On the morning of Friday 26th January 2024, the news that Jürgen Klopp would be stepping down from his role as manager of Liverpool FC at the end of the season broke, and so did my heart.
Confused and half convinced it was fake news, I scrambled to watch the YouTube video released by Liverpool where Klopp explains why he has decided to leave. I began to tear up as he spoke about his depleting energy. And soon after, I met up with friends (Americans, I might add) who had no clue who Jürgen Klopp is and why I was so upset. So this article is me trying to justify, for those who aren’t interested in Liverpool FC, or football in general, why this is such big, sad news and why it made me cry.
Liverpool FC are a huge team, with one of the largest international fan bases. Although the team were founded in 1892, the Liverpool we now know only really began once Scotsman Bill Shankly became manager in 1959. His tenure at Liverpool lasted until 1974 and, during this time, he succeeded in promoting Liverpool from a Second Division team to the First Division. Here they were first introduced into European football (which they are now renowned for), they won 3 League Titles (their first, in 1964, being the first time Liverpool had won it in 17 years), 2 FA Cups (including club’s first ever), 3 Charity Shields and 1 UEFA Cup. He set the foundations for this monumental football club.
Soon after Shankly came Bob Paisley. Paisley managed Liverpool from 1974 to 1983, a period in which the team completely dominated both domestically and internationally. The club won 6 League Titles, 3 League Cups, 6 Charity Shields, 3 European Cups, 1 UEFA Cup and 1 UEFA Super Cup. It was during this period of immense success that my family became enamoured with Liverpool, and we have been ever since. The next significant manager at Liverpool would be another Scotsman, Kenny Dalglish. Under Dalglish, Liverpool won another 3 League Titles, 2 FA Cups, 1 League Cup and 4 Charity Shields.
These men are icons of Liverpool FC’s history. While Liverpool did experience successes after Dalglish’s resignation in 1990, the golden age of Liverpool seemed to have been and gone. Liverpool haters are quick to mention how in the age of the Premier League, the highest division of football in England, Liverpool were unable to seize the title for themselves. The likes of Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, José Mourinho at Chelsea and Arsène Wenger at Arsenal dominated English football and, although Liverpool had immense talent in the likes of Steven Gerrard playing and Rafael Benítez managing, they just didn’t have enough to make it all the way. Although Liverpool did still win titles (most notably winning the Champions League on that infamous night in Istanbul against the insanely good AC Milan team in 2005), their inability to win the biggest trophy in England was a serious concern and made them the target of much ridicule from rival fans. That is, until Germany’s Jürgen Klopp signed on as manager in 2015.
When Klopp signed for Liverpool, they were 10th place in the Premier League, officially a mid-table team. His managerial history includes getting Mainz promoted into the highest league in German football, the Bundesliga, and then managing Borussia Dortmund to win 2 consecutive Bundesliga titles, defeating the mighty Bayern Munich. The news of Klopp joining Liverpool brought much excitement for Liverpool fans. We knew of his history and his talent and we knew he was the man to help us out of our sorry state in the league.
Klopp was an instantly likeable character. In his first ever press conference for Liverpool, he famously stated that “I’m the normal one”, in a sport where manager personalities were often sensationalised by the British press. There are numerous videos out there of Klopp just being a silly goofy guy, no elevated sense of self, justa man who is deeply passionate about football.
This character is a big draw for not just fans but also football players, many of whom wish to play for Liverpool solely for the opportunity to work with Klopp. He has an immense skill for finding diamonds in the rough and nurturing talent for players to excel. Prime examples of that would include the likes of academy kid turned world class right back, Trent Alexander-Arnold, and Chelsea reject turned one of the greatest wingers of all time, Mohammed Salah.
Klopp’s arrival at Liverpool finally put an end to the club’s 30-year long drought, winning the Premier League in 2020 (unfortunately in the year of COVID meaning long-overdue celebrations were hindered). They also won the Champions League in 2019, after reaching the final in the previous year, the Club World Cup, EFL Cup, FA Cup and UEFA Super Cup. But to look at all the trophies Klopp has won would be to do him a disservice. The context of this time period, from 2015 to the present, is significant.
Manchester City, a team owned by Middle Eastern billionaires with infinite funding to buy whatever and whoever they need (and 115 alleged breaches of financial rules), led by the immensely talented Pep Guardiola, have been Liverpool’s main rivals during Klopp’s tenure. The two managers both led the wave of pressing, possession-heavy play in the game. They demand extreme fitness, speed, organisation and stamina in their players. The disparity in funding and resources between Manchester City and Liverpool is gaping and yet Klopp still managed to consistently challenge Guardiola’s team. In the 2018-9 season, City won by 1 single point. Finishing the season with 98 and 97 points, these two teams were doing it like no one else. The season in which Liverpool won saw them finish with 99 points. And in the 2021-2, City once again won by 1 agonising point, ending on 93 and 92 points. These are unreal numbers. The stakes were so high that just one draw (not even a loss!) could result in losing the title.
Now in his 9th year managing Liverpool, Klopp has practically created an entirely new team within the space of months. Everyone expected it to take some time for Liverpool to reach their peak again with this new team and yet, as things currently stand, Liverpool are at the top of the Premier League table, leading by 5 points ahead of City, and they are also still competing for the Europa League, EFL Cup (which they are in the final for) and FA Cup. It’s ridiculous how Klopp has managed to do all this in so little time. He’s a bloody genius.
One of Liverpool’s greatest managers and one of the greatest of all time. Haters will detract from his achievements by claiming he “only won 1 Premier League title”, but this ignores so much context. Pep Guardiola, when asked about how he felt about Klopp leaving Liverpool, said “I will sleep better” knowing that he won’t have to compete against Klopp’s Liverpool anymore. An incredible football rivalry that raised the stakes to levels never before reached in English football history. It’s the end of an era.
Learning of Klopp leaving felt like a bereavement. I am absolutely devastated. I knew he was not going to stay forever, but it seemed like we were just getting started with this new team. Klopp is tired, it’s entirely understandable. Working at the level he has done for the past 9 years must be exhausting. I respect his decision and can only be thankful for all that he has achieved for our team. He made Liverpool important again. He made Liverpool one of the most exciting teams to watch. He made me and many other fans laugh in interviews. I’m in awe of him. He’s just a really cool guy and I will miss him immensely. You will never walk alone, Jürgen Norbert Klopp.