The game of football as we know it is one deeply rooted with a passion purely for playing the sport, originating heavily from working class connections. The North-West of England, the heart of the Industrial Revolution, was home to 5 out of 12 of the Football League’s founding members. Accrington, Blackburn, Burnley, Bolton and Preston were all clubs from Mill towns. It almost appears that modern football has forgotten its roots. Some even treating the game as a business, and disregarding arguably the most important aspect; the fans. Recent years have seen an exponential inflation in the transfer market.
Despite some more recent exceptions, one man that has always risen above the avariciousness of football is the current World Champion, Jurgen Klopp. I can already feel the burning inner rage as someone,somewhere is glaring at their screen with clenched fists, shouting to their wife about the price tags of Virgil van Dijk and Alisson Becker, but rest assured, this will be addressed.
Let’s start with Klopp’s career at Mainz. The current Liverpool manager took his first managerial opportunity at the helms of struggling Bundesliga 2 club, FSV Mainz 05. The Carnival Club had a shoe-string budget with little room for movement in the transfer market. Taking over in February 2001, his side’s good run of form steered the club into 14th place, narrowly turning the season round and avoiding relegation with one game to spare. In his first full season in charge he came agonisingly close to promotion, finishing in an impressive 4th place, with only goal difference preventing Mainz from competing with the best. SC Freiburg, FC Koln and Eintracht Frankfurt were promoted at Klopp’s expense, historically, three more successful clubs with significantly better resources. Former striker under the German’s reigns, Conor Casey spoke of his time playing under Klopp. “We talked more about life, not so much about soccer,” Casey said. “He wanted to get a general sense of me as a person.” Without being able to spend much money on facilities and signings, Klopp had to get the best out of players using his character and bouncing off the player’s very particular personalities.
After just three years and only Klopp’s second full season, he secured the Carnival Club promotion to the top flight for the first time in their 99 year existence. A feat even Klopp himself has referred to as his greatest ever achievement. Stating “We had a small squad, strong opponents. What I did with Mainz cannot be topped.” The fairytale at Mainz eventually ended, after two successful campaigns in the Bundesliga, and even a UEFA Cup run, Mainz were relegated. Following failure to secure promotion again, one of Germany’s best managerial prospects resigned. The two parted ways amicably and till this day Klopp is still regarded as a legendary figure in the Rhineland. In May 2008, Klopp rejected the opportunity to join Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich, and instead chose a club more befitting of his values in Borussia Dortmund.
The Pre-Klopp era saw a club who had various levels of fleeting success, and were often a team with low expectations. European and domestic success in the mid 90s and then a title win in 2002 were outliers for Dortmund fans, as the club faced another spell of misery and disarray until the arrival of Klopp. On-pitch success, or lack thereof, became the least of the worries for all associated with the club. Overspending and mis-managemnt of finances put the club into serious hot water financially, with the risk of boiling over so great, the club ended up on the verge of collapse resulting after their president stepped down. By the skin of their teeth, the club survived, after investors hesitatingly decided to save the club and listened to their bailout plan.
Klopp was one of the key factors in turning fortunes around at Dortmund, his shrewd judgement and willingness to trust in youth was both necessary due to the club’s restricted finances, and fortunately, imperative to the success he would have at Dortmund. The German’s early years were an instant success. He guided the black and Yellow’s to an improved 5th place finish, securing European football despite having one of the youngest squads in the division.
The 10/11 season was where Klopp really took the league by storm. Klopp’s revolutionary gegenpressing style of play saw Dortmund run out as champions. A crucial victory against Bayern even saw Klopp field a side with an average age of just 22. Klopp’s ever climbing status in football only grew. The charismatic coach led Dortmund to becoming back-to-back winners of the Bundesliga, while adding the DFB Pokal to his growing collection of silverware. The 12-13 season saw the Signal Iduna Park faithful witness their side fall to a heartbreaking, last-gasp defeat to bitter rivals, Bayern Munich, in the UEFA Champions League. The campaign did however put Dortmund back on the map as one of Europe’s elite. The World stood in awe as Klopp came ever so close to club football’s ultimate prize with a side worth less than £35M. Having added two more DFL Super Cups in previous years, the 15-16 season would be a miserable one. Dortmund regathered pace and clambered to a disappointing 7th placed finish in Klopp’s final season in front of the Yellow Wall.
Although things slowly tailed off, Klopp transformed Dortmund from a club in ruins to one of the best in Europe. The lack of resources and measures taken to build the club back up are immense achievements and one of many reasons Klopp will forever remain in the hearts of Dortmund fans. Liverpool then. Where to start? This will be as brief as possible. The biggest, most successful club in England are back, and one man specifically holds a lot of responsibility for that. Yep. It’s that Jurgen fella again.
Similarly to Dortmund, the past 20 years have had fleeting levels of success but ultimately it hasn’t been enough. As of now, in April 2020, Klopp’s Liverpool are back on their perch and are current World Champions and runaway Premier League leaders, pending the resumption of the season. Klopp hasn’t splashed the cash the way some critics may try to point out,however. He has done an incredible job of balancing the books. The finances accumulated from earning Champions League football with a squad that he had inherited boosted his resources somewhat, and he has spent the money better than anyone else. The likes of Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah for relatively small fees still stand out. Converting an £8m Andy Robertson, from relegated Hull to the best left-back in the World is another example of classic Klopp. The sacrifice of one of the Red’s star men in Philippe Coutinho meant the club could pursue the necessary signings of Virgil van Dijk and Alisson Becker, who have made their price tags look like bargains. Sporting Director, Michael Edwards’ genius has seen the club invest £350M solely from the departure of players, most of whom being deadwood.
Klopp’s netspend so far accumulates to a total of just £70.1M. An astonishing figure in modern football, one incredibly low in comparison to the other elite sides. For perspective, 17th placed Championship side, Stoke City, have a higher net spend than the current Premier league leaders. Klopp’ s development of these shrewd signings has asserted the team as the best in the World. He has left legendary status at every club he has touched, and it is no wonder he is touted as the best manager in World football.