After Liverpool’s stunning, come-from-behind victory over Barcelona, more than a few rival fans—domestic and continental—have commented on how much they might like to see Jurgen Klopp roaming their sidelines instead of ours. I get it. We were the same way when Klopp was rampaging through Europe with his glorious Dortmund sides.
However, these fans are missing something important, and something that would immediately and forever turn Klopp off from most of the “biggest” sides in Europe: when these clubs and their fans say they’d love Klopp, it’s not for his meticulous, long-term process for improvement throughout all layers of the club—from the best players down to the ballboys. No, they’re only looking on and loving the end result.
Klopp’s Liverpool hasn’t happened overnight, and at the time of his hiring, if any Liverpool supporters had the idea that the German manager was going to instantly and dramatically change things on the pitch, Kloppo quickly disabused us all of that notion.
“If I sit here in four years, I am pretty confident we will have one title,” Klopp said in his very first press conference.
The message was loud and clear: this was going to be a long-term process. We needed to improve in all areas. We needed the fans, management, and players all pulling in the same direction, and that would take time. And even then, we still might come up short.
Can you imagine Klopp saying something similar after being appointed manager at Barcelona, or Real Madrid, or even (shudder) Manchester United? “In four years, I am pretty confident we will have one title.”
In Barcelona’s case, they are up in arms, wanting to fire Ernesto Valverde after losing one Champions League semifinal. In a likely double-winning year where they won the league in a walk, no less. Real Madrid are bringing back Zinedine Zidane after one trophy-less campaign. And Manchester United fired Jose Mourinho mid-season, with Ole Gunnar Solskjær not looking like he’s going to be the long-term solution they had hoped for.
While some managers will openly talk about winning, for instance, the quadruple, Klopp doesn’t talk about winning specific trophies. Rather, he talks about the journey and thinks about trophies as being the natural end result of consistently fantastic play over the course of a season. If you build it, they will come.
And build it at Liverpool he now has. When Klopp came in, he was given the keys to the castle. He brought in his own assistants and specialists (who else brings in a throw-in coach?), but was also open to keeping other talented backroom staff around (as he did with Pep Lijnders, among others). He brought in fitness and nutrition experts. He’s in the process of combining the youth academy and the senior training grounds.
No matter how big the signing, Klopp has done well to slowly integrate the players, helping to shield them from the worst of social and conventional media fallout that is so prevalent these days. There are no snap-judgements from Klopp, and there is always a way back into the side, regardless of outside perceptions. In many clubs, the desire to play the biggest stars, regardless of their ability to fit into a larger strategy or vision, would override the manager’s wishes to maintain a certain standard on the pitch, and team harmony off it. Moreover, many boardrooms and fanbases would not abide a manager who brings in and integrates the Andy Robertsons and Trent Alexander-Arnolds of this world, instead preferring a known (and marketable!) name over the young and unknown who can be molded into the perfect player for the set up. Not Klopp. He doesn’t buy stars—he makes them.
All of this takes time and trust, years and latitude which he would not be afforded elsewhere.
Perhaps it is this process-driven, long-term mentality that has cost him specific titles in specific finals. But equally, it is this mentality that gets his teams so consistently into positions where they could win big, big prizes.
Further, it is this mentality which would make him such a bad fit for other clubs that are so completely and solely focused on their silverware haul in any given year. Klopp knows how one poor bounce, or one key injury, can undo 12 months of otherwise flawless work. As he is fond of saying, “In football, these things can happen.”
This is not to say that there isn’t a desire—an expectation, even—of winning the biggest trophies at Liverpool. But rather, and especially because of our recent history of struggles, there is an understanding that winning trophies in and of themselves isn’t the most important thing. Whether Klopp helps us lift one, two, or zero trophies this season, no Liverpool fan will judge him, his effort, or the effort of the players any differently. We remember far worse times (and very recently at that). Now we get to watch one of the best sides in the world, week-in and week-out. And we’ve seen his process work miracles. “In Klopp we trust” is an oft-repeated motto around these parts, precisely because we’ve seen his unconventional decisions pay off time and time again over the years.
I cannot image a similar level of understanding and patience at most of the other big clubs. Nor can I imagine a similar level of connection to the supporters and community with those other big clubs.
Whether or not Klopp’s words prove prophetic and he does win one title in four years, Liverpool fans won’t feel any differently about him or where the club is at. We know we’re headed in the right direction under the jovial German, and we hope to continue down this journey for many years to come.