Until Gérard Houllier’s arrival at Anfield in 1998, Liverpool FC had never had a manager born outside of the British Isles. In the intervening 17 years, the well-respected Frenchman and his Spanish successor Rafa Benítez both delivered unexpected European success to Liverpool, as well as coming tantalisingly close to winning the Premier League for the first time. Reds fans worldwide will be hoping that under Jürgen Klopp, Liverpool’s first ever German manager, the club can finally go one better.
Like many top-class managers, as a player Jürgen Klopp was solid, if unspectacular, spending his entire career at FSV Mainz before taking up the reins there for his first steps into management upon retirement in 2001. Going on to become their longest-serving manager, Klopp’s reign was notable for the club being promoted out of the Bundesliga 2 into the top flight for the first time in their history. During their three-year excursion as a Bundesliga team, they also played a preseason friendly with Klopp’s future employers Liverpool in August 2006, where they demolished Rafa's charges 5-0! At the end of that season, however, Die Nullfünfer were relegated in 16th place. Klopp declared his intention to stay on, but resigned at the end of the following season as Mainz finished 4th, just outside the promotion places.
Klopp was not to be out of work for long, however: In May 2008, he was hired by Borussia Dortmund, who had finished in an unglamourous 13th place in the 2007-08 season. Klopp’s appointment immediately paid dividends, winning the DFL Supercup and raising the squad from thirteenth to sixth. The next season, their final position increased again, as Dortmund finished fifth. It was in the 2010-11 season, though, that Klopp’s Dortmund really made an impact and made a European household name of their charismatic manager. BVB won their first league title in nine years, being crowned champions with two games to spare and by an eventual margin of seven points. It was not enough for Klopp, and the next season Dortmund did it again, this time with a German-record-breaking tally of 81 points, and stringing together an incredible 28-match unbeaten run. The team also beat Bayern Munich 5-2 in the DFB Pokal to earn the first domestic double in their history. More success was to come in the 2012-13 season, as Borussia escaped a Champions League ‘Group Of Death’ to battle all the way to the final at Wembley Stadium, where a last-minute Arjen Robben goal saw Bayern Munich take the honours at their expense. Yet the bearded one remained upbeat, looking on the bright side and saying: “The only thing I can say is that it was great. London is the town of the Olympic Games. The weather was good, everything is OK. Only the result is shit.”
Like many of the great Liverpool managers before him, Klopp possesses a verbal dexterity and wit that is rare in English football. Comparing Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal side to “a silent orchestra”, Klopp has stated he prefers his teams to play “heavy metal”, in a way apparently known in Germany as “English – rainy day, heavy pitch, 5-5, everybody is dirty in the face and goes home and cannot play for weeks after.” He memorably described Armenian international and one-time Liverpool target Henrikh Mkhitaryan as fitting Borussia Dortmund “like an arse on a bucket” – Brian Clough, eat your heart out...
Reaching the Champions League final proved to be the zenith for Klopp in Germany – an injury-ravaged 2013/14 season saw them exit the Champions League at the quarter-finals and fall to second in the league. Perhaps more worryingly for Liverpool fans – who are no strangers to false dawns and anticlimax – Dortmund’s form dipped alarmingly in Klopp’s last season in charge, often finding themselves occupying the relegation places and ultimately finishing seventh; the same position that Liverpool ended up in in Benítez’s last season in charge. There can be no doubt, however, that with two league titles and four domestic trophies won, Klopp’s spell was a success.
Only time will tell which team Klopp will coax out of Liverpool’s squad – the relegation-threatened disappointments, or the title-winning European marauders of a few seasons before. Whether it is Klopp’s favoured heavy metal that rings around Anfield, or yet more discordant jarring notes, remains to be seen. But as the man who said that football should be “very emotional, very fast, very strong, not boring... You cannot win without tactics, but the emotion makes the difference. Life in our game, that’s important.”
Klopp's message to Liverpool fans was simple enough in his first interview as boss: "We have to change from doubter to believer... now." The smart money is that Klopp and Liverpool will get on very well indeed.
Copyright - Owen Collins for LFChistory.net