Jurgen Klopp; The Man who marked Anfield in a way bigger than his smile MINTAH Writes

While nine years doesn’t sound too long at a big club like Liverpool considering all the success chalked, it must be noted that Klopp has been coaching for 23 years and absolutely needs to break from the ultra-demanding nature of elite football management.

Klopp wasn’t “privileged” like Mikel Arteta to be Pep Guardiola’s assistant manager and immediately land a head coaching role at a premium club like Arsenal in the space of three years.

Cesc Fabregas likewise had a relatively easier, shorter path to a head coaching gig and backing from millions flowing from Indonesia’s wealthiest family has certainly helped to accelerate his run to coaching in an elite division following Como’s promotion to Serie A.

On the flip side, Klopp had to grind his way through the financially malaise Mainz O5 in Bundesliga 2 for three seasons before gaining promotion to the Bundesliga.

Even after that, there were the Dortmund days where Klopp had to literally work magic to get a club only a few seasons separated from near bankruptcy to beat Bayern Munich to the Bundesliga title not once but twice.

Many have questioned the timing of Jurgen Klopp’s impending departure from Liverpool as manager during one of the best periods in the club’s history.

A section believes that the timing rocked the boat and piled more pressure on Liverpool to win all trophies for a group that was already under intense pressure to win every game and every trophy irrespective how unrealistic that is.

Others believe the announcement would spur Liverpool on to win everything and close out Klopp’s era with a bang. However, that won’t happen as The Reds have missed out on winning all titles this season bar the Carabao Cup.

Missing out on three out of four available titles has given credence to naysayers on Klopp’s legacy as one of the greatest managers in the English Premier League’s history and Liverpool’s.

Winning eight titles in nine seasons while working with an incredible group of quality players doesn’t sound as a manager who should be ranked alongside the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson and Pep Guardiola but a deeper dive though shows why the former Borussia Dortmund coach should absolutely be placed in that tier.

Just like his initial runs at Mainz O5 and Dortmund, Klopp walked into a Liverpool team reeling from losing the EPL title very late in the season due to a shocking collapse at Selhurst Park and Steven Gerrard’s infamous slip.

He had to work to get The Reds back to the elite realm Chelsea (at the time) and Manchester City were operating in with Man United not too shabby either and he got it done in a manner that mirrored his teeth’s transformation over the years.

Under Klopp, Liverpool got a supreme polish to become a top tier European football club that battled the very best in the game. Yes, there were the failed campaigns in the UEFA Champions League and Europa League finals, but Klopp can’t be blamed for Loris Karius’ meltdown in the loss to Real Madrid and Mohammed Salah’s injury to Real Madrid in another final.

Those losses though can’t be put on the German tactician who adapted his Gengenpressing high octane brand of football into a more nuanced style that picked its moments and areas on the pitch to strike while evolving from a basic offensive unit into a more complicated and harder to suppress group.

Adaptation is the reason behind Klopp transforming Roberto Firmino from a guy who was just flat out average into the EPL’s version of Thomas Muller- a Raumdeuter or space interpreter. Kai Havertz has done fine replicating Firmino’s play albeit from a much deeper and lateral spot on the field.

Not the quickest nor the deadliest finisher, Firmino’s place in Klopp’s system looked odd considering the demands but the Brazilian’s intellect made him the perfect candidate to dictate the direction of a press when not in possession and serve as the passing link to complete moves in an attacking transition.

Flanked on either side by inverted goal scoring wingers, Firmino’s deeper than usual position for a central forward tasked him with defensive duties through the middle of the pitch.

Such adaptation helped Klopp deal with the defensive headaches caused by Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson’s advanced positions on the field via shrewd personnel picks in Fabinho and Gigi Wijnaldum.

In the conversation of EPL managerial greatness, Arsene Wenger makes the cut despite winning just three EPL titles in 22 years.

Looking beyond the number of trophies Wenger won (which is always a great thing to do), it is the influence he brought to the league- eating habits, training, a virtual academic way of approaching games- and his legendary battles against the staples of the then EPL (Alex Ferguson, Newcastle for a while and later Chelsea) that makes him great.

Viewing through the same Wenger lens, Klopp’s greatness goes beyond winning just one league title and one UEFA Champions League, it is the way he got his team to go about it while swimming against the tide of Pep Guardiola’s overwhelming vice like grip on everything football in the modern space.

Cristiano Ronaldo needed Lionel Messi to define an era in football just as Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell and Michael Jordan and Detroit Pistons needed each other to shape the NBA into the global phenomenon the basketball league has become today.

Duels make legends and Pep needed Klopp to push him to deliver his absolute best. In English football’s Pep Guardiola era, it was Jurgen Klopp who stood up to the Spaniard and made him work more than any manager in their legendary battles after a brief duet in Germany during Pep’s time as Bayern Munich head coach.

In another era, Klopp’s Liverpool would have been viewed the same way as the AC Milan teams of the early 1990’s, Pep’s Barcelona teams from 2009 to 2011 and the great Ajax and Bayern Munich teams of the 1970’s but for Guardiola’s Manchester City.

Through his run from the lean Mainz O5 to Liverpool, Klopp’s coaching touch turned poor players into good ones and good players into great ones.

For top talents like Robert Lewandowski, Mohammed Salah, Sadio Mane and Matts Hummels, they got turned into absolute legends of the game.

Between the chest thumping, chest bumping, infectious smiles and engaging press conferences, Klopp’s larger than life personality and infectious connection with players and most importantly, Liverpool’s fans, is one that engraves his name in the gritty stone walls of Anfield.

Yes, Jurgen Klopp’s impending departure caught many by surprise, but it did give all the chance to truly appreciate the greatness of the man who made even rivals of Liverpool Walk with The Reds.

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