Colin Sheridan: The ever evolving genius of Jürgen Norbert Klopp

Jürgen Norbert Klopp. Those who follow the football club he manages, revere him.
Colin Sheridan: The ever evolving genius of Jürgen Norbert Klopp

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp celebrates after winning the Emirates FA Cup final at Wembley Stadium, London. Photo credit: Adam Davy/PA Wire.

Jürgen Norbert Klopp. Those who follow the football club he manages, revere him.

Those who support all the other clubs he does not, wish he was theirs. He is the darling of the media and housewives alike. For an industry notoriously suspicious of foreigners, the English football industrial complex venerates him as both visionary and saviour. He is loved by his players and respected by his adversaries. In a city of working class heroes, he sits on Liverpool's Mount Rushmore alongside Shankly, McCartney and Lennon. He does so earning €10m a year, and, in a further unlikely twist, being German. One wonders if Vladimir Zelenskyy chose to model his leadership style on anybody, did he perhaps choose Jürgen Norbert? Swapping Saville Row suits for battle fatigues. Eschewing talk of soft exile in lieu of digging trenches with his troops.

He lives by the code of the everyman. He doesn’t even claim to be “one of them”. He just says he wishes he was. He’d actually convince you the millions he earns are a burden, not a blessing. All this, managing a team that has won as many league titles as Leicester City this century.

There’s a saying in golf “they don’t ask you how”. It roughly translates to there being no room on your scorecard for the hows and the whys of the scores you make. There is only a simple box, barely big enough to hold the number you are obliged to scrawl in it.

The par you made may have seen you take out a cuckoo mid flight, but while the tale may captivate the bar in the clubhouse after, it is only the score you make that counts, not the circumstance of its creation. Football has long tested that theory. Chelsea and Manchester City, pointing to the great big scoreboard in the sky, have long argued “they don’t ask you how”. Titles and trophies count. The rest is fluff. Hence, dubious ownership and a cast of rotating managers hired and fired with the casual indifference only odious billionaires can emote, have become the norm. Liverpool, in choosing Klopp six-and-a-half years ago, have reshaped the landscape. Their ownership - Fenway Sports Group - appear borderline philanthropic standing beside their peers - particularly Everton, Newcastle, Chelsea and City. Their team plays in the image of their manager; matching high energy with a collective honesty rare amongst such feted sport stars. The cherry on the cake is a collection of diamonds - their keeper Allison, the cerebral centre half Virgil van Dyke, the understated midfield genius of Thiago Alcântara, and the worldly, generational talent of Mo Salah and Sadio Mané. With these players, it’s arguable that Boris Johnson could manage Liverpool to greatness, but part of Klopp's genius is having these players and keeping them - not just happy - but, actually keeping them.

Pep Guardiola changed how football is played, but, by landing where he did, his legacy will always be viewed differently. At best, a super-agent for change, a footballing philosopher who took the soup. Mikel Arteta, the Princely Spaniard, is Pep-Lite. Marco Bielsa a novelty you’d spend a J1 summer in Nantucket with, but someone you’d never marry. Antonio Conte is brilliant, but brutal.

Hard to love. The ultimate Bond villain. The rest of them are like crypto-currency in human form. Up one moment, down and out the next, every other manager seems one bad result away from breaking down and revealing their true selves. Even when it happens to Klopp, he invariably wins.

Following last week's decisive draw to Spurs, Klopp exposed his sore loser persona when insisting Spurs were wonderful while at pains to point out he could never play like them. Classic Klopp. Even his dark side is enlightening. Liverpool won a forgettable Cup final on Saturday, and the enduring memory will not be of penalties scored or missed, but of Klopp, cajoling, hugging, inspiring his charges. Like him or not, he understands leadership like few others. We have waited six years for the mask to slip, only to discover he was never wearing one in the first place.

Tyrone cultivating impressive new crop

For a county in crisis, Tyrone seem to be handling things pretty well. Dumped out of the Ulster championship by Derry, those of us watching from afar speculated that the smoke created by departed players was emanating from a subterranean fire. Defending All-Ireland champions should only bid farewell to ageing stars, not players such as Tiernan McCann, Mark Bradley, Ronan O'Neill, Hugh Pat McGeary, Michael Cassidy and Lee Brennan, most of whom had yet to realise their prime, but leave they did. The left behind holes that may now be filled by some of the triumphant U20 squad that defeated Kildare to win an All-Ireland on Saturday night. Underage glory is not a guarantee of future success, but it is an indicator of the health of a game within a county. In Ruairi Canavan, they have a player that has been whispered about in the same breath as David Clifford. Time will tell, but if the Red Hand rises again, we can’t say we weren’t warned.

Tom Brady's sweet-talking retirement plan

Dessie Dolan may need a new agent. Last week Fox Sports announced that Tamba Bay Buccaneers quarterback and seven time Super Bowl winner Tom Brady will join the network as its lead NFL analyst whenever he decides to actually retire. The deal is reported to pay Brady $375m across 10 years. I’m no numbers guy, but that works out to about $37million to “call” no more than twenty games a season, so a little under $2million or so for the weekends he actually works. There were no details about whether parking and canteen tokens were included in the deal. If the figures are true, Brady stands to earn more in the broadcasting booth than he does as a player. By continuing to suit up for Tampa, he is effectively costing himself (a lot of) money. News of Brady’s retirement plan only highlights the absurdity of salaries in an industry rife with imbalance and remunerative discrepancy. Market research doesn’t just suggest that those calling games has little effect on how many people watch, it refutes the notion that employing Brady will bring more punters in. Nor does Brady’s legacy as arguably the greatest ever American football player ensure he will be any good at it. What is almost certain is Fox’s willingness to sign Brady for such an otherworldly amount of money is taking the term “loss leader” to a whole new level. He is theirs now (or, at least whenever he decides to retire), and so he becomes an insurance policy for Fox when courting advertisers, audiences and other analysts. You might wonder what the freelancing journalism graduate, trying to break into TV, suffocated by student loans, might make of it all, but, like so many other things in life, that’s not Tom’s problem.

Andrew Symonds was not just a cricket star

Australian, indeed world cricket was dealt another cruel blow as all-rounder Andrew Symonds was killed in a car crash over the weekend, leaving behind a wife and two young children, as well as countless fans and admirers inspired by his swashbuckling play, and very relatable off-field persona. Born in England and of Afro-Caribbean and Scandinavian descent, he left England as a toddler with his adoptive parents. There, he quickly gained a reputation as the quintessential wunderkind; A cavelering cricketer, not of the establishment. A brilliant one-dayer, he seemed burdened by the stuffiness of test cricket, proving too enigmatic and elusive — often in a very literal sense — as no-shows became more common that half-centuries. What remained long after his all-too short playing career, though, was people’s love for him. Writing in the Guardian, Angus Fontaine hit it for six when he said: “Trying to track him down for an interview was like chasing marlin. Most of the time he was out back and ‘out of range’ and you came back empty. When he appeared, though, it was brilliant.”

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