Sunday, March 3, 2024

Never a dull moment: Jurgen Klopp’s impact at Liverpool has been immense

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 26 Jan 2024


As the PA news agency’s Liverpool correspondent for more than a decade I’ve had the privilege of seeing the Jurgen Klopp era close up. Three Champions League finals (and one victory) in five years, a first league title in 30, too many top one-liners to count, a few admonishments from the man himself for a line of questioning he thought obvious or facile but also frequent comedic exchanges have meant there has never been a dull moment. He will be missed when he’s gone.

Seismic. There is no other word for Jurgen Klopp’s decision to leave Liverpool.

Everyone knew this day would come – his contract was for another two years but he had already stayed longer than any of his previous jobs and showed no huge appetite to extend again – but it lands so hard in this, of all seasons, with emerging talk of another another potential quadruple bid.

For fans – and the players – it is heart-wrenching. Even rival clubs may be sad to see the charismatic German leave.

From the moment he walked through the doors of the press conference room in Anfield’s Sir Kenny Dalglish stand in October 2015 and charmed the world by announcing himself as “the normal one” before pledging to win a title in the first four years of his reign (he was one year out as it came in 2020) Klopp’s impact has been immense.

Perhaps only Bill Shankly and Dalglish can claim to enjoy as much adoration as the 56-year-old. For a generation of fans who missed the heydays of the 1970s and 1980s he is the undisputed hero, the man who built a new Anfield bastion and not only won a sixth European Cup but finally brought home that long-awaited 19th league title.

Of course, Klopp is perfectly capable of rubbing people up the wrong way with his outspoken views on various topics or staunch defence of the club but at least you know when he says what he says it is genuine and not some phoney psychological ploy, even if he is not always perceived to be in the right.

He does not suffer fools and sees through attempts to use him as a means to generate headlines. Ask him a facile question or one which has a glaringly obvious answer – and I have plenty of experience of this – and be prepared to face a testy response. Not in a nasty, demeaning way. He just cuts through the nonsense (Klopp would use an expletive here).

But he is always genuine, warm, likeable and carries an aura before him that only a few in the game do. He also has a God-given talent for saying the right thing at the right time, whether it be talking about the sensitive subject of Hillsborough or in a post-match interview.

His video message for the ‘This Means More’ campaign in April 2018 was played on the big screen before the Champions League final against Real Madrid a few weeks later in Kiev.

The packed stadium quietened down to listen. At the end of his two-minute speech even I felt I could go out on the pitch and put in a shift for him. Klopp’s ability to elevate people beyond their perceived limitations is one of the things which makes him great.

It is why he is loved by his players, adored by fans and, let’s be honest, even begrudgingly admired by rival supporters (perhaps excluding those of City, United and Chelsea) for his forthright approach to the game and life in general.

However, his high-energy football is not only draining for his squad, the intensity of gearing up for a fight seemingly every three days eventually takes its toll and many observers were surprised he made it past the seven-year itch stage which ended his tenure at Mainz and Borussia Dortmund.

He looked physically and mentally shot during last season’s struggle to fifth place but insisted he had returned re-energised and refreshed and he has certainly transmitted that to his team as they currently top the Premier League, having reached one final and still competing in two other cups.

But even the great Jurgen Klopp has to succumb at some point and that point is now.

One thing is for sure, he will – to use one of his favourite sayings – “go for it and give it 100 per cent” for the remainder of what will be a landmark season and the Kop will sing their “I’m so glad that that Jurgen is a Red” song with more emotion than ever before.

It could be one hell of a send-off.


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