Football managers play different roles to deal with the pressures of the job. Some choose to stay as inconspicuous as the position allows, simply smiling and saying only as much as necessary. Others deflect attention onto players, referees or their opposite number, while others still soak up the attention, nurturing a cult of personality that follows them from job to job, across nations and leagues. How much of this is deliberate and how much is a result of fans and media attributing grand intent to the eccentricities of public figures is always a point of debate, but it seems likely that there is nearly always some measure of purpose behind it.
In the case of Jürgen Klopp, the attention he draws has always seemed incidental. His no-frills, folksy, straight-shooting personality never feels manifactured, and the response from players and media appears just as reflexive. The big, hearty laughs, casual cussing, pinpoint observations and good-natured slap-and-hugs create an unpretentious, compelling character whose shrewd tactical adjustments betray a mind that is clearly quite a bit sharper than his big goofy grin suggests. His personality takes up just as much space as his 6'4" frame and size 8 noggin, but rarely grates.
In other words, Klopp is the kind of man who takes up space when he's around and leaves holes when he moves on, and such a man reuniting with his former club - a club he lead to massive success over seven years of management - less than a season after he left was always going to dominate the narrative of the match. As his managing replacement and former players alike have spoken about Klopp's impact at Dortmund, James Milner and the Liverpool squad are allowed to go largely unnoticed as they quest for Europa League success:
"It makes it very easy for us – all the attention is on him and we can just worry about playing football!
"It’s a great competition to be in.
"All the teams left to be in it deserve to be here – they’re top teams.
"It’s not an easy competition to win and it’s another chance at silverware for us.
"To win it, you have to beat the best teams and Dortmund are definitely one of those, but we know we can beat anyone on our day as well.
"As long as we perform to the best of our abilities, it will be a really good tie, hopefully we can progress and get some more silverware for the football club."
Some of Liverpool's most impressive performances under Klopp have come when positioned as underdogs, which bodes well for this match-up against what is likely the strongest side left in the competition. Players doing better when the pressure is off should appreciate the relief of their manager taking up the entirety of the spotlight. Hopefully, that freedom will be enough to bridge the gap in quality between the sides and allow the Reds to bring a positive result back from Germany with them.