Neil Atkinson reacts to the bombshell news breaking today that Jürgen Klopp is to leave Liverpool at the end of the season…


IN this smoking chaos our shoulder blades kissed.

Ultimately, it was an act of love.

It was the only way to do it.

Walking down some stairs in Motel in the gap between Rodgers and Klopp, I remember shouting at someone who was doing my head in that I was worried no one could do it, and we’d take this sound fella and end up ruining him like all the others and then what?

Then what?

Then, this enormous act of love. Of the utmost care.

We’ve spoken, written before in this space and ones like it that care intensified is love and that is indeed what Jürgen Klopp has done from day one. Cared so much and found his way and ours. We haven’t ruined this sound fella, instead he has been the making of us.

He’s believed in days, in being present for every moment, in standing together. In the smoking chaos, something was cracked and broken and had been cracked and broken and smoking chaos for a long time, longer than any of us thought.

The 2013-14 season had been a crack of light, of possibility and adrenaline but just that, and by the time of Tottenham away it felt half a world away, not two seasons.

I think it took him time to realise the cracked, broken thing and then there was December 13th, 2015, and West Bromwich Albion at Anfield.

It is the most Jürgen Klopp thing that it wasn’t a big win or a win against a big team or even a draw against a rival that was the catalyst. It was a draw against a team nicknamed The Baggies that clarified everything, that showed what had been broken and showed the only way it could be fixed.

When he took the players to The Kop, for which he was derided by so many wise heads in this parish, when he did that what he said was that this is this simple. We, me, my staff, my players, will care so intensely, it will make that care as hard as a diamond, make that care love in its purest form.

We will demand this of ourselves. And, in return, we will demand it of you.

That was the covenant. That was the deal. And we all held up our bargain. We all did our bit. We all chose care.

Because it was the only way to do it.

There is a line from West Brom to Barcelona, same end, same joy, same feeling, just times 100 in terms of significance and resonance. It was from that acorn, that moment, that promise we had such a thing and all the days, Jürgen Klopp has taught us, all the days are worth loving, both in themselves and for what they lead to.

His statement to camera, straight down the barrel, speaks unashamedly of love in a way that this game recoils from so often and shouldn’t. The essence of how he sees it, how he has made us see it, is that at its core it is love and togetherness that makes the day worth having, the memory worth making and the delight in it all stems solely from that.

The storm, it came up strong, it shook the trees, blew away our fear. We collected the days together, collected the moments like butterflies and like stamps, shared in them at Anfield, in away ends, in neutral grounds, in boozers and supporters clubs across the globe.

We loved them and wrung the life out of them, wrung the life out of ourselves in doing so, we had it all around us because that was what he wanted more than anything, that was the gift.

He won every trophy, made us World Champions, but the glory wasn’t just in the trophies it was in the transit. It was there we saw the best of footballers who were to move on, appreciated them for what they gave.

It was there we found one another, ready to commit wholeheartedly to this thing of ours again. It was there he changed what this club is, had it at the vanguard of what support in the 21st century is, took it on and imprinted himself and his values in this messy, modern era on it.

I remain convinced that Covid took a great deal from him and us in a footballing sense that wasn’t as intensely the case up and down the country as it was here, but again he rallied us when we could all be back together.

Then another dip when he looked the exhausted man he has described today before looking more energised than we have ever known this campaign, which is part of why this is such a shock. But part of the act of care is to hand it over in the best possible shape, to know this thing is so special it can go on.

It was an act of love.

But it is an act of love. It remains in the present tense, not the past, because of everything that is to come. Game after game now, we get to say goodbye but we get to live, ablaze, one last time with him and try to win everything with him.

Every big win, every small win, every draw, every fistpump we can share and we can build them into a season which is a cathedral of memory and delight.

There’s form for this here. Bob Paisley in 1983, for instance. Lifted the League Cup and the league.

It’s an act of love in the present because it will not stop, because close your eyes and there is West Brom, and there is Madrid, and there is next Wednesday against Chelsea, the biggest game of our lives.

Then the one after, and then the one after, and there is United 2-0 in 2020, and then there is his glasses at Norwich, and then there is him kicking off on the Main Stand, and there will be more European nights to come.

There is him indelibly in our lives, in our story, both individual and collective, and what he has meant to those areas that intersect, and what we have meant to him.

It was the only way to do it.




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