I’m so glad that Jurgen is a Red
I’m so glad he delivered what he said
There will be a certain irony attached to that joyous song from Liverpool fans about their manager Jurgen Klopp if it’s proven correct again this summer.
The German tends to be as good as his word. In his first press conference he talked about bringing the title back to Anfield. Job done in 2020 – and they came desperately close in 2019.
He did deliver the Champions League in 2019 – having promised to be back in the final after the disappointment of the 2018 decider defeat to Real Madrid.
Now he’s said he’s leaving Anfield at the end of this season.
Reds fans will hope he changes his mind and stays on, following the example of Manchester United legend Alex Ferguson 22 years previously, who reversed his decision to leave.
Despite his self-deprecating comments about ‘the old man on the sidelines’, Klopp is still only 56.
The problem is that he’s been in management for 24 years, with only a short break in the time between leaving Borussia Dortmund and joining Liverpool.
Klopp has had to battle, to continually try to punch above his weight against the greater financial muscle of both Manchester clubs and Chelsea and then massive spending in recent seasons by Arsenal.
Liverpool have spent plenty too, but Klopp has also had to bring in money through selling players he would have preferred to keep.
As he said himself on Friday, he doesn’t feel he has the energy for another season in charge.
Basically, he said: ‘It’s not you, it’s me’.
Klopp’s declaration about his departure does feel like a break-up for fans, the end of a relationship.
When the speculation grew that Klopp was to succeed Brendan Rodgers in 2015, I told my wife the news, grinning from ear to ear.
‘You’re half in love with this man already, aren’t you?’, she asked/ stated, with a slight frown (perhaps because we were in bed together).
‘Half?!’, I replied.
In truth I couldn’t have hoped that Klopp would achieve as much as he has done.
It’s not just the major trophies that he’s brought, it’s the attitude, the positivity, the thrillingly entertaining football.
Klopp has made Liverpool a force again, both in England and in Europe.
Once mocked for leading his players to acclaim a home draw against West Bromwich Albion, he has led them to so much more, becoming utterly beloved by Liverpool supporters, achieving deification.
Klopp is up there in the pantheon of Liverpool bosses, along with Shankly, Paisley, and Dalglish.
Only he, Paisley, and Joe Fagan delivered both the big ones – the League and the European Cup/Champions League.
Without Manchester City, more titles would surely have come to Liverpool. Perhaps even the quadruple in 2022.
Without Klopp’s Liverpool, City would probably be aiming for an astonishing sixth title in a row. As it is, Pep Guardiola’s side are targeting an unprecedented fourth successive triumph.
The fact that Liverpool are currently sitting top of the table, and still in all cups, including the forthcoming Carabao Cup Final, made Klopp’s announcement all the more shocking.
Managers almost always depart clubs when times are tough, or at least not as great as they once were.
That was even the case with Ferguson, when it was announced during the 2001/02 campaign that he planned to step down at the end of that season, which included early exits in the League and FA Cups.
The reversal of that decision prompted an upsurge in form, winning 13 out of 15 matches – but United still finished only third, behind Arsenal and Liverpool. That was a rare trophy-less season under Ferguson.
He stayed on, to even greater success, for another 11 years.
It’s highly unlikely that Klopp will follow suit, not even for one year.
The upside for Liverpool FC is that they have time to plan, unlike with Kenny Dalglish’s sudden departure in 1991.
The downside is that some potential managers may fear it will be like following Ferguson into Old Trafford, that it might be better to be ‘the man after the man after…’
Manchester United are still not sure they have the right man to succeed Ferguson.
Liverpool didn’t get it right in 1991, with Graeme Souness coming in and making too many radical changes, although the club and playing squad did need a re-fresh.
Indeed it took 30 years for the Reds to get back to the top of English football.
Klopp will leave Liverpool in a better place. The Reds also now have a very strong panel, with a number of young talents already having been blooded, including Northern Ireland international Conor Bradley.
That’s if the squad largely stays together, of course.
Already club captain Virgil van Dijk has declined to commit himself to Liverpool in the post-Klopp era, adopting a ‘wait and see’ attitude to how the club will re-structure for the future. It’s not just a manager that Liverpool need but a new director of football.
Star striker Mo Salah is another who will be in the spotlight, with continued speculation about attempts to lure him to Saudi Arabia in the summer.
For now they’re Reds, as is Jurgen.
What the future delivers after he’s gone is very uncertain.