I cannot believe it. After many months of enduring Brendan Rodgers’ mediocrity, the Fenway Sports Group (FSG) parted ways with Rodgers and replaced him with Jurgen Klopp a mere four days later.
Someone hold me, I’m giddy.
Many stories have surfaced fawning over the arrival of Jurgen Klopp: the flawless first press conference, his intent to “get to work” by changing the culture of the team, refocusing players on expectation and generally polishing the talent which already exists at Anfield. You’d think that mantra was pretty standard fare for a new manager at a new club but Klopp just presents a different vibe. Truth be told, I’ve been nothing but impressed with Klopp’s first impression. Finally we move forward.
The Liverpool supporters have been calling for Brendan Rodgers sacking since Christmas 2014, and justifiably so. This won’t be yet another hit-piece on Rodgers but when one inevitably compares Rodgers to Klopp, the gulf between the two is shockingly apparent. Gone is the weak and placating personality of Rodgers, supplanted by confidence, charisma and leadership of Klopp. The tired, “The lads showed great character” comments, the favoritism of out-of-form players, and odd substitution patterns left town with Rodgers. Klopp brings with him a vast array of experience which brought BVB to the very top of the Bundesliga for back-to-back seasons, and into the Champion’s League final in another. Though certainly not perfect, Klopp is on another planet and I was initially wondering why he chose Liverpool but that question was quickly answering in his initial press conference.
Klopp said it clearly on Friday morning, he didn’t choose Liverpool because of the pay, he decided to take over this storied, much decorated club because he sees promise and potential in the current team — and developing potential is something Klopp (and his trusty backroom staff) know something about.
During the seven years he managed Borussia Dortmund (BVB), Klopp brought Matts Hummels, a reject from Bayern Munich, into BVB and he flourished. Many now consider Hummels one of the best center backs on the planet. He plucked Ilkay Gundogan from 2nd division obscurity and polished him into one of the most stalwart and creative midfield players in Germany. But probably Klopp’s greatest achievement: he put the barely known Robert Lewandowski at the head of his team sheet and the striker exploded, becoming one of the best goal-scoring options in european football. Lewandowski moved to Bayern Munich last season and now appears to be scoring goals for fun (he recently scored six goal in one half of a game). Klopp’s impressive accolades go on. When talking finances, Klopp’s expertise continues. In the 2012/13 Champion’s League Cup final against Bayern Munich, Klopp fielded a team which cost a mere £28 million and almost won the game. But what does this mean for Anfield?
Klopp is the very personification of focus, drive, charisma, and excellence. He is widely regarded in England, and throughout the world and his appointment to the managerial helm at Liverpool has brought about some interesting public reactions, not only from social media but also from people dead set against the interests of Liverpool.
I’ve read multiple fan comments saying things like, “I don’t really follow Liverpool but I hope they do well under Klopp,” or “Great appointment. Best of luck to Liverpool.” Journalists are making similar comments regarding Liverpool, once the whipping boy of the league, not perhaps the darling? The one public comment which stopped me dead in my tracks commented, “I think he’ll [Klopp] do very well. I don’t like saying that, being Liverpool, because I’m worried about it but, no, he’ll do well.” That statement came from none other than Sir Alex Ferguson, the most successful Manchester United and Premier League manager in modern history.
The only question remaining for me is when did FSG actually hire Klopp? Do I think FSG randomly sacked Rodgers and got lucky landing Klopp, a highly sought after manager, some 92 hours later? The bits and pieces of this puzzle are in view, I just need to sort out what fits.
It is well known FSG have been pursuing Klopp for some time. Reports indicate FSG tried to sign Klopp before they signed Rodgers in 2012, obviously to no avail. There are also reports FSG went after Klopp again once he, after mutual agreement, walked away from Borussia Dortmund earlier this summer. FSG were rebuffed by Klopp, being told he needed a sabbatical to recharge his batteries — and that is where I think the story takes on an interesting slant.
In my opinion, I believe the Fenway Sports Group obtained some interest from Klopp immediately after his departure from BVB early this summer. I also believe they probably reached a tentative verbal agreement of some kind which went something like this: FSG agreed Klopp could go on sabbatical until he was ready to return — but likely put a no-later-than-the-winter-break cap on his time away. Rodgers would remain in place but essentially as his own interim manager, a place-holder pending the arrival of a recharged Klopp.
FSG likely anticipated the Premier League season would begin with an underwhelming start with Rodgers. They remained in loose contact with Klopp while on holiday, reassuring themselves the soft agreement was still good, and perhaps began talking numbers, expectation, and possibility. Klopp kept one eye firmly on his holiday but started to nibble at the idea he could manage at Anfield. As the pedestrian Premier League season rolled on, the talks intensified and Klopp started watching the team in earnest — pulling apart the players, seeing how they fit his personal strategy and the “football romantic” within him started forming a path to Anfield. Fast forward eight games into the PL season and voila, Rodgers is gone and Jurgen Klopp, one of the most respected managers in world football, sits on the throne at Anfield. Does this speculated timeline seems possible? Perhaps but here’s another element to the mix: the unanticipated Robert Firmino transfer.
By all accounts the acquisition of Robert Firmino from TSG Hoffenheim was something Rodgers didn’t personally agree upon — it was thrust upon him by FSG. But perhaps something else was going on. Perhaps Klopp was a distant admirer of Firmino, communicated that interest to FSG who decided to gamble on moving the player to Anfield, all in hopeful preparation for Klopp’s arrival. Could the potential Klopp deal have been simmering since early summer?! Admittedly that sounds like a stretch but truth is often stranger than fiction. Meanwhile, Jurgen Klopp is a Red and I could not be happier.