Jürgen Klopp has shown his greatness as a manager at Liverpool, but his greatest legacy at Anfield will be his humanity…
THERE’S been a difference of opinion.
He wants everything to be about Chelsea now. He wants every voice to be carried to the team rather than to his ears. He knows we love him. He gets it and there’s no point in re-ratifying that pleasing news time and again. Jürgen Klopp wants us all to be about Liverpool and not about Jürgen Klopp.
Sorry, Jürgen but you’re not on. You’re not sloping off without fanfare.
He’s right, though. I winced at the odd ‘I reckon I’ll pack it in when he goes’ shout from people I love and respect, because it implies that Jürgen Klopp is bigger than Liverpool. Jürgen disagrees with that concept. To his mind, he’s just added a coat of paint onto an already thick canvas. Liverpool is bigger. Liverpool is forever. He’s just done his bit.
But he’s also wrong. Because that’s some coat of paint he’s laid on. You can’t congratulate Da Vinci for covering a blank sheet with colour because it needed doing. You have to acknowledge the art as much as the craft.
And we remember things here.
We remember how he came in. A jittery October derby at Goodison. One man about to leave, another sorting out his new business cards. A team better than their opponents that day, but incapable of proving it. A team who had gone from outstanding to alright in two years. A squad riddled with self-doubt and fear.
Most clubs jump on managers too early. We do the opposite. We praise, deify even and, let’s be honest, it’s often misplaced. We tend to go overboard in either direction.
I never warmed to Brendan Rodgers, but he gave me that season before the ground levelled out once more and I’m grateful for that, for those few incredible months, but no one expected much from him in 2015-16. Liverpool were alright but not much more.
It might seem a bit harsh to bring in Brendan here, but it’s important to remember how rudderless we were when Jürgen first came to the club. The naysayers mocked the German’s hug policy, but there was so much more to him than soundbites and smiles.
Many men would have come in and tried to live up to the monolith that is Liverpool Football Club, but Jürgen wanted to change it as much as live up to its history. Jürgen had to.
And that was the second hardest thing he did, off the pitch at least. Previous managers recognised that things were on the slide or that the game was moving ahead of our template.
Graeme Souness wanted to rid the club of the Boot Room philosophy and shove some players out of the door. A good and brave idea at the time but, sadly, the baby landed on the pavement as well as the bathwater.
Being big enough to take on the job is one thing. Tearing down the walls of it is another.
The hardest thing? Easy. Us.
Imagine being us? Imagine managing us! Imagine keeping ‘this’ happy. Constantly.
Gerard Houllier won trophy after trophy, Rafa Benitez had Istanbul, Kenny Dalglish made us all smile again and Brendan Rodgers gave us 2013-14. Each name sung lustily from the terraces and yet not one of them escaped the factions set up against them. All had poor seasons and this is a support which demands more and more from tired brains and legs.
But Jürgen brought every one of us along. The hardened ‘go on then, soft arse, show me’ lads to the breeziest fan — we all bought into his ideal. Even when he got it wrong, he got it wrong with us alongside him.
The Sevilla final? Disappointing, but we knew it wasn’t the last brushstroke, so we all took it on the chin. We all knew there was more to come and we were buying.
It’s difficult to sum Jürgen up. The best I’ve seen is that he’s a better man than a manager. And that’s one hell of a manager.
A solid pint. Someone you’d like to know a little better. A smile when they walk into the pub.
My favourite moment may seem an odd one, but here goes…
The Reds are playing a night game against Atletico Madrid shortly before lockdown. The pandemic is making everyone nervous. Two of my mates contracted the virus just by being in the ground that night. Jürgen walks out of the tunnel as the team warms up just as grown men offer him a hand to be slapped.
It’s important that the club and the support get on. That the barriers between the two be lowered. Jürgen could have just waved as he wasn’t going to touch anyone that night for obvious reasons. Does he do that? Nah.
‘Put your hand away. Fucking hell!’
In front of a camera and the watching world. Jürgen slams fan? No. Jürgen was human in a world where public relations come first. I love that irritation, that adherence to human nature rather than PR exercise. He’s not always playing ball because not every situation needs that response. That’s the man I want to see lead our club.
But that’s coming to an end. If that’s how he feels then fair enough. Few men leave that job with their health intact and if he needs to be on a beach with tomorrow off then that’s what he should do.
It’s a shame that Pep Lijnders is going too. I’ve always had a romantic notion that when the dark day comes, he’d move into Jürgen’s office for as long as Jürgen wants before that baseball cap is hanging up behind the door again. If I were the club that’s what I’d be asking for.
But I’m not and there are more pressing concerns ahead. Chelsea and Arsenal to come. Jürgen’s right. Leave the decision alone for a bit and get on with the job in hand. Winning them two will make Manchester City think a bit. Us too.
But we’re not going to stop singing your name, Jürgen. You’ll hear it a lot when you’ve gone too. You know why?
Because we remember things here.