ICON Legends – Jurgen Klopp – King of the Kop

ICON Legends Thursday May 30, 2024 By: Harry Howes

While Anfield was full of beaming faces following their win over Wolves on the final day of the season, there was sadness in the air as Liverpool waved goodbye to a legend.

Jurgen Klopp called time on his nine-year spell at the club in which he won eight trophies, including the club’s first-ever Premier League title.

As a tribute, we felt it was only right to look back on his incredible career as we welcome Klopp as the latest inductee in our ICON Hall of Fame.

German beginnings

Klopp enjoyed a steady playing career in his native Germany, spending the majority of it with Mainz 05, where he scored 56 times in 346 appearances. Upon retiring in 2001, Klopp immediately became the club’s manager and he guided them to promotion back to the Bundesliga three years later.

Klopp eventually joined Borussia Dortmund in 2008 and it was at the iconic club where he really made his name as a manager. Within three years he secured the Bundesliga title, their first in nine years.

A year later he led Dortmund to their first-ever domestic double as they claimed a second successive title before thrashing Bayern Munich 5-2 in the German Cup final. The following season, Klopp’s side almost enjoyed a dream European campaign but, sadly for them, Bayern had their revenge.

The rivals met in the Champions League final at Wembley and the tie looked to be heading to extra-time but an 89th minute winner from Arjen Robben broke Dortmund hearts and sent the trophy back to Munich.

Klopp’s exploits at Dortmund earned him a reputation as one of the brightest managers in the world and with the honour of being their longest-serving gaffer in history, he called time on his time in Germany when Liverpool came calling in 2015.

Bringing trophies back to Anfield

When Klopp arrived at Anfield, Liverpool were in a bit of a state following the sacking of Brendan Rodgers. But the German didn’t take long to work his magic and he brought Champions League football back to the club with a fourth-placed finish in each of his first two full seasons.

That second campaign so nearly finished with European glory as Liverpool reached the Champions League final but it wasn’t to be as a sensational brace from Gareth Bale helped Real Madrid to a 3-1 win.

Yet rather than let it deflate him, Klopp inspired his side to come back even stronger in the 2018/19 season. Liverpool finished second in the Premier League that year with 97 points, the highest-ever tally recorded for a side that didn’t win the title.

And they bounced back in style in the Champions League, reaching their second successive final and beating Premier League rivals Tottenham 2-0 thanks to goals from Mohamed Salah and Divock Origi. The win secured Liverpool their sixth European Cup and their first since their iconic comeback against AC Milan back in 2005.

Klopp continued to build a formidable squad and with a ruthless front three of Mohamed Salad, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino backed up by the imperious Virgil van Dijk in defence, they were unstoppable as Klopp finally delivered the Premier League title in 2019/20.

It was their first league win since 1990 and they did it in some style, finishing on a club-record 99 points, 18 points clear of second-placed City. Klopp’s phenomenal leadership earned him two consecutive FIFA Coach of the Year awards and he also twice won the Premier League Manager of the Season while at Liverpool.

Despite going close, Klopp couldn’t secure another title for Liverpool but he did guide them to the League Cup and FA Cup double two years ago. And not one to go out with a whimper, he ended his reign with silverware as Liverpool won this season’s EFL Cup with a 1-0 win over Chelsea back in February.

Leaving a legacy at Liverpool

While many may look at City winning four consecutive titles and scoff at Liverpool in comparison, it was Liverpool’s relentless competition that drove Pep Guardiola to his success.

At times, Liverpool pushed them all the way and at their peak, they arguably had City’s number, beating them in several key games, including the Champions League quarter-finals back in 2018. For a while, Liverpool’s high-pressing, energetic system was a thorn in Guardiola’s side and it was indicative of Klopp’s determination to strive to get the best out of his side at all times.

Liverpool are a club steeped in history and with iconic managers in their past including Bill Shankly, Bob Paisley and Kenny Dalglish, it seemed unthinkable that a manager could ever establish themselves in that company. Yet it’s no exaggeration that Klopp undoubtedly deserves a place on Liverpool’s managerial Mount Rushmore.

In the modern era of hiring and firing, it almost seems unthinkable that a manager can stay and grow with a club in a way that we’ve rarely seen since Arsene Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson retired. Yet for the majority of football fans, Klopp and Liverpool are synonymous with each other.

While nothing would ever have diminished Klopp’s achievements, there’s a fitting romanticism about his reign not fizzling out. He was able to go out on his own terms, at the right time, and has left Liverpool in a strong place with Champions League football secured for next season. He says he’s taking a break for now and it remains to be seen whether he’ll be back managing at the top level. Whether it’s in the Premier League, somewhere else in Europe or with the German national team, there’s no doubt he still has the drive and ability to compete.

Arne Slot certainly has big shoes to fill and while Liverpool fans will be looking forward to the new era, there will always be a Klopp-shaped hole in their hearts. Liverpool have lost an icon and the Premier League has lost one of its greatest characters – he truly will go down as one of the greatest managers of all time.

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