Why Jurgen Klopp leaving leaves a massive void in the Premier League
Jurgen Klopp. Noelia Deniz | VAVEL

In January, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp shocked the world by announcing that he will be leaving the club at the end of this season, bringing to an end a 9 year stint at the club. For many, myself included, Jurgen Klopp is Liverpool (certainly in recent times.) The thought of the 56 year old German no longer being in our English game seems unthinkable, but from next season it will be a reality. So what does it mean for the Premier League?

To analyse his effect on the Premier League, I’m going to look at three key areas. Teams, Personality and Impact on wider society.

Teams

It could be said that Jürgen Klopp has had three Liverpool teams in his time in England. The first being the squad he inherited from his predecessor Brendan Rodgers, and began to shape with his philosophy when he came in. He had an established goalkeeper in Simon Mignolet, however one that it was considered was not a top goalkeeper. In Nathaniel Clyne, Klopp had a right back who was reliable. A 7/10 every single week, but never a top player in his position. He inherited aging centre halves like Kolo Toure and Martin Skrtel. However, his midfield options were slightly better, with experienced and respected pro James Milner, joining the likes of Lucas Leiva, Emre Can and Joe Allan to make it probably the best stocked area of the squad. Phillippe Coutinho was very much the jewel in the crown of this Liverpool team.

Over time, this team began to change and look more like a Klopp team. There were a couple of key turning points in this. One of these was when defender Mamadou Sakho was sent home from Liverpool’s preseason tour of the US after what the manager deemed to be a lack of respect. One such incident was when the defender interrupted Klopp mid-interview, at which point the German became visibly irritated, and listed several complaints he already had with the player. This incident was key, as it laid down a marker to all current and future Liverpool players that Jurgen was in charge.

Another such incident was when Barcelona came calling for Phillippe Coutinho. As was widely reported at the time, Coutinho was told that if he stayed at Liverpool, they would end up build a statue in his honour, whereas if he went somewhere else, he would be just another player.’ How true that was to ring, as Coutinho ended up making the switch to the Catalan club for a deal rising to £142 million. And after a fairly disappointing 18 months, he found himself on loan to Bayern Munich, beginning a decline for his career. There is no doubt that Coutinho missed out on the opportunity to become a Liverpool and Premier League legend (a tag that would be awarded to team mates Mo Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino), rather than just a cult hero. Once again, this served as a warning to future Liverpool players, and certainly proved Jurgen Klopp correct.

The team that had by this point began is what could be described as Klopp 1.0. This is perhaps the team that most would name as being synonymous with Jurgen Klopp. It featured goalkeeper Alisson Becker, signed from Roma and developed into arguably the world’s best goalkeeper over a period of 5+ years. Right back Trent Alexander Arnold, an academy graduate who showed class when coming in to the team in face of injury to Nathaniel Clyne, and has been critically acclaimed for his attacking talents. Centre half Virgil Van Dijk, signed for a then record fee of £75 million for a defender from Southampton, and very much the best Centre back in the world at several points in his time at Liverpool. Van Dijk finished 2nd to Lionel Messi in the 2019 Ballon d’or, and won the Premier League Player of the Season award and the UEFA mens player of the year award in the 2018/19 season. Alongside Van Dijk was Joel Matip, who had been signed from Shalke on a free transfer in July 2016. At Left Back was Andy Robertson, formerly of Hull City, who developed under Klopp to be declared the best left back in the world at his peak.

The midfield consisted of Gini Wijnaldum, a former Newcastle winger developed under Jurgen Klopp to become one of Europe’s more consistent midfielders. In holding midfield was Fabinho, signed for £43 million, and becoming a star performer across Europe right up until his eventual decline and exit in 2023. Joining them, more often than not was Captain Jordan Henderson, who had been at the club since 2011. Henderson became an inspirational Captain on the pitch during his time, driving standards and always being extremely vocal. Occasionally James Milner, still at the club (as he would be right up until 2023), would fill in both the midfield and defence where needed.

The attack for this first Klopp team would become iconic. On the left wing was Sadio Mane, an electrifying pacy winger signed from Southampton in 2016 for around £36 million. Mane would go on to score 120 goals in 269 games for The Reds. On the right wing was a player who would go on to be considered up there with the Liverpool greats. Mohammed Salah. The man crowned almost immediately ‘The Egyptian King’, would go on the win 3 Premier League Golden Boots, to add to a whole host of individual and team trophies with Liverpool. Linking the two, was the quite unique Roberto Firmino. Firmino, who had been at the club prior to Klopp’s arrival, was one of the key players during this era of the club. He was perhaps the player who most suited Klopp’s style of play, working extremely hard and in the process, demonstrating his impressive technical ability. As a three, they were widely regarded as the best front three in the world for a number of years.

The first acquisitions of Klopp’s second team could be considered to be Jota, Thiago and Tsimikas in 2020. At the time, it felt as though these acquisitions were to bolster the existing squad, rather than start building another team. However, as years passed, and the 22/23 season saw Liverpool suffering badly on the pitch, the summer of 2023 saw the real overhaul of the team. As of this current season, 23/24, the team lines up in a similar way to as follows. Alisson retains his position in the goal, however second choice goalkeeper Caoimhín Kelleher has begun to play a major role in cup competitions, proving the hero in the recent Carabao Cup Final. Trent Alexander Arnold retains his position at right back, despite questions over him defensively, although there is much hype around young right back Connor Bradley. Virgil Van Dijk is now Liverpool captain, partnered by Frenchman Ibrahima Konate. At left back so far in this second Klopp team has been either Joe Gomez or Kostas Tsimikas, however Andy Robertson would be expected to take that position back after returning from injury. The midfield has been revitalised with the signings of Dominic Szoboszlai, Alexis Macallister and former Stuttgart stalwart Watauro Endo. Joining them, although yet to show his very best is Dutchman Ryan Gravenberch. Harvey Elliot also features regularly in midfield, as well as several younger players making their way into the team, such as Bobby Clark. The front line see’s rotation between Luis Diaz, Darwin Nunez, Diogo Jota, Cody Gakpo and of course the irreplaceable Mo Salah.

As we can see, with one trophy already in the bag for this season (The League Cup), Klopp appears to be leaving Liverpool’s squad in a healthy position. There is no doubt, that from the list of players above, and even the ones not featured in these particular listings, that Klopp has put some of the most memorable Premier League teams together, featuring some excellent players.

Personality

The former Borussia Dortmund manager arrived on Merseyside on October 8th 2015 to sign his contract, and history was made. A new era had begun, Klopp had managed to win 2 Bundesliga titles during an era of Bayern Munich, and importantly Pep Guardiola, dominance. In his first press conference at Liverpool, Klopp famously said that supporters had to “change from doubters to believers.” For myself, I was drawn in from day one. His personality and his ability to inspire had me completely invested, as I have been for the nine years since.

Much was made of Klopp’s electric that day which very much matched the way his teams had played in Germany. He described himself as ‘The Normal One’ in response to a question about Jose Mourinho’s ‘Special One’ declaration (made years earlier when Mourinho had joined Chelsea.) From this second the media was in love with Jurgen Klopp, he was the gift that just kept giving, and certainly for his first three seasons it was all smiles, as his teams entertained the masses, but never really threatened domestically – finishing 8th in his first, and 4th in the following two seasons. However in 2018/19, as his side finished 2nd for the first time, and began a successful period of finishes, the narrative around Klopp’s attitude began to change.

The spotlight began to grow on Klopp’s behaviour towards officials, and on occasion – reporters. Incidents happened like, where after a late Tottenham equaliser in February 2018, Klopp claimed he would be hit with ‘the biggest fine in world football’ if he gave his view on the officiating. A culmination of incidents like this did not endear him to fans of rival clubs, nor did his teams increased success on the pitch. Over this period, Klopp’s team would win the Champions League, Premier League, Super Cup and Club World Cup. It was clear that he and his team was here to stay.

Equally, incidents with reporters added to this narrative, like one occasion where Klopp asked a group of reporters in the room post-match if any of them thought a certain incident was a penalty. He then sarcastically replied to the one reporter who thought that it was, something that had happened previously in 2017 in a clash with Sky Sports’ Patrick Davison. It was clear that Klopp’s patience with the English press was dwindling. And looking back now with hindsight, this is almost certainly a hugely contributing factor to why we find Jurgen Klopp departing Liverpool at the end of this season.

Impact on wider society

During his time at Liverpool, Klopp has been a voice of reason in many a difficult situation. One such difficult situation was the unprecedented COVID-19 Pandemic, a global health crisis (as of March 2020) in which frequent lockdowns were enforced on the British public, and wild debates took place on the use of vaccination. Klopp was the first Premier League manager to go strong on the subject of vaccines, saying “I got the vaccine because I was concerned about myself but even more so for everyone else around me.” He went on to state “We can only win this fight against the virus if we all stand together, so please stay safe and follow the rules.” This kind of strength in the face of a difficult situation just cemented Klopp’s legacy as not only a great manager, but an even better man.

Another such situation, was one where the future of football in the UK full stop was under threat – the European Super League. Klopp openly voiced his dissaprovement of the plans when his side played Leeds on the first game since the proposals. He reiterated what he had said previously about not agreeing with the premise of the Super League, and sent a clear message to his own ownership, and effectively his own bosses. Subsequently, Pep Guardiola and other Premier League managers came out to slam the plans after Klopp had once again opened the door and set the precedent. In addition to the Super League situation, the German has also been outspoken on player welfare, racism and even politics from time to time.  

To conclude, Jurgen Klopp will be missed in the Premier League for a whole host of reasons. His teams? Very much. His voice on the wider issues in society? Very much. But most of all, he’ll be missed for his personality. Liverpool fans have fallen in love with Klopp. Many fans of other Premier League clubs begrudgingly like the man. He’ll be missed.

VAVEL Logo