“Jürgen Klopp has always struggled with an English tradition: with the penchant for having bronze statues made by coaches and putting them in front of the stadium. In his early days at Liverpool, he said, he had once travelled with the team to A Test match in Tranmere, an 11,000-strong town near Liverpool, just across the Mersey. As the stadium of Tranmere Rovers, a fifth-tier club, came into view, Klopp’s gaze fell on a statue in front of it. Who that is, he inquired. Most of the occupants of the Liverpool team bus shrugged their shoulders.
No one knew the name of the man standing there in jubilant pose on a pedestal. Only goalkeeping coach John Achterberg, the senior member of the coaching staff, believed that he knew it was a coach who at some point prevented a relegation. “If you get a monument for it, maybe even I have chances,” Klopp said.
The chances that Klopp can still prevent himself from being cast in bronze one day and set up at Anfield Road have dropped significantly on Thursday night. It is likely that one day, this comical German will be alongside Bill Shankly, the Liverpool coaching legend, when Klopp was noticed in October 2015 – when he took up his post at Liverpool. “I’m the normal one,” he had said at the time. That was a lie. Or not.
This title means everything to Liverpool
Klopp has done it: he has led the Reds to their first championship in 30 years, giving the fans what they most longed for. Not that the 53-year-old has nabed and loved liverpool before – because of his unusually direct nature and dedication to the club.
Klopp has been someone who has secured his place in the history books of this traditional club since last summer, when the Champions League could be won. But the mastery, as he has always been aware of, is a very different, clearly emotional subject. That’s the title that means everything to the people of Liverpool. “There are people who would have thrown themselves out of high-rise buildings for this,” he once said.
It wasn’t a big surprise when it happened on Thursday night. The 1-2 draw with Manchester City at Chelsea made it happen, which would probably have been unavoidable anyway. “This is the best I can imagine and more than I ever dreamed of. What can I say, it’s an incredible moment. I am totally overwhelmed,” Klopp said as he was shown on broadcaster Sky.
It was one of those interviews that is not only loved by the Liverpool fans because it was so emotional – and at the same time so humble. For Klopp did not let himself be celebrated, but thanked. “This title is for Kenny and for Stevie. This success is based on your work,” he said, referring to club legends Kenny Dalglish and Steven Gerrard. The two highly decorated old stars, who had been sceptical about the development of the club in the time before Klopp, beamed like schoolboys who were praised by the director. Praise from Klopp is like a knighthood.
Klopp brings them all on board
Of all the strengths Klopp has, this is his greatest: his empathy. He penetrates the club he works for. He develops a sense of what is important to both the people at the club and those around the club. And he realizes how important they are to him. That was the case at Mainz 05, his first coaching position, that was the case at Borussia Dortmund.
He brings employees and fans on board, making sure that he does not marginalise them with his radiance in the public perception. In Mainz he dedicated the promotion to the Bundesliga manager Christian Heidel, his discoverer – in Dortmund the second championship sports director Michael Zorc, who has put together the successful team for him.
At Liverpool, it is now the former players, although they were even among his critics at the beginning – and, of course, the fans. “This title is for all of you. It’s just unbelievable. I hope you all stay at home or at most go before E ure houses and celebrates, but no more. We’re all celebrating this together,” he said.
It would not be surprising if the vast majority of supporters, despite the pressure of jubilation, were to stick to this recommendation. Klopp has credibility values that British politicians can only dream of at the moment because of his authenticity.
Cohesion is greater than ever
In order to help him create an illusion over the past five years that many English clubs can no longer cope with. Although Liverpool, like almost every other top club in the Premier League, have long belonged to an international consortium of investors, which has led to an alienation with the original supporters almost everywhere, the cohesion between fans and club is greater than ever. It’s not just about success – it started in Klopp’s first season.
“This association means everything to people. So it’s our job to show people that it means absolutely everything to us,” he had said when he took up his post, giving the fans the impression that they now have an advocate at their club again – even though he has long belonged to the Americans, the Fenway Sports Group, somewhere in Boston.
After the championship was confirmed, Liverpool FC picked up on those words and processed them in a video in which Klopp pointed out that there could soon be a big celebration. “We will all be back together soon,” he said: “But for now, the world says: We are Liverpool – Champions of England.”