep a good straight body and have a good look around.”

Arne Slot, the player

Clubs: FC Zwolle, NAC Breda, Sparta Rotterdam
Position: Attacking midfielder
Appearances: 460+
Goals: 88

He grew into an on-field coach as his playing career progressed, but he always had a knack for reading the game, even as a child.

Jan Everse, who coached Slot at the beginning and end of his playing career, explained: “Sometimes he said to me, ‘Coach, can we change this? Can we move this player or that’. And so on.

“He was nine years old. I never had another player like that.”

Arne Slot and Sipke Hulshoff (Alamy Images)

His reading of the game and ability to see the bigger picture set him apart from the rest, and while he may have been considered slow on the pitch, it was all setting him up for management.

Henk de Jong, who gave Slot his first break as an assistant coach in 2016, told the Times: “As a player, Arne was too slow. But for his career as a trainer, this was good for him because it meant that, as a player, he had always been having to think three steps ahead.

“That is maybe why he is special. Creative. Genius.”

You could perhaps draw parallels to Klopp’s career trajectory, with their on-field limitations showcasing the importance of a team working as one.


Meeting with a future Liverpool captain

Slot’s playing career was not littered with silverware. In fact, he has just two honours to his name as a player, both with his boyhood club, FC Zwolle, after twice winning the Eerste Divisie.

In 2001/02 and 2011/12, the Dutchman helped secure the club’s place back in the top flight, and it was in his second stint at the club that saw him face off against Virgil van Dijk in 2013.

A nod to his longevity as a player, 34-year-old Slot came off the bench as his side fell to a 1-0 defeat to Groningen, who had 21-year-old Van Dijk at centre-back.

Quite the story that the two once shared a pitch, and now one will be the manager of the other!

Slot retired at the end of the 2012/13 season after an 18-year career built on his game intelligence and durability, and he moved straight to the Zwolle coaching staff to work with their youth players.

As a manager, Slot has already accumulated two honours – both with Feyenoord – but now his biggest challenge is ahead of him at Anfield!