When Liverpool first appointed Jurgen Klopp back in 2015, the German was pretty much universally liked and appreciated amongst English fans and the media.
He was fun, honest and his Liverpool teams played football that was superb on the eye. The thing is, we didn’t look like winning anything because of a very leaky backline, so it was easy for many, bar our immediate rivals, to make us their temporary second team.
We then got very, very good. Alisson and Virgil van Dijk shored up the backline and Liverpool won the Champions League and the Premier League. At times during this pomp, the Reds looked unbeatable and were breaking records left, right and centre. In 2019/20, Liverpool were at one point on 26 wins and one draw from 27 games, establishing a 25 point lead at the top of the table.
As our dominance grew, so did hatred and jealousy from the outside. Accusations of diving, despite the fact Liverpool get statistically less penalties compared to opponent tackles in the box than any other top-flight club, became frequent. There were even ludicrous online rumours that the squad was doping, such was the insane physicality on display… Funnily enough, these went quiet during Liverpool’s horrendous run of injuries last season!
As an entity, Liverpool haven’t fought back from this perception, despite our dominance ending last term – when the aforementioned injuries took their toll and our season imploded at the midway point – before we gallantly battled back to finish third.
Online, reaction to Liverpool defeats, or draws, is still met with glee. Not just from teenagers with pictures of Neymar as their profile pictures, but media outlets, too. Following our loss to Leicester City earlier in the week, one national radio station dedicated a good hour to celebrating the result; delighting in Mo Salah’s penalty miss and the fact Klopp’s Reds were falling behind Manchester City in the title race. Klopp accepted the defeat, by the way – telling reporters post-match that Leicester deserved to win on the basis of our poor performance.
He didn’t make excuses, but his analysis of where football can improve has led to accusations of him being sour, or a bad loser.
It’s silly. Klopp is as honest as they come, and as the manager of Liverpool, he is asked specifically about decisions made by governing bodies that influence the competitions his sides are in.
He responds as he sees fit; questioning the crazy schedule where teams play on December 26 and December 28; asking why English sides can’t use five subs mid-Covid when those in Europe can; imploring FIFA to use sense in its scheduling of international tournaments, friendlies and breaks…
He even speaks about political and societal issues, and despite doing so in his second language, provides more eloquent sense than those in power. Yet, this seems to annoy those who’ve turned against him and Liverpool anyway – who simply encourage Klopp to ‘stick to football’ – all the more ridiculous when you consider the decisions and lies provided by the government.
But without Klopp’s Liverpool, the Premier League would have been as one-sided and boring as the Bundesliga, where Bayern Munich win every year because they have the most money, the best managers and the best players.
That’s how good City under Pep Guardiola are. They’ve created, in part because of his brilliance and part because of the billions spent under his guidance, a situation where anything under 90 points won’t win the title… In 2018/19, Liverpool got 97 points and finished second, which is still hurts, but at least the Reds provided competition to the team who’d got 100 points the season previous…
In short, the side he’s built and the manner in which he’s done it should be a little more appreciated – probably from our own fans as well.
The Bundesliga, and in many ways Ligue 1, is derided as being so one-sided it’s irrelevant. Barring a freak occurrence, PSG will win. The same with Bayern in Germany. Without a Klopp-inspired Liverpool though, City would have steam-rolled the past four PL titles and be in the process of doing the same again this time out.
City have a lead on us now, but Liverpool have still performed exceptionally this term, beating Manchester United 5-0 at Old Trafford, Everton 4-1 at Goodison Park and helping to produce the highest quality game of the season by some distance against City themselves at Anfield.
Can we catch them? It’s improbable, but most of the glorious moments under Klopp are exactly that – so as Reds – we should enjoy the ride – and remember this side is more than capable of winning another European Cup even if the PL is unattainable.
Guardiola and Klopp are not competing on a level playing-field. So any success Liverpool have against the oil-backed City should be lauded as a greater achievement – but the narrative nowadays is almost like City are the plucky underdogs. They bought Jack Grealish for £100m in the summer when they didn’t even need him, for goodness sake.
Maybe it’s because Liverpool are a bigger club with a noisier, more celebratory (and therefore maybe more annoying?) fanbase!
But we should make no apologues for enjoying our own team and what they’ve given to us during Klopp’s tenure.
Perhaps if other fanbases focused on their own sides, and sang less about food poverty and how Scousers are victims, grounds would have a less toxic feeling and football supporters might be able to join together to do something good – just as they did when they shut down the Super League in 48 hours.
Outlets like talkSPORT, the Daily Mail and plenty of others that don’t need an introduction, do nothing to promote this – and simply drive hyperbolic, factless stories by straw-manning managers like Klopp who simply answer questions.
But without teams like his Liverpool, who overperform their spending power, the product to report on in this country would be utterly stale. Perhaps he’ll be more appreciated when he eventually leaves – but the next pantomime villain will undoubtedly sprout.
It’s just a little strange that it’s never been City? You know, the team who win nearly everything and are backed by an ethically conspicuous state and were found to have cheated Financial Fair Play to extraordinary lengths in 2020. That’s been forgotten about, though – while Klopp’s requests that TV companies consider Player Welfare has become real enemy! Odd.