For those who question the time take by football managers to yield successful results, Liverpool’s triumph journey is evident enough that when managers like Jurgen Klopp try hard to build a team with patience and determination, giving them a freehand can not only make the team do wonders but it becomes strong enough to take on football giants just by some good signings, effective coordination, and teamwork.
It is 30 years since Liverpool were last crowned champions of English football. In those three frustrating decades, there have been highs as well as lows, including last year being extremely close to topping the table. But their time (slightly delayed by a pandemic) has finally come. Under Jürgen Klopp, their charismatic German manager, Liverpool have won the Premier League for the very first time.
Klopp first arrived in Liverpool in October 2015 after his successful campaign with BVB, a german football club with whom he won 2 Bundesliga titles and ended up as runner up in 2012-13 UCL season. After arriving, many experts claimed that his old and conventional tactics might not work here but Liverpool fans and supporters believed in him and expected him to deliver. He predicted that Liverpool would win the Premier League in 4 years. Fans can actually forgive him for being a year late but what is more important is the fact that he delivered on his promise. Reports claim that many Liverpool fans slept with their jerseys on the night Chelsea defeated Man City to give Liverpool their maiden Premier League, setting a record in the English season of winning the title with more than 5 matches remaining. But what exactly did Klopp bring to Liverpool?
“I believe in a playing philosophy that is very emotional, very fast, and very strong,” Klopp declared. Klopp’s own behavior reinforces his managerial approach. He demonstrates confidence, authority, and consistently demonstrates an intense, passionate approach. The display of emotion, happiness, and positivity seem to have a contagious effect throughout the team. Such celebrations also create a strong connection with fans who see how much success means to him. Klopp’s charismatic communication reinforced trust in his methods and competence as a coach. In turn, and while recognizing his own limitations, Klopp demonstrates a high level of trust in his players and support staff. It is the trust he showed in all the players that most of them refer to him as ‘The Father Figure’. One of the forwards and backbone of the team Sadio Mané commented: “He’s great as a person. I trust him blindly, like most of the dressing room.”
Many raised questions when Klopp decided to let go Philippe Coutinho for 150 million dollars and instead signed the Dutch Centre Back Virgil Van Dijk and Brazillian Goalkeeper Alisson Becker for the money. But guess what at the end of the season, Alisson was the only goalkeeper to be included in the top 10 nominees of the Ballon d’Or and Virgil was the runner up for the award only behind Lionel Messi. He even won the UEFA Player of the Year award for his outstanding performance in the UCL 2018-2019 season finishing ahead of both Ronaldo and Messi. Klopp is one of those managers who likes to follow his instinct. His signings of Mohammad Salah at a time when he was declared a failure at Chelsea and of Sadio Mane when he was nowhere seen in Europe stunned many critics. But again, they too proved to be the great boons for the team with Salah winning the English Golden Shoe for 2 consecutive seasons and Sane giving him a tough competition in the race. Both of them today have a market value price of over 150 million dollars today. Klopp’s emotional displays are important for developing connections, as coaches who display “harmonious passion” have higher-quality relationships with athletes.
Though being a part of many historic matches, Klopp gained much attention after the massive comeback that Liverpool made against Barcelona in the second leg of UCL 2018-19 semi-final. Arriving in Anfield after 3-0 lead over Liverpool due to Messi’s brace, Liverpool looked worried as both the main forwards Roberto Firmino and Salah were not playing the match. Liverpool needed to score at least 3 goals and conceding even 1 goal would have meant that they had to score 5. With a lethal Messi ahead of them who had earlier proclaimed that UCL would come to Camp Nou that season, victory looked almost impossible for Liverpool. But Klopp and his team had some other plans. Having already lost the UCL final in the previous season to Real Madrid, Klopp desperately wanted to beat Barcelona in the semis to face Spurs in the final of the UCL 2018-19. Then, what happened stunned everybody. Liverpool defeated Barcelona 4-0 at Anfield to enter the final of the UCL. Messi was shocked and so were Barcelona fans. They could not believe what happened. The sound of ‘Origiiiiiii’ and ‘Corner taken quickly’ still haunt some of them. It was one of the biggest comebacks in the history of football. Since then, Liverpool held a streak of 42 games at Anfield where they were unbeaten at their home and are only recently defeated this year by Atletico Madrid.
Reputation needs to be backed up by results on the pitch and Klopp reinforced this belief with early success. The team reached the final of the Europa League in his first season, the final of the Champions League in the third and then won the Champions League in his fourth. He even made them win the UEFA Super Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup in 2019. Progression in the Premier League was also evident. The team that used to finish at 7th or 8th place post-2010 finished fourth in Klopp’s first full two seasons, second in the third, and are now champions in his fourth full season. What is even more astounding is the fact that they maintain a big and healthy lead over second-placed Man city which is of over 20 points this season.
Once in an interview, Klopp mentioned that he only has 1 selfie on his phone and that is with Lionel Messi. Cristiano was also in the same room, he later said. Such is the character of Klopp. So simple, yet so impressive and pragmatic and not to forget his great sense of humor. Ultimately, leaders need to demonstrate improved performance for players and fans alike to buy into their approach. Klopp has certainly achieved this and will no doubt have enjoyed an emotional celebration as his team clinched the coveted league title.
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