UP TO 40% OFF

LFC END OF SEASON SALE

Spoilt for choice! Who was Jurgen Klopp’s most important Liverpool FC player?

Jurgen Klopp turned to 120 different players during his reign as Liverpool manager, but who ought to hold the title as his most important? Opinions are split.

With seven major trophies lifted during his time at Anfield, in addition to other title pursuits and cup final appearances, Klopp’s sides always gave us moments to treasure.

He transformed the club from the inside out and made Liverpool a destination rather than a stepping stone, helping to create legacies for players that will stand the test of time.

Because of that, when it comes to assessing who the most important players were throughout his tenure, it’s hard to find a consensus as so many made a lasting contribution.

Four candidates are named below, who do you agree with?

 

Virgil van Dijk – Henry Jackson

LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, February 25, 2024: Liverpool's captain Virgil van Dijk celebrates with the trophy and the Alan Hardaker Trophy for Man-of-the-Match after the Football League Cup Final match between Chelsea FC and Liverpool FC at Wembley Stadium. Liverpool won 1-0 after extra-time. (Photo by Peter Powell/Propaganda)

There are a handful of players that have to be in contention, including Alisson, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino, but it has to be Virgil van Dijk for me.

From the moment he arrived, Liverpool went up a significant gear – it’s easy to forget that within five months, they had reached the Champions League final. There’s no chance that happens without him, frankly. He changed everything, from the quality within the team to the mindset of it.

Barring a dropoff in 2022/23, Van Dijk’s level has been higher than any centre-back I’ve seen in my lifetime, and that’s not even being hyperbolic. My dad remembers the 1960s and isn’t a Liverpool fan, and even he has said he’s the best he’s seen!

The Dutchman is the perfect defender and doesn’t have a weakness: he is strong, tall, lightning-fast, great on the ball, a leader, a brilliant reader of play and a calming presence for those around him.

Such is his aura, most players don’t even attempt to take him on – his ‘not being dribbled past’ statistics are ludicrously impressive.

If I see a better centre-back for Liverpool in the coming decades, they will be something very special, and I think Van Dijk still has about another three years in him at a very high level.

 

Roberto Firmino – Jack Lusby

LONDON, ENGLAND - Saturday, May 14, 2022: Liverpool's Roberto Firmino kisses the trophy as he celebrates after the FA Cup Final between Chelsea FC and Liverpool FC at Wembley Stadium. The game ended in a goal-less draw, Liverpool won 6-5 on penalties. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

One of the first games I sat in the press box for during Klopp’s reign was the 4-1 win at Man City in November 2015 when things really started to click.

The manager had introduced Firmino in the No. 10 role as he made his way back from an injury that saw him miss his first games in charge, but there he was at the Etihad, leading the line.

His display that evening set the tone for what was to come over the next eight seasons, as Klopp built his system around Firmino’s unique ability.

With Firmino in the side, there was a confidence that Liverpool would out-press the opponent, while his selflessness in attack allowed Mo Salah and Sadio Mane to shine as the goalscoring load-bearers.

He also gave the assurances needed for Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson to develop into two of the world’s best attacking full-backs, his relentless industry effectively giving us an extra man.

Put simply, everything great about Klopp’s Liverpool came, in some way, through Firmino – and the juggling act that’s been required since he left only proves that further.

“When I knew I was coming here I knew I had a good player,” Klopp said in 2016. “I was looking forward to working with him very much.”

To think Rodgers had him playing as a right wing-back…

 

Mohamed Salah – Joanna Durkan

Mohamed Salah celebrates with Trent Alexander-Arnold, crowning him after breaking record, Anfield vs Man United (PA Images / Alamy Stock Photo)

That Salah remains under-appreciated outside Liverpool’s four walls is astounding, his credentials are jaw-dropping and you wonder if we will see anything like it again anytime soon.

His consistency under Klopp has been second to none, and that is why he is fifth in the club’s all-time goalscorers list already with 211 goals in 349 appearances.

In each of his seven seasons, he has scored 20 or more goals, and while some have accused him of being selfish, only once in that same amount of time has he contributed less than 10 assists in a campaign.

He’s composed, gets you off your feet, and he is a player you always think is capable of a moment of genius at the drop of the hat – Man City at Anfield in 2021, anyone?

The standards he has set for himself makes him an easy target for criticism should he fall even an inch below expectations, but Salah has been an exceptionally important player under Klopp.

Salah scored 20.3 percent of the goals during Klopp’s tenure – it is utterly ridiculous, these two were made for each other.

 

Alisson – Sam Millne

LONDON, ENGLAND - Saturday, April 16, 2022: Liverpool's goalkeeper Alisson Becker stands in a cloud of red smoke as his side celebrate the opening goal during the FA Cup Semi-Final game between Manchester City FC and Liverpool FC at Wembley Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Every great team needs a great goalkeeper and, like Van Dijk, Alisson made an instant impact on his arrival.

Having had to make do with Simon Mignolet and Loris Karius, it became immediately obvious the chasm in class between Alisson and his predecessors.

The goalkeeper has been crucial to so many points that Liverpool have picked up across his six years at the club.

You can point to obvious moments when he saved the Reds, figuratively and literally – his save against Napoli to see Liverpool through in the 2018/19 Champions League, for example – but his brilliance can sometimes be difficult to quantify.

His incredible ability to position himself perfectly, to make otherwise difficult saves look easy, exudes calmness through the team and intimidates the opposition into second-guessing themselves.

His one-on-one stopping is unlike anything we’ve ever seen and you can even see his technique rubbing off on Caoimhin Kelleher, though some credit must go to departing coach John Achterberg for that.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Tuesday, December 11, 2018: Liverpool's goalkeeper Alisson Becker makes an injury time save from Napoli's Arkadiusz Milik during the UEFA Champions League Group C match between Liverpool FC and SSC Napoli at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

One particular statistic that best shows how Alisson affects Liverpool’s success is PSxG-GA (post-shot expected goals minus goals allowed).

More simply put, post-shot xG is the rate of expected goals minus the number of goals actually conceded.

Alisson has consistently been one of the best in the world in this respect. In the 2022/23 season, he was saving 0.27 goals per game. Expanded across 38 matches, that’s more than 10 goals he saved in comparison to other ‘keepers.

Perhaps only Salah can claim to have had as big a direct impact at either end of the pitch. Oh, and Alisson can score too!


That it was not an entirely easy selection speaks volumes of the players Klopp had at his disposal throughout his nine seasons.

In that respect, honourable mentions you feel must also extend to Sadio Mane, Fabinho, Gini Wijnaldum and Trent Alexander-Arnold – but even this list could go on and on!