Jurgen Klopp’s shock announcement has left Liverpool circles in a state of shock, with the German to call time on his career with the club in the summer.
The revelation comes not following a downturn in form, but with Liverpool top of the Premier League table and again in contention for multiple honours. Klopp feels now, regardless of the season’s outcome, is the time to walk away from Anfield. In an interview explaining his decision, he spoke on ‘running out of energy’ and given the intensity of his tenure, on and off the pitch, that is no surprise.
Klopp will walk away having won a lot. The lot, in fact, after a clean sweep of major honours. A sixth European Cup arrived on a famous night in Madrid, before the one the fans truly craved. In 2019/20, after three decades, Liverpool were finally champions of England again.
Given the heights the Reds have reached under his management, it’s easy to forget where Liverpool were at the time of his appointment.
In the six seasons that preceded his arrival, Liverpool had finished inside the top five of the Premier League once. It had been eight years since the Reds had reached the knockout rounds of the Champions League. In the eight that followed, Liverpool reached the final three times.
Klopp and Liverpool were a perfect match. The charismatic coach from Germany’s Black Forest had built affinities with the clubs and cities of Mainz and Dortmund in his previous roles, and an ability to do so again on Merseyside was as crucial as progress on the pitch.
“I love absolutely everything about this club, I love everything about the city, I love everything about our supporters, I love the team, I love the staff. I love everything,” he said in his exit interview on Friday.
A message to Liverpool supporters from Jürgen Klopp. pic.twitter.com/l7rtmxgOzt
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) January 26, 2024
He got Liverpool, and Liverpool got him.
Klopp’s impact was not immediate on the pitch. After inheriting a struggling side from Brendan Rodgers in October 2015, he led Liverpool only from 10th to eighth in the table, while the League Cup and Europa League finals ended in defeat that season.
The building blocks began to form, however. Sadio Mane was the first major recruit in Klopp’s first summer in charge. Mohamed Salah followed a year later. In January 2018, Philippe Coutinho was sold to Barcelona in a record-breaking deal. Over the next six months, Virgil van Dijk, Alisson and Fabinho came in as funds were reinvested. The spine of the side had been built.
Klopp’s first trophy did not arrive for three-and-a-half years. In the build-up to the 2019 Champions League final, there were accusations aimed at the German over his record in major finals. That win over Tottenham kickstarted a run of silverware, that has seen the Premier League, FA Cup, League Cup and Club World Cup won since.
There will be some that look at the raw numbers and paint their own picture. One league title in eight seasons appears underwhelming on the surface, but Klopp has climbed mountains with unfavourable odds. His team have been the sole threat to Manchester City’s dominance of the division, with Pep Guardiola’s team an often unstoppable force.
Given the current cloud surrounding City and their alleged financial breaches, his achievements might only be enhanced in the months to come.
Having missed out to the Citizens despite a club record 97 points in 2018/19, it is a testament to the mentality of Klopp and his team that Liverpool regrouped, improved, and won a drought-breaking Premier League crown in record-breaking fashion the following season.
Klopp’s Liverpool are responsible for three of the highest eight points returns in Premier League history. They are the only team to have breached 90+ points and not been crowned champions, doing so twice.
His success has come despite a spend that has been dwarfed by those around him. While hardly an unprecedented underdog tale, from Klopp’s first summer in charge Liverpool are only the sixth-highest spenders in the Premier League.
In terms of net spending, the Reds are ninth, behind Newcastle, West Ham and Aston Villa, with their investment less than half of each of their Big Six rivals, with the exception of Tottenham.
Replacing Klopp appears an almighty task, with the German the figurehead of an unforgettable period.
He will depart with Liverpool well-positioned to build on his legacy, while there’s still a chance of more memorable nights before his time is done. An EFL Cup final with Chelsea will take place next month, and the Reds remain in contention in four competitions.
Perhaps the perfect send-off would be Premier League glory. The Reds are five-points clear at the top of the table, having played a game more than old rivals City, who are beginning to click into gear under Pep Guardiola. Holding off the Citizens, and others, in the title race would be arguably Klopp’s greatest achievement, with his transitional team in title contention as February approaches.
Whatever the outcome of the season, there will be some farewell thrown on Merseyside in May. The club’s glory days appeared a long time ago for much of the Premier League era, until Klopp restored the Reds to the top table of European and English football.
For that, the gratitude will be enduring.
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