This past Friday, the sporting world experienced extraordinary highs and lows in just a matter of hours.
Jannik Sinner ousting the overwhelming favourite Novak Djokovic in the Australian Open semi-finals had put fans in awe of the young Italian. He was the talk of the town. Djokovic had been monopolising the trophies on offer for quite some time and Sinner’s win was indeed a breath of fresh air. As Sinner was being praised everywhere, Liverpool’s highly successful German manager Jurgen Klopp dropped a bombshell that he was leaving the club at the end of the ongoing season.
The news provided the balancing act, not that anyone wanted it. The euphoria of Sinner’s exploits was totally hijacked by Klopp’s announcement and the high spirits among sports fans went down several notches.
Liverpool fans were left particularly heartbroken which was completely understandable. Klopp had done the unthinkable for the Reds since his arrival in 2015. One of the most successful clubs pre-the-Premier-League era was struggling and there were no signs that things were ever going to change at Anfield. Winner of a whopping 18 league titles before the Premier League era, Liverpool appeared a rudderless ship when Klopp joined the club.
Klopp had promised he will turn doubters into believers. He has since done that as Liverpool has re-emerged as one of the top clubs in Europe. Under Klopp, they first won the Champions League in 2019. Klopp and his bunch then upped the ante in 2019-20 as the Reds won their first Premier League Trophy, their first top-flight title in 30 years.
With that, Klopp’s team ended the three-peat aspirations of Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City and the rivalry between the legendary managers soon made its way into the footballing folklore. Guardiola, whose team eventually made it three out of three last season, has several times acknowledged his rival. Guardiola, undoubtedly the greatest manager in the current era, has said on record that Klopp made him a better manager.
Klopp and Guardiola were involved in a game of chess, it appeared. Both looking to outdo each other through their strategies. Both doing their damnedest to pull a rabbit out of the hat. Their constant tussle held fans in thrall.
Klopp won all important trophies at Anfield. His contribution to the club’s revival is humongous. So what led to his decision? Klopp appears to be a victim of football fatigue, going by his comments on Friday. One competition after another with expectations getting bigger and bigger appears to have got to him. “…I realised my resources are not endless and I prefer to pack everything into this season and then have a break or stop or whatever. We’re not young rabbits any more and we don’t jump as high as we did,” the 56-year-old said.
When he arrived at the club, there were no real expectations. Then he raised expectations to the extent that he himself got tired of keeping up with them. At the time of his appointment, Klopp had said he would leave the club in a much better place than where he had found it. He has certainly done so. The club has won all important silverware during his tenure and before he walks away, he can certainly win a few more.
Presently Liverpool lead the Premier League and will play Chelsea in the League Cup final on February 25. Then there is also the Europa League and the FA Cup to look forward to. There can’t be a more fitting tribute for Klopp than to win the Premier League one more time. Reds captain Virgil van Dijk has already suggested that, besides admitting that the manager’s decision was hard to take.
Going forward, every Liverpool game will have some kind of emotionality and extra-charged atmosphere and it might just do the trick. Even if they don’t win anything in the coming months, rest assured his legacy won’t be affected in any way. He has already achieved much more than the club had bargained for. He will be missed though once he packs his bags and walks out.