All too often, an absence of silverware distracts from the impact that Jurgen Klopp has had at Liverpool. From Mainz to Merseyside, the German manages to galvanise his sides and achieve special things wherever he goes.
Jurgen Klopp: Criminally Underappreciated
In just three years, Klopp has guided Liverpool to three major finals and transformed the Reds’ standing on the world stage. If you consider his first line-up in charge against Tottenham in 2015, his squad inspired very little confidence. Apart from Coutinho, none of his starting eleven could be considered anywhere near the category of ‘world class’. On his bench, it was clear that he inherited a squad lacking depth; now, his roster is packed with a wealth of talent across the board.
Astonishingly, Klopp was able to guide this side to a domestic and European final that same season. Since then, he has secured Champions League qualification in two consecutive campaigns whilst constructing a new-look side. His shrewd activity in the transfer market and high-octane approach has maximised the potential of his players, which secured his side a spot in the Champions League final for the first time since 2007.
Jurgen Klopp’s Achilles heel at Liverpool, however, has been winning finals; like Klopp, Mauricio Pochettino is subject to similar criticism. As a result, their exceptional managerial credentials are overshadowed by their lack of silverware. This is astonishing given the impact they’ve had at their respective clubs, especially considering their substandard inheritance.
Ultimately, it boils down to what you value most in a manager: silverware or their overall impact. For example, Jose Mourinho is sometimes considered the superior manager because he won trophies at Manchester United. Whilst this is true, he also publicly criticised his players, threw tantrums, prioritised his ego over the well-being of the club and fractured both the enthusiasm of his players and the fans.
In stark contrast, Jurgen Klopp has made his supporters believe, and his players play with energy and gusto. Instead of criticising his players, he embraces them, motivates them and maximises their full potential. Klopp also places faith in his players and transforms them into top talents, such as Andrew Robertson, Joe Gomez and Trent Alexander-Arnold, to name a few.
Tactically, he’s a proponent of the Gegenpress and encourages a high-energy, ‘heavy metal’ brand of football, as opposed to Mourinho’s negative style. Rather than the Portuguese’s toxic atmosphere, Klopp has established a pervasive attitude of ambition and excitement. Liverpool are on the brink of something special thanks to Klopp, whereas Mourinho’s operation at Manchester United was utterly retrograde.
Jurgen Klopp is a serial underdog and overachiever who has delivered some unthinkable achievements in his career. His career in German football was truly remarkable, as he guided Mainz to their first season in the Bundesliga. Following that, he won two Bundesliga titles with Borussia Dortmund on a shoestring budget whilst competing with a world-beating Bayern Munich side. Klopp knows how to topple world-class opposition and win silverware and, with time, he will inevitably deliver it to Liverpool.
As Klopp is such an overachiever, he is constantly held to impossibly high standards and anything less is consequently criticised. Commentators will tend to focus on his failings in finals, rather than the miraculous reality of being there in the first place.
It is also important to consider the nature in which Liverpool lost the finals that Klopp guided them to. Arguably, he wasn’t tactically at fault, it was largely circumstances out of his control. For example, the Carabao Cup final against Manchester City was lost on penalties. In the Champions League final, a combination of Mohamed Salah’s injury and Loris Karius’ individual errors led to their demise. As for the Europa League final, Liverpool faced a confident Sevilla side who had won the last two tournaments.
Klopp’s ‘heavy metal’ approach and overall ethos make him the world-class manager that he is. Currently, Liverpool look on course to win their first Premier League title and it is astonishing how far they’ve come in such a short time-frame. In the 21 games they have played this season, they have kept 12 clean sheets, averaging 2.23 goals scored per match and 0.45 conceded.
Rival fans often mistake Klopp’s charismatic personality as a smokescreen for his tactical shortcomings, but there is an abundance of managerial prowess behind it. They just need to look at the evidence, but often choose not to.