Jurgen Klopp: Furious football from a witty and winning coach
Last updated on .From the section Football
Liverpool is a working-class club with a proud history but suffers from the burden of expectation - not unlike the Borussia Dortmund that Jurgen Klopp took over in 2008.
Back then, at Dortmund, there was a gradual, steady improvement rather than a quick fix.
Eventually, Klopp's Borussia would simply outrun opponents with their Vollgasfussball - a high-intensity, full-throttle playing style.
The Westphalian club finished sixth and fifth in Klopp's first two seasons, before developing their own "ABS" (anti-Bayern Munich system) and winning the Bundesliga title in 2011. They followed it up in 2012 by sealing the only league and cup double in the club's history.
Klopp first came to the widespread attention of the English press during Dortmund's European matches against Arsenal in 2011 and Manchester City the following year. He was in his element in front of the media and looked very much at ease - it was refreshing. Here was a foreign manager - a German no less - dishing up excellent English, a wicked sense of humour and lopsided grins a plenty.
Kloppo, as he is known, is the master of the soundbite and clearly believes in football as an entertainment business. "If the fans want excitement but all you can offer is football chess, then one of you is going to be changing clubs," he once said.
He was like a breath of fresh air during Dortmund's memorable 2013 Champions League campaign, when the plucky underdogs rode the crest of a yellow and black wave all the way to the Wembley final - including two injury-time goals to win a stunning tie against Manuel Pellegrini's Malaga in the quarter-finals.
"Fussball, bloody hell," said Klopp, borrowing Sir Alex Ferguson's quote in the aftermath of Manchester United's extraordinary late turnaround to beat Bayern Munich in the 1999 Champions League final.
Klopp first came to fame in Germany not for his coaching ability but for his charm and repartee as a TV pundit. He knows his way around the media and won awards for his work analysing matches for TV station ZDF.
Certainly prickly at times, nonetheless his general outward persona was professional and easy-going.
He's no saint on the touchline and has picked up domestic and European bans in the past - but he is guaranteed to be quick-witted and good for a quote after the event. "Sometimes I frighten myself when I see my touchline antics on TV," he once admitted.
|Smoking in the toilets|
|According to Jurgen Klopp, "crazy players love me". There's a tale from Michael Thurk, a former team-mate who played with and under Klopp at Mainz: "I once ordered roast sausages from room service in the team hotel. Suddenly there was a knock and Kloppo was stood there, laughing his head off. 'As you are so skinny you are the only one allowed to get away with this!' We often analysed matches over a cigarette in the changing room toilets."|
His enthusiasm for the game is evident, especially after putting one across rivals Bayern. After one particularly exciting encounter, he announced: "If it stinks in here, that's from me sweating. That's how exciting that game was!"
Like any manager, though, Klopp can be sarcastic and acerbic when decisions don't go his way - but wit is never far away. He reacted to Bayern's Dante clearing Mats Hummel's header off the line in the 2014 German Cup final by stating: "I didn't need glasses. If a player plants his right leg on the goal-line and clears the ball with his left, he'd have to belong to Cirque du Soleil for it not to be a goal."
He doesn't suffer fools gladly either, as shown by his response after a heavy defeat in Madrid.
Interviewer: "This tie is over, isn't it?"
JK: "How could I justify picking up my pay cheque if I stand here and say the tie is over? It would be just as stupid as saying we're going to walk all over them [in the second leg]. I can always supply silly answers to silly questions."
Then, sarcastically: "Yes, the tie is over, but we have to play them anyway."
However, do not expect Klopp to play games in the press or criticise his players in public. For example, while he was clearly peeved by key players Mario Gotze and Robert Lewandowski both joining rivals Bayern, he refused to make it personal.
Even the expensive Italian flop Ciro Immobile, signed by Klopp to replace striker Lewandowski, was never publicly vilified. In contrast, Immobile - now on loan at Sevilla - wasted no time in savaging Klopp and BVB after his departure.
Klopp is also keen to back his younger players - and sent out the youngest team in Champions League history, with an average age of 22.9 years, back in 2011.
Like many top coaches - Arsenal's Arsene Wenger and Ferguson among them - Klopp enjoyed a less than distinguished playing career.
"As a player I had fifth division skills and a first division brain. The result was a second division footballer," he joked.
|Born: 16 June 1967, Stuttgart|
|Playing career: Mainz (1989-2001)|
|Managerial career: Mainz (2001-08), Borussia Dortmund (2008-15), Liverpool (2015- )|
|Honours: (all with Dortmund) Bundesliga 2010-11, 2011-12, DFB-Pokal 2011-12, DFL-Supercup 2008, 2013, 2014|
|Individual honours: German manager of the year 2011, 2012|
He languished with Mainz 05 in the German second division throughout his career, from 1990-2001, playing in front of an average of 5,000, before being asked to take over as caretaker boss in February 2001. He made a seamless transition.
"From that day on it was always clear how Zeljko Buvan (his assistant) and I wanted to play," he said. Klopp wanted to set up his sides to play like Real Madrid, only with a "clearer defensive concept".
Pressing and Gegenpressing are terms associated with Klopp's teams but he is not a possession Fanatiker like current Bayern boss Pep Guardiola or Wenger. He once likened Arsenal's football to "a silent song" before revealing that he was more of a heavy metal freak.
He isn't cerebral like Wenger, more a "man of the people" and it would not be a surprise if Liverpool fans quickly identify with him.
Klopp shares similarities with another non-establishment figure: Brian Clough, who also secured titles at "underdog clubs" Derby County and Nottingham Forest, often favoured a brusque manner, but was always ready with a quip.
The German has built his reputation on direct attacking football and stealing the ball as high up the pitch as possible. There are shades of Ferguson in the quick playing style he favours. His team may have lost the 2013 final to Bayern, but they at least had the famous Scot rooting for them.
"Jurgen Klopp earned my greatest respect as a colleague," said Ferguson. "I always liked his style of play - that pressing, brilliant! That's why I was cheering for Dortmund and not Bayern in the 2013 Champions League final.
"I could definitely see him coaching in England one day. My advice to him: 'If you end up in England, then only at a well-run club with decent leadership'."
It will be interesting to see how Klopp copes with Liverpool's transfer committee. At BVB, Klopp enjoyed a tight relationship with chief executive Hans-Joachim Watzke and director of football Michael Zorc — a decision-making trio known as "G3".
But it's hard to imagine Klopp agreeing to a deal anywhere where he does not enjoy the last word.
|Sorry, you're too scruffy|
|Another fallen giant, Kevin Keegan's former club Hamburg, will no doubt be kicking themselves. Jurgen Klopp was interviewed for the vacant HSV job in 2008 after 18 years at Mainz. Klopp, unknown outside of Germany at that juncture, didn't get the vacant coach's job because of his "unkempt appearance". The bearded wonder's three-day growth and baseball cap have long since become his trademark. It's remarkable how uncomfortable he looks in a suit on those Champions League evenings.|
Klopp must surely take a lot of credit for the Bundesliga's resurgence in popularity and his turn of phrase will enliven the Premier League.
At the peak of their rivalry, following BVB's first defeat in six games to Bayern in the 2013 German Cup, a clearly frustrated Klopp observed: "Bayern operate exactly like the Chinese in industry. They observe what everyone else is doing, copy it then throw more money at it and different personnel before overtaking them."
Bayern have pulled away from Dortmund in recent years. The point margin between the two German heavyweights has become a chasm — 25, 19 and 33 points in the past three seasons. This season, the Bavarians are already seven points clear after a 100% win record from eight games, their most recent of which was a 5-1 trouncing of Borussia Dortmund.
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In reality, though, it is testament to Klopp that he was able to consistently ruffle a few Bayern feathers, even if his last season at Dortmund was a big disappointment.
Despite an injury jinx, Dortmund coasted through the Champions League group stages but simply couldn't cope with playing three games a week. Many felt Klopp's style of play had been "decoded" and he couldn't reach his players after so long in charge.
Big-money signing Immobile never filled the scoring boots of Poland international Lewandowski, while basic defensive errors often left Klopp exasperated as his team plummeted to the bottom of the Bundesliga in February.
After being knocked out of the Champions League by Juventus, BVB recovered to finish seventh and also denied Bayern a domestic double with a DFB Cup semi-final penalty shootout victory in Munich.
Despite the problems, Klopp was given full backing - in public at least - by the BVB hierarchy. However, his departure - announced in April - did seem inevitable, with another highly rated ex-Mainz favourite, Thomas Tuchel, waiting in the wings to soften the blow of losing "Mr Motivator".
Klopp's seven-year itch had struck again, just as it did at his previous club Mainz, where he exited after failing to win promotion from the second division in 2008.
It will be intriguing to see if Klopp survives even half that period on Merseyside. But, given time, the German has all the tools to end Liverpool's title drought and ensure it's "Klopp's Kop" rather than "Klopp's Flop".