Books & Media

Football Media Watch: Klopp, Liverpool and the pursuit of dynastic excellence

EVERYONE loves Jürgen Klopp, even those that do not especially warm to Liverpool Football Club. The current talk is of the popular German coach presiding over the creation of a “dynasty”, not the first time we’ve heard this from Liverpool or indeed a number of clubs, who can afford to talk boldly when things are going well.

However, Liverpool are arguably the only club who have created the much-coveted concept of a self-renewing dynasty – witness the passing of the baton from Shankly to Paisley to Fagan to Dalglish. Many clubs have spoken about it, even Chelsea when Mourinho returned, but in truth, nobody has the patience or perspective to construct something that would require a high degree of hard work. Managers come and go, expectation rises and falls – board regret long-term contracts that require paying-up in the event of early dismissal.

Liverpool are desperate for Klopp to stay for the long-term and a contract extension of £ 30 million might just persuade him to hang around for a lengthy period. Klopp has all the right ingredients to become just as big a part of Anfield folklore as the likes of Dalglish, Shankly and Bob Paisley.

Klopp’s emotions spilled over in Madrid and The Telegraph reported he had “cried a little” after the club had clinched its sixth Champions League victory. As he watched the public celebrations, with half a million people lining the streets, he commented: “Today. Wow. It’s crazy.”

Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson (left) celebrates victory with manager Jürgen Klopp after winning the UEFA Champions League Final at the Wanda Metropolitano, Madrid. Photo: PA

Liverpool’s owners, Fenway Sports Group (FSG) believe that Klopp can build a new era of dominance, something the club has hankered for since the 1970s and 1980s when trophies were won with alarming regularity.

As the Telegraph added, top clubs like Bayern, Juventus, Barcelona and Real Madrid would recruit Klopp “in a heartbeat”. Offers have come his way, but he has never given them a hint of encouragement. Franz Beckenbauer, speaking to Germany’s Bild, said that he would like nothing more than seeing Klopp at Bayern. “I like Franz and he likes me,” said Klopp to the newspaper.

While FSG believe Klopp has found a club where he has the “freedom, power and resources to compete”, it could just be that Liverpool have found the most suitable manager – “a transformative presence” – since the days when they stood astride English and European football.

Liverpool, in. many ways, are comparable to the club that really made Klopp’s name – Borussia Dortmund. Both clubs are very much seen as representative of “the people” and fan culture is a big part of their DNA. Fans love a manager who communicates and understands the value of gratitude and Klopp truly embeds himself in the club he manages – hence relatively lengthy spells (seven years apiece) with both Mainz and Dortmund.

Klopp’s achievement in finally winning a trophy with Liverpool was overdue, but the side that won the impressive trophy is  now very much  “Jürgen’s team”. The 14 players that appeared in Madrid cost Liverpool £ 325 million and eight of them were bought on Klopp’s watch. In the past four seasons, Liverpool have spent over £ 450 million on their squad versus £ 600 million-plus spent by both Chelsea and Manchester City.

Klopp may eventually be seen as the new Shankly, but he is also aware of the burden of expectation. When he signed his current six-year contract, he said: “I am the first to recognise that with this great commitment, comes a great responsibility.”

Tom Werner, the club’s chairman, described Klopp as a “humble and caring man” and told the Liverpool Echo : “When the players threw Jürgen in the air after our victory, they were acknowledging what all Liverpool fans know – he is beloved by all who appreciate football.”

He’s also a man who shares the praise. He told SkySports the recruitment process at the club was excellent under Mike Edwards and scout Barry Hunter. “I need experts around me…that’s what leadership is. You have strong people around you with better knowledge than you,” said Klopp.

Can he stay and truly build a dynasty at Anfield? First of all, a dynasty is not defined by current success or the contribution of one person. It is created by natural succession, by grooming people to take your job and to build a culture that a club is identified by. Shankly certainly initiated that at Liverpool, but it was in a different, less money-orientated era.

Secondly, Liverpool have floated the idea of a “dynasty” with a string of managers. When Brendan Rodgers was in charge, he was lured to Anfield because it “offered the chance to build a dynasty”. Similarly, when Rafa Benitez won the Champions League in 2005, it was assumed it was the start of a new era. The club was subsequently criticised for derailing “what could have been a dynasty”. It is clear that the desire to build a dynasty, and relive a golden period, is very much part of Liverpool’s culture, but the failure to do so demonstrates the magnitude of the task in a results-driven sport dominated by short-termism and knee-jerk decision-making processes. Liverpool should probably be content with a reasonable length of Klopp service that gets the club back to where it feels it belongs, rather than over-ambitious plans comparable to royal lines of succession. The days of the boot room have gone the same way as Everton’s “school of science” and West Ham’s café academy  – in other words, into history.

Nevertheless, Klopp, at this precise moment, looks like he’s going to be part of Liverpool for some time, which should delight the fans and indeed the board and owners.  When he arrived at Anfield, said the Los Angeles Times,  Klopp launched a revolution – “a revolution of both style and substance, of science and spirit”. He broke the Premier mould of “stern and taciturn” managers and introduced a “touchy-feely brand of enthusiasm”, the sort that won him many friends at Dortmund and led to the nickname, “the Teutonic care bear”. Other clubs should take note and acknowledge that there is another way to football management that is more accessible and appealing than the sneering, clichéd, say-nothing material approach that characterises so many football people.

Right now, there are plenty of clubs who would welcome such a positive influence through their doors. Klopp is not only the all-smiling friendly German with stunning teeth and trendy specs, he’s also a very successful manager. Who wouldn’t want him?

Sources: Liverpool Echo, Telegraph, Guardian, SkySports, BBC, Los Angeles Times, Bild, Metro

 

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