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Jurgen Klopp leaves lasting legacy after restoring Liverpool to elite


May 17, 2024 10:14 AM

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Jurgen Klopp will leave Anfield on Sunday as a living legend, having restored Liverpool to the elite of English and European football while building a lasting bond with the city and its people.

Ever since the manager in January announced the shock decision he would be stepping down at the end of the season, the sense of loss that has enveloped Merseyside has been palpable.

The raw emotion is testament to a transformation that Liverpool had not seen since the days of Bill Shankly decades ago.

On Klopp's first day in charge at Anfield in October 2015 he modestly declared himself as "a Normal One", in stark contrast to Jose Mourinho's bombastic "Special One" arrival as Chelsea boss a decade earlier.

Yet the German would prove he was anything but normal, becoming the only Liverpool manager to complete the collection of Premier League, Champions League, FA Cup, League Cup, Club World Cup and Community Shield during his tenure.

The 56-year-old had made a name for himself before arriving in England, overcoming the might of Bayern Munich to win back-to-back Bundesliga titles with Borussia Dortmund.

- Liverpool in doldrums -

But confidence was not high that he could turn around the fortunes of a global giant that had spent decades in the doldrums.

Klopp arrived with Liverpool 10th in the Premier League table and without a league title in 25 years.

Yet his force of personality, charisma and coaching nous soon began to enchant a highly emotive fanbase.

"This is a very, very special club. I didn't make them believe, I reminded them that it helps when you believe," said Klopp earlier this month.

"Everybody was ready to push the train. That's what we did now for eight-and-a-half years."

Liverpool's history has been marked by tragedy and triumph. The 1989 Hillsborough disaster, which resulted in the deaths of 97 fans, has left indelible scars.

"A great communicator, a showman and the leader of the pack," said former Liverpool captain and manager Graeme Souness of Klopp. "He is a great fit for Liverpool because he feels the emotion of the place.

"Liverpool is an extremely emotional football club, with its history, its tragedies. You get that emotion when you go to Anfield and hear 'You'll Never Walk Alone' (the club's anthem)."

- 'The love grew' -

Before the joy under Klopp there was plenty of heartbreak. Liverpool suffered defeats in his first three finals -- in the League Cup, Europa League and Champions League.

In 2018/19 a then club-record 97 points was still not enough to overcome Pep Guardiola's Manchester City in the Premier League.

But within weeks Liverpool had beaten Tottenham in Madrid to win the Champions League -- becoming European champions for the sixth time.

On the way to the final, Anfield enjoyed arguably its greatest-ever European night as Lionel Messi's Barcelona were humbled 4-0.

The three-decade wait to win a league title ended in 2020 but there was a hollow feeling as the trophy was lifted at an empty Anfield due to coronavirus restrictions.

The Covid period was especially tough on Klopp. He was unable to attend his own mother's funeral due to travel restrictions and Liverpool suffered during the 2020/21 season, largely played behind closed doors.

As normality resumed, so did the success of his side as Liverpool won the League Cup and FA Cup in 2022.

They narrowly missed out on completing an unprecedented quadruple as City again claimed the league by a single point and Real Madrid won the Champions League final 1-0.

After a difficult 2022/23 campaign, Klopp proved his managerial acumen once more by refreshing the squad with youth and energy, which inspired another quadruple quest.

But he admitted at the start of this year that his reserves had run dry.

"It was a win-win situation from the first day. I enjoyed each second of it," Klopp said recently.

"The responsibility and love that grew over the years is a big part of the decision I made, so I'm absolutely fine and at peace with the decision."

Ultimately, there was to be no fairytale ending, even though Liverpool collected silverware by beating Chelsea in the League Cup final in February.

The Reds' season has come off the rails in the final weeks of the campaign, with exits from the FA Cup and Europa League, and they dropped out of the Premier League title race after a poor run.

But that will not diminish the pain as Klopp leaves Anfield for the final time after Sunday's match against Wolves with his place secured in the hearts of his adoring faithful.


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