THERE is no greater romance in the world right now than the love between Liverpool Football Club supporters and their gregarious, guffawing Premier League-winning manager, Jurgen Klopp.
In five years he has returned the team to a football force like no other – giving a new generation of fans the taste of victory and its bragging rights.
Klopp, 53, has broken records by motivating players and making friends.
He is regarded by fans – and even bitter rivals – as a “class act” and a credit to the football world.
Here, as Klopp and his team savour their victory, we look at what makes the eccentric German a world beater and share some of his words of wisdom.
Klopp is so at home on Merseyside it is easy to forget he has achieved unprecedented success using a second language.
He is as happy and informed discussing global politics in English as he is analysing player performance.
When he was asked about the pandemic before lockdown his perspective was spot on.
He said: “People with knowledge will talk about it and tell people to do this, do that, and everything will be fine, or not. Not football managers.”
Klopp grew up in a small Black Forest village. Dad Norbert, a salesman and former goalkeeper, pushed him into sport and gave him that drive to succeed.
After a mediocre career as a player, Klopp took to management in Germany and, at Borussia Dortmund, proved himself a master tactician and expert in player psychology.
The full-on Klopp post-match player hug is as much part of team celebrations as a glug of Laurent Perrier.
He says: “I’m really demanding, I really want a lot of them. When you can see how they fight, with the last drop of fuel in their machine . . . (hugging them) is the most easy thing to do.”
Klopp is as interested in whether a player’s personality will fit at Anfield as he is in their skills.
He says: “Players are often surprised that when I first meet them, we don’t talk at all about football.
“The deeper layers – who they are, what they believe in, how they’ve reached this point, what drives them, what awaits them when they depart training – are the real details.”
Eccentric sense of humour
A barmy Klopp press conference or eccentric post-match interview is always something to relish because the man is a natural comedian.
Former team captain Steven Gerrard suggested yesterday that there should be a statue of Klopp alongside legendary managers Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley to mark his incredible achievements.
Klopp wasn’t having it.
He told reporters: “Those guys got statues when they weren’t here any more. I want to live for 30 or 40 years!”
When an interviewer suggested he become Chancellor of Germany, Klopp replied with mock seriousness: “Hmmm, Angela Merkel has two weeks off a year. That’s less holiday than I have.
“[The job] is not as well paid as a football manager, either. I’ll stick with Liverpool.”
As a teenager Klopp dreamed of becoming a doctor. He has said: “I have this helping syndrome. I really care about people.”
He sent a sweet get-well message to young Evertonian Noah Cunningham, 13.
Noah had Duchenne muscular dystrophy and his aunt filmed Jurgen after spotting him at a petrol station.
He stands in marked contrast to other managers. Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho was curt about his player Anthony Martial missing training to support his partner in childbirth.
But when Liverpool’s Nathaniel Clyne missed a pre-season tour, Klopp said: “A little Clyney! The baby will keep him busy for a few days and then he will start training again, all good. There are more important things in life than football.”
His reply to a fed-up Man United fan, who asked him if Liverpool could stop winning, also demonstrated his deft human touch.
The letter to ten-year-old Daragh Curley, from County Donegal, Ireland, let him down gently with the wise words: “The problem is when you are ten years old you think that things will always be as they are now but . . . this most definitely isn’t the case.”
The job of football manager is one of the most stressful in the world.
Millions of pounds depend on every decision. That pressure can mentally paralyse some bosses but Klopp has always stayed calm.
Liverpool ended the 2018/19 season with their highest ever number of Premier League points, but in second place to Manchester City.
Other managers would have been destroyed by that, but Klopp saw it as a challenge, learnt from it and crushed his opposition this year.
Defender Virgil van Dijk, inset, is key to this winning Liverpool side. Klopp was frustrated in his attempts to lure the Dutch international from South- ampton in 2017. But he was patient and in January 2018 van Dijk made his Anfield debut.
Klopp is confident enough in himself to employ specialists such as sporting director Martin Edwards.
He says: “I am not a genius. I don’t know more than the rest of the world. I need other people to get perfect information.”
Klopp absolutely believes in one team, one plan, one voice, one belief. As he put it: “It is better to have all 11 players doing the same thing wrong than every player doing what he wants.”
He instills in his players a responsibility not only to the team but to all the staff at the club and to the fans.
He insists the elite players know the names of every person working at the club’s Melwood training ground and the staff at Anfield.
The Kop end at the ground can get so loud it is often thought of as the team’s 12th man. Klopp is so wildly demonstrative at the side of the pitch, he could be considered the 13th.
Coming to Liverpool he knew there was a hunger for more silverware from fans brought up on the legendary teams of Bill Shankly, Bob Paisley and Kenny Dalglish.
But Klopp stripped away that burden of expectation by constantly referring to players “writing their own history”.
He took the pressure off – and it worked.
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