Immortal Klopp Pulls Rug From Under the Kop

Jurgen Klopp
Jurgen Klopp (Source: Liverpool/X)

The day that a generation of Liverpool Football Club fans had been dreading arrived two years earlier than they had hoped it would. In years to come, January 26, 2024, will be mentioned alongside July 12, 1974, and February 22, 1991 — the dates when Bill Shankly and Kenny Dalglish walked away from the club they had led to such glory — as moments when a fan base that is millions strong had the rug pulled from under their collective feet.

Of course, Jurgen Klopp will stay on till the end of the season, but the news that he will depart two years before the end of the contract he extended in 2022 will come as hammer blow to both the club owners and the fans who have idolised him from the moment he announced himself as the “Normal One” in October 2015.

Klopp’s announcement, two days ahead of this weekend’s FA Cup tie against Norwich and five days before a vital home league game against Chelsea, cited dwindling reserves of energy as the reason. Had he said that last January, as the first great side he built was coming apart at the seams, fans would have understood. Subsequently, however, both Klopp and the club seemed re-energised, with another superb summer’s recruitment inspiring a surge to the top of the Premier League.

Liverpool also play Chelsea in the Carabao Cup final on February 25, and are among the favourites to win both the Europa League and FA Cup. In fact, Liverpool’s only defeat of consequence this entire season was a 2-1 loss away to Tottenham Hotspur — a game marred by poor officiating and an even worse performance from those in the VAR booth.

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Jurgen Klopp celebrating with Liverpool fans
Jurgen Klopp celebrating with Liverpool fans (Source: X)

Klopp apparently told the US-based owners of his intention to leave in November, and that might go a long way to explaining Liverpool’s lack of activity in the January transfer window. John Henry and his fellow decision-makers have presumably already started the search for a replacement. Xabi Alonso, a Champions League winner with Liverpool who spent five years at Anfield as a player, is the prohibitive favourite after leading Bayer Leverkusen to the top of the Bundesliga ahead of Bayern Munich. Brighton’s Roberto De Zerbi, a coach Klopp himself greatly admires, is another in the frame.

A few years ago, Steven Gerrard’s name would have been in the mix, especially after his league title in Scotland with Glasgow Rangers. But after a disastrous stint at Aston Villa and a pedestrian spell so far at Al-Ettifaq in Saudi Arabia, he is well down the pecking order.

Klopp will doubtless be consulted on his successor, given that he has again built the core of a team that can challenge for every honour. But whoever the new face is will have a hard time stepping into the gigantic shoes of someone whose every smile and fist pump sent the Kop into raptures.

Sir Matt Busby spent 24 seasons at Manchester United while making them the biggest name in British football. Sir Alex Ferguson’s time at Old Trafford lasted three seasons more. Shankly’s reign at Anfield was for 15 years. Klopp’s decision to call time while still well short of his 60th birthday is a reminder of the far greater pressures that modern-day managers face, from social-media nonsense to media hysteria.

By winning Liverpool a first league title in 30 years, and adding a sixth European Cup/Champions League for good measure, Klopp has ensured his place in the Anfield pantheon, right alongside Shankly, Bob Paisley and Dalglish. The only question now is whether he can sign off with what Liverpool fans crave above all else — No. 20.

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