Jurgen Klopp is a Premier League champion. He also no longer has to move to Switzerland.
The German made a pledge during his first Liverpool press conference to deliver silverware – “a title” – within four years, lest he endure a managerial spell in the land of neutrality.
Appointed at Liverpool on October 8, 2015 and hailed as ‘the charismatic Indie Jesus’ by a fawning media, Klopp also spoke about the “need to have a stable defence” and the club’s transfer committee. Here were five of his key points.
‘You had such a grand reception here today. Is it all a little bit surreal? Has it sunk in, the news that you are the new Liverpool manager?’
“Yes it’s surreal but I have to accept this. Yesterday night we signed the contract and this morning I was manager of Liverpool FC. But I don’t care too much about things like this here. I don’t think too much about the press, I am a normal football manager. I want to work with the team and I want to be on the pitch. That’s similar all over the world, of course some things are different, but I’m prepared for this because of my experience at the other clubs and my experience as a player. It is crazy.
“When I left Dortmund my last sentence was: it’s not so important what people think when you come in, it’s much more important what people think when you leave. Please give us the time to work on it, to think much more positive than you do today about me and about all the people at LFC.
“This could be a really special day if you want and if you work for it and if you are patient enough. We start today in a difficult league against opponents who are bigger and bigger but in a special Liverpool way, we can be successful. We can wait for it, I don’t want to say we have to wait for 20 years but when I sit here in four years I’m pretty sure we will have won a title. I’m pretty sure. If not, the next one will maybe be in Switzerland.”
There was some translation confusion at the time, with “a title” likely referring to a trophy of any kind rather than the Premier League crown. Klopp almost delivered that in four months, never mind four years, when the League Cup slipped through his grasp on penalties. The Europa League final, and yet more disappointment, followed that May.
2. The squad
‘How do you assess the squad that you’re inheriting here at Liverpool?’
“It’s good, it’s good. I’m here because I believe in the potential of the team. If Liverpool ask me and I see the team and think ‘oh my God’… no, no, no. In this moment, we are not the best team in the world – who cares?
“Who wants to be the best team in the world today? We want to be the best team tomorrow or another day. That’s all. What I saw from outside is absolutely OK. I saw some good matches and some not so good but it’s normal in football you have some problems, you have to solve them.
“The important thing is we have speed, we have technical skills, we have tactical skills, we have good defenders, good midfielders, good strikers, wingers. Now we have to see who is fit for the first game against Tottenham and then we have to make a team for this game, then we can start.
“I’m not a dream man, I don’t want to have Cristiano [Ronaldo] or Lionel [Messi] and all these players in one team. I want these guys [the current squad], it was a decision for these guys. Now we start working.”
Leave a tick next to “speed”, “technical skills”, “tactical skills”, “good defenders”, “good midfielders” and “good strikers”, as well as the elite goalkeeper that Klopp, then gifted Simon Mignolet, Danny Ward and Adam Bogdan, perhaps intentionally omitted.
“We want to be the best team tomorrow or another day,” looks positively prescient from a man that took over a team in tenth. And his dismissal of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi might speak to his continued reticence at signing ready-made stars.
‘Can you tell us what style of play we can expect?’
“A wild one. In football, all the world-class teams play possession football, that’s cool. I like to watch this; Bayern Munich, great team, great club; Barcelona, yes; Real Madrid; maybe on some days, Manchester City. But nobody starts as a ball possession team. You cannot start and say ‘OK, we have the ball and the other players have to wait’.
“The first thing, always, maybe in life, you need to have a stable defence. That’s the first thing, always. Because you can only stay confident in a game when you know not each offensive move of the other team is a goal. That’s the first thing and when you start a development nobody starts a development from the top of the table, only a few teams.”
He figured it out eventually. The additions of Virgil van Dijk, Andy Robertson and Alisson, as well as the emergence of Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joe Gomez, have transformed Liverpool and guaranteed the “stable defence” Klopp craved from the start.
Also, “nobody starts as a ball possession team” is wonderful. Liverpool have gone from 55% average possession in the 2015/16 Premier League season (5th) to 58.3% (2nd), 58% (4th), 58.8% (3rd) and 59.5% (2nd) in the campaigns since. Klopp has overseen a steady progression.
‘There has been a lot of media talk about the transfer structure within this football club, the transfer committee. What is your take on it and what conversations, if any, have you had with the owners about that?’
“It’s a really funny thing. It was absolutely no problem between FSG and myself, we talked about this. It’s nothing. If two smart, intelligent, clever guys sit together on a table and you both want the same, where can be the problem? We all want to be successful.
“The only thing for me is to have the first and last word. I don’t want to spend money the club doesn’t have, I don’t want to hold a player that doesn’t want to stay. I have to work all day with these guys. Nobody will sell a player I want to work with, even if it’s a good deal. Nobody wants to transfer a player without my ‘yes’. So everything is OK, I don’t need more.
“It’s a crazy discussion and I heard about it and it was not a problem. Yes we talked about it but I’m not an idiot and I don’t want to be. For me it’s enough that I have the first and last word and in the middle we can discuss everything. It won’t take a long time because we only want to discuss very good players. I’m not a genius, I don’t know more than the rest of the world, I need other people to get me perfect information and when we get this we will sign a player or sell a player.”
Michael Edwards' signings as technical, then sporting director at Liverpool.
— Football365 (@F365) December 19, 2019
5. The media
‘How do you describe yourself?’
“Does anyone in this room think that I can do wonders? I’m a normal guy from the Black Forest. My mother is very proud. I am the normal one. I was a very average player and became a trainer in Germany with a special club. I had a great job to manage Dortmund for seven years and it was the best for us to leave. I hope to enjoy my work. Everyone has told me about the British press. It’s up to you to tell me they are all liars!”