How has Jurgen Klopp changed Liverpool and why is he already a lock for a statue outside Anfield? John Fogarty examines 30 reasons the German is so loved and revered by Red supporters.
1 The human
From Seán Cox, to Hillsborough, to the pandemic, Klopp’s sense of humanity shines through. Stories about his generosity around his Formby home are well known. But perhaps it was his message to terminally-ill Liverpool fan Dave Evans prior to the Champions League final last year that illustrated his generosity of spirit the best. “For the three and a half years since I’m in, we share these experiences. That makes us actually friends. I wish you from the bottom of my heart all the best and, yeah, I am Christian, so, see you.”
2 The worker
Klopp’s work ethic is already legendary around Melwood, befitting the graft he expects of his players. His friend and former Huddersfield Town manager David Wagner said he “lives and breathes” the club. As Klopp himself said when dismissing the kind of players interested in joining the club just to play in the Champions League: “It is about pushing the train, not jumping on the running train.”
His own shoulder has never left the back of the locomotive. Those gruelling pre-seasons, the ones Emre Can complained about, are in keeping with his attitude.
3 The father
Given the amount he does with the club’s media department, you would wonder if Klopp turns down any promotional work. He is a man who knows how to say no and stop — Mamadou Sakho realised that much to his disappointment — but recently he sat down to read the children’s book King Kenny, which was recorded and disseminated across the club’s social media platforms. What other manager would ever consider agreeing to such a request?
4 The believer
When Virgil van Dijk joined in January 2018, it seemed only a matter of time before the Dutchman was appointed captain of Liverpool. Instead, Klopp chose to stick with Jordan Henderson, much to the bemusement of some supporters who simply couldn’t see the leadership qualities in the midfielder. About to come off a second of his two best seasons in a red shirt, the faith Klopp had in Henderson has been justified.
5 The alchemist
Bought from relegated Hull City in July 2017, Andy Robertson was primarily brought in as cover for the error-prone Alberto Moreno. A few months in and he was given an extended run in the team, which he grabbed with both hands. The Scot obviously had plenty to do with his own transformation, but the belief Klopp instilled in the then-23-year-old played a vital role in making him a world-class left-back. Ditto Mohammed Salah and the switch from winger into a goalscoring king.
6 The social conscience
Not so much that Klopp’s social awareness changed Liverpool as revived that which had been initially espoused by Bill Shankly and passed on to Kenny Dalglish and Roy Evans. “I’m on the left of course,” Klopp said in late 2017. “I believe in the welfare state. I’m not privately insured. I would never vote for a party because they promised to lower the top tax rate. My political understanding is this: If I am doing well, I want others to do well, too. If there’s something I will never do in my life it is vote for the right.”
7 The diplomat
Upon succeeding Brendan Rodgers, Klopp was clever not to dismiss his inheritance, insisting the squad was good enough. He would have been aware there wasn’t too much cash to splash and, sure enough, Gini Wijnaldum was his only major signing the summer of 2017, as much as Joel Matip was a free-transfer bargain. At the same time, he was discerning. Change would eventually come. Only nine of the squad from 2015 now remain and at least four of them will likely be gone this summer — Nathaniel Clyne, Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren, and Sheyi Ojo.
8 The economist
Klopp’s working relationship with sporting director Michael Edwards has helped to make Liverpool a powerhouse again, and he is acutely aware of Liverpool’s financial situation. The recent decision not to bid for Timo Werner was done to protect the integrity of the squad. “All clubs are losing money. How do I discuss with the players about things like salary waivers, and on the other hand buy a player for £50-£60m (€55.2m-66.3m) — we’d have to explain,” he said.
9 The accountant
Some say the revolution has been done on the cheap, while others point out the extravagant spends on the likes of Van Dijk and Allison Becker in 2018. That being said, Sepp van den Berg was the biggest signing last year at £4.4m (€4.8m). In total, Klopp has bought around £424m (€468.8m) worth of players and sold approximately £352m (€389.2m) — a net spend of £72m (€79.6m). Brilliance on a budget.
10 The historian
From the outset, Klopp embraced the history of the club. It was Rodgers who restored the original ‘This Is Anfield’ sign, but his successor instructed his players to keep their hands off it, even for luck. “I’ve told my players not to touch the ‘This Is Anfield’ sign until they win something,” he said four years ago. After last year’s Champions League success, permission was granted.
11 The philosopher
Having lost a sixth consecutive cup final in the 2018 Champions League decider, Klopp might have been forgiven for thinking he was cursed. The significance of finally winning one 12 months ago wasn’t lost on him, but that loss to Real Madrid didn’t have him too despondent. Footage of him singing “Madrid had all the fucking luck/We swear we’ll keep on being cool/We’ll bring it back to Liverpool” soon after the defeat proved that. He was good to this word, too.
He was even more philosophical as the pandemic threatened to undo all of his and his team’s good work.
12 The cheerleader
It was at Borussia Dortmund that Klopp made his three-fist pump celebration famous, but it has become just as synonymous with The Kop and travelling support after a big win. For a man used to the might of The Yellow Wall in Dortmund, the lack of atmosphere in Anfield when he started out was a concern. “I believe in atmosphere … I believe it’s a big, big part of the game, a big part of the joy,” he said. None of Klopp’s predecessors have engaged or cajoled the supporters as much as him. Anfield is certainly an asset again.
13 The embracer
Even those who have left the club under Klopp’s watch have acknowledged the presence of the man. Simon Mignolet and Moreno would have had differences of opinion with him, but they couldn’t deny Klopp’s warmth. The post-match embraces aren’t put on; they represent the man’s giving, that hug with Henderson after last year’s Champions League final is now an iconic moment.
14 The leader
For 17 years, Klopp had Zeljko Buvac as his assistant between Mainz, Dortmund, and Liverpool. When Buvac left in 2018, Klopp chose not to comment on the reasons for his departure. The sanctity of the dressing room is sacred to the manager, as is Liverpool’s transfer dealings, particularly after the initial mistake in pursuing Van Dijk. That level of trust now pervades the club — unlike Rodgers’ time in charge, when too many knew Liverpool’s business. How the signing of Fabinho was kept so hush-hush is a compliment to that tightness.
15 The custodian
Liverpool Football Club has obviously appreciated as a brand in recent times, but before that happened, its value as a club also had to increase. The exits of Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez had defined it as a selling club, and when Phillipe Coutinho also bade adieu, it seemed to be more of the same. As it turned out, Coutinho’s departure and subsequent demise at Barcelona put paid to that depiction of Liverpool. Emre Can’s mixed fortunes since leaving have also underlined Klopp’s belief that sometimes the grass is not always greener on the other side.
16 The committed
After seven years in Mainz and seven more at Dortmund, the fear for Liverpool fans before last December with the team flying high in the league was history would repeat itself and Klopp would say goodbye in 2022. In a way, supporters needed to know that the club meant more to him than his previous positions. In signing a new agreement to bring him up to 2024, Klopp showed that was the case. The owners, in offering what was a third contract to the manager, fully recognise that he is the club’s biggest asset.
17 The comedian
Self-deprecation and humility colours plenty of what Klopp says, but not his ability to make fun. When he announced a contract extension, he apologised to opposing fans: “That’s good news for some, not so good news for others, sorry…”
If the occasion arises, the 53-year-old will look to crack a joke, whether it’s the erotic voice of a Champions League translator — “Congratulations! Wow! Again, please!” — or remembering one of his early games in charge of Liverpool — “I can’t forget this fucking loss against Crystal Palace.”
18 The recruiter
Rafa Benitez would have been a draw, and Dalglish certainly was, but few have rivalled the pulling power of Klopp. It was his persuasive influence that brought Van Dijk to Liverpool ahead of Manchester City. The same goes for Joel Matip and Fabinho. And to think it used to be left to Steven Gerrard to try to convince players to join.
19 The prudent one
The difference in the number of points accumulated by Liverpool and Manchester City this year is even starker when you consider Liverpool’s net spend for this season was approximately -£28m (€-30.9m), whereas City’s was over £89m (€98.4m). “There are very effective ways of bringing a superior football team down to your level,” Klopp once told German soccer writer Uli Hesse.
20 The tinkerman
Gegenpressing has been made so synonymous with Klopp that his tactical playbook has almost become pigeonholed. What Liverpool did to Man City two seasons ago, though, can’t be repeated now. The team have had to become more selective in their press and while they started the 2019-20 season with an all-action approach, over Christmas and into the new year they became more comfortable with a possession-driven game. Liverpool’s ability to toggle between direct and passing forms has made them less predictable.
21 The patient one
No, not the time he had his appendix removed but how relaxed Klopp has been in allowing players to settle in. It has paid off with the likes of Fabinho although he is still waiting for Naby Keita to deliver on his promise. Loris Karius was given enough opportunities as were others but Klopp’s tendency is to reserve judgement.
22 The Scouser
Klopp appreciates his privacy, but he is often seen in Formby walking his dog, and has been known to take in local schoolboy games. He and his wife Ulla have made the place their home.
“I’m half-Scouse,” he declared in February. “We are here and are here with 100%. I’ve met so many nice people. There’s no need to separate us from something. It’s not that I’m used to all the things which are common here, but more and more and I like it.”
23 The shed sweeper
Klopp implemented an element of sweeping the sheds when he took over in 2016. Players were instructed to greet each other every morning as well as clean their tables in the canteen or wherever they ate as a group. A nod to Liverpool’s past, but it was as much a core belief of Klopp’s, everyone in the club was to be considered as working towards the same purpose. Unity had to be championed.
24 The competitor
You don’t need to parse Klopp’s post-loss comments to detect how much it pains him. Sometimes, he can come across as a sore loser. The loss to Atletico Madrid before the lockdown left him smarting and he can be sarcastic about refereeing decisions and an opposition set-up that has frustrated his players. A following needs to know their manager feels it too, and there is no question Klopp does.
25 The deflector
Much in the way of Alex Ferguson, Klopp deflects criticism from players individually. After last Sunday’s draw against Everton, he spoke of how his team weren’t smart enough to open up their rivals, but there were no remarks aimed at certain players. There never is. He might suggest a player could have done better, but no individual is ever called out.
26 The quotable
Shankly was quotable and Klopp is the same. Among the hits? “The best word I can say to describe this is: ‘Boom!’ ”, “mentality giants”, “let’s talk about six, baby”, “I am the normal one from the Black Forest”, “Adriaaan!”, “I am not a dreamer, but a romantic.”
27 The protector
In 2018, Liverpool appeared to be on the brink of signing Nabil Fekir, but it was reported an injury was the reason behind the decision not to proceed. In fact, Klopp refused to sanction it after being turned off by increased financial demands from the player and his representatives closer to the time. According to Daily Mirror journalist David Maddock, Klopp said: “We can’t have that personality in our squad.”
28 Man of the people
It’s not just his political stance that finds favour with Liverpool supporters. He drinks beer, his preferred civvies are a tee-shirt, jeans, and a pair of runners — and he swears. Fans can relate to him as a person as much as they can his passion on the sideline.
29 The influencer
As he says himself, Klopp’s team talks are usually tactics-based, but ahead of the second leg against Barcelona last year he chose to highlight why his team, trailing 3-0 and without two of its first-choice forwards, could defy the odds.
“The world outside is saying it is not possible. And let’s be honest, it’s probably impossible. But because it’s you? Because it’s you, we have a chance,” he said. His men were suitably inspired.
30 The relentless
Klopp may have ended Liverpool’s 30-year Premier League famine, but before it had even been annexed, he was speaking of moving towards bigger things. “The manager said that what we do in these last nine games will set the tone for next season as well,” said Van Dijk before the Everton match. A club that supposedly plans transfer windows ahead has a manager that plots well in advance, too.