Jurgen Klopp’s sacred position in global football as the innovator of relentless counter-pressing, commonly referred to as gengenpress; infectious, almost child-like enthusiasm for the game and paternal approach to nurturing players are the principal reasons there is near universal sadness about his impending departure from Liverpool. The English Premier League is going to be worse off without him.
Fans of rival fans know he is almost irreplaceable, hence the dose of schadenfreude we are witnessing on social media. It goes without saying there aren’t any like for like replacements for the former Mainz and Borussia Dortmund manager. Whichever successor to the Anfield hot seat Liverpool owner John Henry and his board find next summer is going to find it excruciatingly difficult to replicate Klopp’s magnetic appeal and boundless energy.
When Klopp first arrived on English shores, only a select few understood his ‘heavy metal’football philosophy which saw his side end up outside of the Top Four. One mentally complacent pundit even referred to him as ‘a rich man’s Sam Allardyce’. Yours truly also took his time to be converted and routinely derided the quality of the first batch of his signings on radio and TV talk shows. We were all converted by his work.
His work improving individual players while delivering a team that competed for everything, all the time on a shoestring budget compared to his rivals is the stuff of legend. Roberto Firmino may well be the Premier League’s best counter-pressing forward of all time but he was a bit lost when he first arrived from Hoffenheim.
Mohamed Salah was a Chelsea reject who has gone on to become one of the club’s best strikers of all time. Virgil van Dijk was a promising defender at Southampton who graduated into the EPL’s top sweeper. Sadio Mane had huffed and puffed at St Mary’s Stadium without much impact but left Anfield as the African footballer of the year.
Andy Robertson was a rough diamond while featuring for struggling Hull City but he morphed into one of the world’s top left backs. Same story with Trent Alexander Arnold whose figures for assists marauding out of right back make him comparable to such greats as Cafu and Daniel Alves. Everywhere in the team, Klopp has been able to add value to his players.
A recurring question on various fora is – what next for Klopp? The answer is to be found in his interview. The Premier League, Champions League, FA Cup, Carabao Cup, European Super Cup and Club World Cup winning manager says he can’t find the energy anymore. He is tired. A one year sabbatical to recharge his batteries is the most logical course of action for a man who could easily have won four EPL titles but for the brilliance of Pep Guardiola and his bigger budget.
Declined to celebrate his imminent Anfield exit as a Chelsea fan out of respect for what he represents – one hundred percent commitment to a cause. My immediate reaction to his announcement was “He came, he saw, he conquered. Time for a new challenge for the man who revived Liverpool Never Walk Alone spirit and delivered Premier League Holy Grail.” Good luck to Klopp in his future endeavors.