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Danke Schön, Jurgen

“It’s not so important what people think when you come in, it’s much more important what people think when you leave.” These were the words of Jurgen Klopp as he first stepped into the press room at Anfield in 2015. Nine years later, he is set to depart Liverpool, leaving a legacy behind.


Klopp’s reign at Liverpool has produced some of the most exciting and memorable football that I have ever seen and followed at Anfield in the 25 years I’ve lived. From trophies to academy graduates, he’s delivered success on and off the pitch. He’s given excitement back to not only the club but the city. Quite rightly, he was rewarded the honorary title ‘Freedom of the City of Liverpool’ in 2022. In Klopp’s words: “I couldn’t be more proud to have been honoured with a Liverpudlian. I am home here and I will be grateful forever.”

Back in 2015, Klopp inherited a squad lacking in potential to succeed at the highest levels. He took over in October of that year and by the end of the season, the squad were runners-up in the League Cup and Europa League. There wasn’t a sudden overhaul at the club. Instead, Klopp made his mark steadily, buying relatively unsung class players like Sadio Mane and Gini Wijnaldum who came from lower down the Premier League.


As Klopp’s team began to climb up the table, hope was restored in the Kop End that decades without a league title would soon end. It’s not just his management on the pitch that gets noticed. His engagement with the Liverpool faithful is distinctive, with trademark fist pumps to the Kop end after a game, sending personal letters to fans who needed a positive lift. I recall Klopp lining the whole squad up in front of the home end, having battled to a 2-2 draw with West Brom – not the finest of results but one that nonetheless brought the team, and the club, together as one. 


Jurgen Klopp - Photo: Sky Sports
Jurgen Klopp - Photo: Sky Sports

As Klopp reinstated Champions League football at Anfield, Liverpool made world-class additions to the squad. Klopp and the recruitment team were mindful of who to sign and delicately went about their transfer business. They cherry-picked players who hadn’t quite set the world alight, such as Andy Robertson from a relegated Hull side for £10m and Mo Salah, who was signed for £37m and had ripped the Liverpool defence to shreds the season before. If you look at the squad now, not many were high in value like Manchester City and Chelsea can afford. Virgil Van Dijk and Alisson were the exceptions: £75m and £65m respectively. These signings helped fine-tune and transform the squad, elevating the team instantaneously. 


The focus on youth has always been an important aspect of Liverpool’s work. Klopp had continued to keep that pathway open during his tenure. When it was clear that Nathaniel Clyne would never reach the heights and levels expected as a Red, Klopp put his faith and trust in developing a young emerging Trent Alexander-Arnold. In the long term, what a move that was. He is now vice-captain and has accumulated over 300 appearances for his boyhood club. He is also renowned for his crossing ability.


When Klopp started his reign, he maintained the prestige of the club. No player could touch the famous ‘This is Anfield’ sign until they had earned it. They needed to succeed - they needed a trophy.


There was heartbreak at the 2017/18 Champions League Final when the Reds were thrashed 5-2 by Real Madrid: a final to forget for goalkeeper Loris Karius. However, Klopp rejuvenated the side, and made a few signings before the following season. In most seasons, 97 points would be good enough to win the title but this time, it would leave Liverpool in second place. Justice was rewarded though, as the club lifted their sixth Champions League trophy in Istanbul against Tottenham Hotspurs at the end of the season - a dramatic Champions League campaign, one bookended by strikes from Mo Salah and Divock Origi. 


Success continued as Liverpool lifted their first title in 30 years, albeit in an empty stadium due to Covid lockdown. Burnout was a result. Injuries piled up and the makeshift defence of rotation players Rhys Williams and Nathaniel Phillips ensured a 3rd place finish, a CL place only confirmed on the season's final day thanks to a last-gasp header from goalkeeper Alisson. Nevertheless, Klopp re-energised his squad as they fought on all fronts for the elusive quadruple (winning the Premier League, FA Cup, League Cup and Champions League in the same season). Lifting the FA and League Cup was all they could manage as they lost out to Manchester City on the final day of the season before succumbing to defeat at the hands of Real Madrid once again. 


It is only fitting that Liverpool enjoy a successful season, as it is Klopp’s last. As the man himself says, “This wonderful book we have wrote together, I would love to put a few more chapters in it.” 

“Managing Liverpool is a fairytale, you dedicate your whole life to it.” It was quite a shock when Klopp announced his departure. He said, “I am running out of energy,” which worries me despite his downplaying any rumours of illness. What I do know is he will be remembered as a Liverpool legend. As was the case when Bill Shankly left, there are certainly big shoes to fill in.


Thank you for everything, Jurgen. Now, let’s go out with a bang!


You’ll Never Walk Alone…


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