Jurgen Klopp leaves having become everything Pep Guardiola ever wanted

Liverpool fans are a very select breed. There comes a certain partisan, fiercely protective element which goes to the extreme where the supporters are concerned.

From backing players, managers and anyone connected to the club to the hilt. It is all-encompassing.

On these very pages of This Is Anfield some nine years ago, I put together a piece outlining a case for keeping faith with Brendan Rodgers – of resisting the allure of a German manager who had just finished the campaign in his homeland on a downward spiral and failed to secure European football.

I cited Klopp’s inconsistencies as Dortmund faltered in his final season and harked back to the rose-tinted nostalgia of Liverpool’s title near-miss of 2014. I wanted to believe.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, November 22, 2020: Leicester City's manager Brendan Rodgers (R) and Liverpool’s manager Jürgen Klopp after the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Leicester City FC at Anfield. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. Liverpool won 3-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

I was wrong. So badly wrong. Alas, it was this exact defensive and impassioned outlook that Klopp sensed was ripe within the Liverpool fanbase – across Merseyside and throughout the wider world.

He knew the supporters cared, deeply. The Reds had been lost at sea for so long, yet the fans hadn’t lost a shred of resilience.

Once Klopp showed up, conveyed his message in crisp, concise simplicity, the heartstrings were pulled. The bond was being forged.


A journey to take on the biggest beast

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, May 6, 2023: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp celebrates in front of the Spion Kop after the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Brentford FC at Anfield. Liverpool won 1-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The big German has since compared the moment of learning of Liverpool’s interest to the excitement of catching drift of a high school crush wanting to know more. There was only ever going to be infatuation on both sides.

It’s hard not to get too whimsical and overly anecdotal when reflecting on Klopp’s reign, but the beauty of his tenure – and the reason it lasted so long in the short-termist minefield that is modern football – is that it was so deeply personal to each and every supporter.

The dust hasn’t yet settled and it won’t for some time, despite the swift and respectful confirmation of Arne Slot as successor.

Klopp’s Liverpool dynasty has been a white-knuckle rollercoaster ride from the off, and it will take a good while to realise the safety catch has been clipped back on and the tsunami waves of endorphins are now over.

The pace of the full-throttle football, the hearts-on-sleeve gegenpressing and the relentless late wins have mirrored the frantic speed with which the years have gone by.

Liverpool’s constant upward trajectory under Klopp has provided the sweet yet sour effect of trapping us all in something of a time vacuum.

Everyone will have a Klopp story; an account of the era and how it time-stamped a specific period of their lives.

TBJTB8 Liverpool, Merseyside. 2nd June, 2019. Liverpool FC celebration parade after their Champions League final win over Tottenham Hotspur in Madrid on 1st June; Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp holds the Champions League trophy at the front of the team bus Credit: Action Plus Sports/Alamy Live News

Like generations gone by who followed 1980s Liverpool turning the global football landscape red and passing down fervent support, the Klopp reign has planted seeds which will sprout and bear fruit for years to come.

And the numbers, the stats… they’re daft. Klopp has won the lot as manager of Liverpool, far exceeding the expectations first laid down during that hazy day in October 2015, as he uttered his now famous ‘doubters to believers’ ethos with his sabbatical sun-tan still fresh and his accent ever so slightly more Germanic.

The truth is Klopp and Liverpool could have had more. Should have had more, in all likelihood, given the 115 charges which still hang darkly over the head of Man City.

Klopp’s era set off the journey to take on the biggest beast English football has ever seen.

Liverpool did that, they vanquished Pep Guardiola’s City and denied them European honours, while finally finding the ingredients to wrestle the league title back to Merseyside, for the first time in 30 years.


He will always be Liverpool

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, January 19, 2020: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah celebrates scoring the second goal with team-mate goalkeeper Alisson Becker during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Manchester United FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

It speaks volumes that Klopp and Liverpool clocked that the only way to actually beat City to the Premier League was to become relentless on an unprecedented scale, destroying the rest of the division and sealing the most craved trophy of all with seven fixtures remaining.

It will always be a warming comfort, for Klopp and the entire fanbase, that the final game played out at Anfield before the Covid-19 shutout – a 2-1 victory over Bournemouth – was, in the end, mathematically the fixture which got the Reds over the necessary points threshold to become champions.

That win – an English record 22nd consecutive home victory – put Liverpool 25 points clear. Twenty-five points clear, in early March. Allow that to sink in all over again.

Klopp leaves English football thoroughly burnt out, he said as much himself. Reaching such highs, even in the face of a behemoth of a questionably financed rival, is as much mentally draining as it is physical.

And yet, as he always does, Klopp has managed to get this right as well. There will be no slow, awkward, heartbreaking decline. Where the results stop coming, the action loses its ferocity, and Liverpool slip lower down the table – all the while Klopp’s trademark beaming grin growing ever more shallow, a little less bright.

There will be none of that. Klopp bows out at the top, after a whirlwind of a season which claimed silverware and came within a hair of providing another title run-in.

Klopp may depart with significantly fewer honours than his counterpart Guardiola, but he’s obtained everything the City boss truly ever wanted. The leader of a band of brothers, who stood as a living, breathing extension of the stadium around them, hearts pulsing as one.

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - Saturday, July 30, 2022: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp (R) and Manchester City's manager Josep 'Pep' Guardiola during the FA Community Shield friendly match between Liverpool FC and Manchester City FC at the King Power Stadium. Liverpool won 3-1. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Klopp acted on a weekly basis as the conductor of an Anfield cauldron, roaring songs and folklore from yesteryear while recording history in real-time.

He was adored, admired and eulogised. He breathed life into a sleeping giant, and he did it all within the club’s means; he provided something to believe in – he made the people happy.

His first team sheet boasted the likes of Jordon Ibe, Connor Randall and Jerome Sinclair. His final team-sheet offered some of the greatest names in world football, brought to the elite level as a product of his coaching.

Klopp put in all the hard miles, and now he deserves the world.

KIEV, UKRAINE - Saturday, May 26, 2018: Liverpool fans place flag and banners around Shevchenko Park ahead of the UEFA Champions League Final match between Real Madrid CF and Liverpool FC. (Pic by Peter Powell/Propaganda)

Guardiola, Jose Mourinho and dugout rivals of the highest echelon like to see themselves as the Julius Caesar figure, leading the empire, but all fall short of the lasting impression Klopp’s personality has made on the game.

The Leonidas of football, leading his Spartans into battle with each and every one of them ready to die for him at the first command.

Klopp will be remembered as a lot of different things to a lot of people.

To me, he will always be that feeling of Premier League assurance. He will always be those first few years back among European royalty when something special felt like it was brewing; he will always be that rain-soaked street in Porto full of singing Kopites huddled under a canvas tent, that halcyon afternoon in Shevchenko Park.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, May 18, 2024: Liverpool supporters' banner "Jürgen Lives Forever" mimicing a banner about Bill Shankly during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Wolverhampton Wanderers FC at Anfield. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

He will always be that corner taken quickly and an English top-flight title coming back home. He will always be the reason we called a loved one and shared a teary moment of acknowledgement that the wait was finally over.

He will always be Liverpool, and Liverpool will always be Klopp.

Jurgen lives forever.