Monday , October 14 2019

How Jurgen Klopp transformed Liverpool – four years on from his appointment 

Big trouble, he called it. All the microphones, all the cameras; the gaggle of photographers, the flashing bubbles. The world’s media had squeezed into a lounge of Anfield’s Centenary Stand on October 9, 2015 and Jurgen Klopp was taken aback.

He spoke for 30 minutes, telling people he was ‘The Normal One’ and relaying the pride he felt in becoming Liverpool’s new manager. Once he had fielded questions from countless television stations, Klopp moved into ‘The No 7’ suite to speak to the national newspapers.

Time with Klopp, we were told, was limited. He had barely been in the country for 24 hours and not visited Melwood, his new place of work. The previous night, after his private flight from Dortmund had landed at 4:30pm, had been spent at the city’s Hope Street Hotel meeting club staff.

Jurgen Klopp was appointed Liverpool boss on this day four years ago and hasn’t looked back

The charismatic German arrived at Anfield from Bundesliga giants Borussia Dortmund

The charismatic German arrived at Anfield from Bundesliga giants Borussia Dortmund

Klopp's first match in charge of the Reds was against Tottenham in the Premier League in 2015

Klopp’s first match in charge of the Reds was against Tottenham in the Premier League in 2015

Klopp was eager to get down to business. First, though, he was prepared to answer some more questions for another 12 minutes. He was enlightening, full of animation and ambition – and looking back on his answers on the fourth anniversary of his appointment makes fascinating reading.

He fired out close to 2,000 words in that brief audience, tapping his finger forcibly on the table – and swearing – at one point to get his message across. His vision for Liverpool, he said firmly, was to see them ‘conquer the ball – each ****ing time!’ but there was more to it than that.

Liverpool supporters held up banners in honour of their new manager at White Hart Lane

Liverpool supporters held up banners in honour of their new manager at White Hart Lane

Klopp spent the night at the city's Hope Street Hotel meeting club staff before his unveiling

Klopp spent the night at the city’s Hope Street Hotel meeting club staff before his unveiling

Consider the following statements that were made to questions ranging from the state of the team he had inherited, the transfer market, his willingness to invest in youth and his ambitions moving forward.

Time has shown that Klopp is not a man who likes to be reminded of things that he said in the past – ‘whatever bull**** you say, nobody will forget it these days!’ he said during the club’s US tour in 2018 – but those words got to the heart of Liverpool’s issues back then.

Klopp and his Liverpool players celebrate with the Anfield crowd after drawing vs West Brom

Klopp and his Liverpool players celebrate with the Anfield crowd after drawing vs West Brom

Klopp lost his first final as Liverpool manager against Man City in the League Cup at Wembley

Klopp lost his first final as Liverpool manager against Man City in the League Cup at Wembley

‘I have watched three games so far. In the game against Sion, you saw many of the problems because there was so much pressure on the players. We have to work so that they feel good. I couldn’t see any fun in this game in no face – and that is not so good. The atmosphere in the stadium is good but nobody is really enjoying themselves.’

His knowledge of Liverpool that day was not forensic but Klopp knew two things: the atmosphere inside the stadium was not conducive for a team to thrive and he had also worked out that the weight of the shirt was too heavy for some of the players he had inherited to carry.

Klopp suffered more heartache as Liverpool were defeated by Sevilla in Europa League final

Klopp suffered more heartache as Liverpool were defeated by Sevilla in Europa League final

Klopp and Liverpool haven't looked back after they qualified for the Champions League in 2017

Klopp and Liverpool haven’t looked back after they qualified for the Champions League in 2017

The best results Liverpool achieved in the opening months of his reign were all away – a 3-1 win at Chelsea, a 4-1 drubbing of Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium – and the night he lined his squad up in front of the Kop to mark a 2-2 draw with West Brom in December 2015 saw Klopp derided.

Since then, though, the atmosphere inside the stadium has completely changed. Yes, Liverpool are playing wonderful football but Klopp has made it so Anfield has aura once more. They have not lost at home since April 2017 in the Premier League. That record has not come about by fluke.

‘I don’t want to buy a player for £100million or €100m. The best thing is if you have a player and you can sell him for £100m. You don’t want to but it is worth it.’

The money Liverpool received from Philippe Coutinho's sale helped them spend very wisely

The money Liverpool received from Philippe Coutinho’s sale helped them spend very wisely

The signing of Virgil van Dijk in January 2018 helped change Liverpool's fortunes for the better

The signing of Virgil van Dijk in January 2018 helped change Liverpool’s fortunes for the better

Mohamed Salah celebrates as Liverpool dump City out on way to 2018 Champions League final

Mohamed Salah celebrates as Liverpool dump City out on way to 2018 Champions League final

Heartbreak for Klopp as Liverpool are beaten 3-1 by Real Madrid in the Champions League final

Heartbreak for Klopp as Liverpool are beaten 3-1 by Real Madrid in the Champions League final

Liverpool have invested heavily during the Klopp era and it would be foolish to suggest otherwise. He might not have envisaged transfer fees that resemble telephone numbers becoming normal but the dealings in the market have been shrewd and made economic sense.

They have also made one £100m+ sale. Philippe Coutinho departed for Barcelona in January 2018 and the money they received enabled them to buy Alisson Becker, the world’s best goalkeeper, and Virgil van Dijk, the world’s best defender. He didn’t want to sell Coutinho – but it was worth it.

‘They have to listen to what I say, that is very important because I believe it is better to have 11 players do the same thing wrong than everybody doing what they want. We have to do it one way and that is my way. Then we have to go through it.’

He might infuriate his players at times – talk to those who have to sit on the sidelines for big matches – but nobody disputes that what he says goes. Klopp is not the combustible figure you see on the touchline in his day-to-day business, he takes time to analyse things before acting.

There can be no doubt, however, his squad believe in him implicitly. The inspirational speech he gave in the Hope Street Hotel on the morning of the Champions League semi-final with Barcelona in May, when Klopp told his players he felt they could comeback from the dead, is the finest proof.

Klopp took Pep Guardiola's Manchester City side all the way in last season's title race

Klopp took Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City side all the way in last season’s title race

Liverpool were pipped to the Premier League title last season despite finishing on 97 points

Liverpool were pipped to the Premier League title last season despite finishing on 97 points

Klopp enjoyed his most famous night at Anfield as Liverpool beat Barcelona 4-0 in May

Klopp enjoyed his most famous night at Anfield as Liverpool beat Barcelona 4-0 in May 

Divock Origi scored the winner as Liverpool beat Tottenham in 2019 Champions League final

Divock Origi scored the winner as Liverpool beat Tottenham in 2019 Champions League final

Klopp celebrates winning the Champions League in June - his first trophy as Liverpool boss

Klopp celebrates winning the Champions League in June – his first trophy as Liverpool boss

‘This team needs to create their own style. If you have the ball you have to be creative but you have to be prepared that if you lose the ball the counter pressing is very important, it is very important in football. It is not a proposal. It is law. We have to press the restart. What I want is to be a real special team.’

The one thing Liverpool supporters expect more than anything is to see players who are prepared to run through brick walls. Skill is all well and good but if you run and fight that is what gets the crowd onside. Sadio Mane, for instance, is one of the world’s finest forwards but he got as much appreciation on Saturday for clattering into Leicester’s Ben Chilwell as he did for his goal.

Klopp wanted Liverpool to become the team that nobody wanted to play against and as they sit on top of the table, with a perfect record of eight wins from eight games, he is on course for achieving that aim. This side has scaled some wonderful heights but there are potentially more to come.

He pressed ‘restart’ on October 17, 2015 when Liverpool drew 0-0 at Tottenham. On June 1, 2019 his wish to see Liverpool recognised as a ‘real special team’ came true when they lifted the Champions League trophy with a 2-0 win against the same opposition.

There will come a point in the future when Klopp moves on but, four years after arriving, there is no doubt he has been true to his initial words. Fenway Sports Group wanted him to guide Liverpool as far back as 2012 and, in January 2016, they began talks about him staying for the long-term.

Appointing Brendan Rodgers’s successor was the most important decision Liverpool faced in their modern history and, today, the evidence is clear. The move has proven to be spectacularly right.

Klopp has turned Liverpool into a European giant again after taking over four years ago

Klopp has turned Liverpool into a European giant again after taking over four years ago

The Reds already sit eight points clear at the top of the Premier League after as many matches

The Reds already sit eight points clear at the top of the Premier League after as many matches

JURGEN KLOPP AT LIVERPOOL 

221 – number of games played in all competitions.

320 – points won in the Premier League from 152 matches at an average of 2.11 per game.

146 – the number of games it took Klopp to record 300 league points – the fewest required by any of the club’s managers.

458 – goals scored in all competitions – averaging 2.07 goals per game, the highest ratio by any Reds manager in the last 123 years.

58.82 – win percentage (130 in 221 games), bettered only by one previous Liverpool manager John McKenna (69.44).

92 – wins in Klopp’s first 150 Premier League games, more than any other Liverpool manager.

 67 – players used by the club during Klopp’s four-year, 221-match reign.

44 – average number of minutes between Liverpool goals (458 goals in 20,010 minutes).

43 – number of occasions Klopp’s side have scored four goals or more in a game.

14 – number of Premier League teams Klopp is unbeaten against.

17 – successive league victories recorded (currently), a club best and one short of Manchester City’s record which they can equal at Manchester United on October 20.

1 – the first manager to take an English team to three European finals in his first three seasons of European competition.