Liverpool are by all accounts 24 to 48 hours from officially unveiling Jurgen Klopp as their new manager, but is he the right man for the job? Or are Liverpool moving too fast and making a mistake in an attempt to placate the fans? We gathered together the staff of The Liverpool Offside to see how they felt about Liverpool’s decisive and timely search for a new manager.
I think he’s the right man for the job. Others will no doubt wax lyrical about why he might make sense tactically, but the appeal of Klopp for me is one related to club culture. I think there are a lot of similarities in Liverpool and Dortmund, not least of which is the tendency of their fans to paint themselves as "have nots" when really it’s more of a case of "have not quite as much as as those who keep winning the league." Dortmund weren’t scrappy upstarts with zero money; compared to Bayern Munich they weren’t a financial juggernaut, but they’re not exactly SpVgg Greuther Fürth either. Dortmund have money, just not as much as some clubs. They have some excellent talent, just not as much as some clubs. They have amazing fan support, perhaps more so than other clubs. They even have a club anthem in common.
Klopp took Dortmund to back-to-back league titles despite having "not enough" compared to rivals Bayern Munich. He took them to a Champions League final despite having "not enough" compared to their semi-final opponents Real Madrid. For all the discussion about how financial spending is what wins you titles and trophies, sometimes money itself isn’t enough (See also: Liverpool nearly winning the league despite not having the financial resources of Manchester City, or Chelsea and how long it took them to accidentally back into a Champions League title). Klopp got something out of his players at Dortmund that Brendan Rodgers just wasn’t able to sustain over the long term with his own players at Liverpool. If Klopp can manage something similar now, the distance between the club’s financials and that of their top four rivals might not matter as much as it seems to right now.
They’re making the right decision. It just so happens it’s also the decision that will best placate the fans. Don’t worry, though: I’m sure we’ll all find something to complain about soon enough.
I arrived in Munich in the Spring of 2013, just before Bayern won the treble, largely at Dortmund’s expense. Even during this Bayern resurgence, it was impossible not to feel Klopp’s impact on the German footballing landscape. When Dortmund came to town, the rabid fan support was unlike anything I’d ever seen. The influx forced Munich to change their metro routes. Even life-long Bayern supporters would admit to me in a quiet, reflective moment their begrudging respect for Dortmund’s style of play, and for the man in charge.
So, is Klopp the right man for the job? I think so. There are no sure things, but the potential is there for Klopp to come in and transform Liverpool from an also-ran into a contender for Champions League spots and silverware. He’s a top, top manager, with a clear vision of how the game should be played. He’ll bring charisma, swagger, and visibility to a club in desperate need of all three. If Klopp can’t find success at Liverpool, we face a terrifying follow-up question: who can? The financial situation may be different than what he faced in Germany, but we’re not a far cry away Arsenal, and if we can start qualifying for Champions League on a regular basis the club can find a sustainable way forward.
If Klopp is announced as Liverpool’s 20th manager by the end of the week as expected, I’ll be very happy about the "decisive and timely" action by FSG. With on-field performances not improving, the international break arriving, and Jurgen openly flirting with the Reds, the timing just seemed to work perfectly. To fire Rodgers on Sunday night, start the interview process on Monday, and have Klopp starting work in a brand new liver bird-adorned baseball cap and warm-up jacket by Thursday or Friday is some fantastic work by the ownership. Oh yeah, and I’m pretty sure the Kopites will dig him, too.
His track record is excellent, and although he struggled in his final season at Borussia Dortmund, the underlying numbers in attack and defence—as stats gurus like Colin Trainor and Michael Caley have outlined—were good. Klopp struggled in his final seasons at Mainz 05 and Borussia Dortmund, which I’d happily take as a Liverpool fan. Why? Because by that point he had already made history at those clubs and built sides that could be handed over to another coach with vision.
Liverpool are hiring a manager who would have been considered by all of the European heavyweights, and many of them would have selected Klopp as their next man in charge if a vacancy arose. That’s not something to ignore. With the struggles of Brendan Rodgers going back as far as March, one can only be happy with how swiftly a decision has been made and carried out to replace the manager. From Sunday to Wednesday, Liverpool have sacked Rodgers and are on the verge of hiring a manager with a more coherent philosophy, a better track record, and a greater pull in a top European league full of talented young players who would play for him.
He’s the fans’ choice in the way that winning the lottery is something we’d all like to do. Would a Liverpool fan want Jürgen Klopp, Pep Guardiola, or Carlo Ancelotti as the next figure in the dugout? Of course they would, it’s just that normally it’s the sort of hire that wouldn’t seem possible. Only suddenly it is, and Liverpool now have an incoming manager who more than matches the current reputation of the club. That should be cause for celebration, especially considering that he seems to fit FSG’s approach to building for the long-term and possesses the charisma to rouse a fanbase that has become despondent in recent months.
Now that it’s all happening it feels a bit sudden, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. At times, Fenway Sports Group have seemed to be feeling their way through this whole football lark. The support has always been there—financially in the transfer market, expanding Anfield—but at times they have faced accusations they lack a coherent vision. Questioning the intent of FSG’s ownership has never seemed fair. The execution, though, has been another matter. Going as hard as they have for Klopp, knowing this is probably their best chance at getting a world class manager in who matched their stated goals from when they first arrived, should put all of that talk to rest.
It’s handy that Klopp just so happens to be the manager many fans want—that many wanted last summer following a disastrous 2014-15 season that saw Rodgers burn through all the good will he’d earned the year before—but that doesn’t make him any less perfect for FSG. Some, both in the fanbase and in the club’s hierarchy, might well have preferred to see them target Carlo Ancelotti, but even that only underlines what an odd situation Liverpool have found themselves in this autumn. There were two world class managers available, and if they’d waited much longer that likely wouldn’t have been the case. And Brendan Rodgers, despite their backing of him over the summer, wasn’t showing real signs of being able to turn things around.
The club’s owners saw their chance and took it. Backing Rodgers over the summer may have been the wrong call to make, but it was a brave one. One most owners and most clubs wouldn’t have made. Recognising so quickly that it wasn’t working out and that this was their one shot at landing a manager of Klopp's stature and quality and then going out and getting him—going out and executing—is similarly brave. However things work out, they deserve to be commended for it.
For whatever reason, I’ve always had this idea that Klopp was only at Dortmund for three or four seasons, and that his routine there was a bit in the miracle worker vein. Seven years is not miracle working, though, it’s grinding and earning your dues. As others have mentioned, there are a lot of overlapping characteristics between Liverpool and Dortmund, but perhaps one that is being undersold is that both are—or were, in Dortmund’s case—really difficult projects to wrangle. Projects that will take time, and work, and luck to actually deliver that holy grail of league championship. That reality makes me think Jurgen has done his homework here. He's not selling himself on Liverpool being something its not, he obviously isn't afraid of getting his hands dirty and getting to work, as demonstrated at Dortmund and Mainz.
And that was always the most appealing part of Rodgers' reign, for me. This idea that he was working, improving, evolving with the team. That he was talented enough to pull it all together before it fell apart. And that's probably all still true, just it didn't break right. The timing was off. Jurgen Klopp taking over at Liverpool in this moment feels like the right timing for both. He's cut his teeth at the bottom, he's proved his mettle in the limelight. I'm hoping he's looking at this Liverpool gig as his masterstroke—not only can I work for my home club, not only can I do it for the most ravenous fanbase in my home country, but now I'm going to resurrect THE fallen giant in Europe. That's beyond exciting.
From ownership's perspective, this doesn't feel rushed, even though it’s happening very quickly. The overall plan here is so reliant upon a visionary manager being able to bring together all these pieces and making something greater that it'd be sort of insane if FSG hadn’t been keeping a close eye on Klopp this season, especially when it was rumoured when they first arrived that he was seen as their ideal manager and that the hiring of Rodgers was an attempt to develop a Klopp of their own.
Now please start leaning on things, Jurgen.