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It doesn’t usually come up when you’re talking about what you want in a manager, if at all. However, when it is Jürgen Klopp it is the first thing that strikes you, passion. The jump on the sideline, the fist pumps, the angry shouts and the post-match ‘Boom’ is what makes Klopp what he is. This character is even more important in a fan base that truly appreciates it. The German has always been wise in picking his clubs. He chose what he thought would be emotionally relatable, rather than perceptually glamorous. He, in a way, followed his heart.
After 18 years at Mainz, both as a coach and a player, the Stuttgart born manager had the opportunity of joining Bayern Munich. He instead chose a sleeping German giant whose fans are perhaps the best in the world. After leaving the Black and Yellows and vowing to take a sabbatical he cut his vacation short to jump on an opportunity he found too hard to resist. He could have waited for a better job in a club where he would have been allowed a higher transfer budget and more star players, but that is not what he is about. He is a coach but also a fan. He is a leader and at the same time, a friend. He is very good at what he does but he is also an entertainer, a fan favourite, a media darling- Jürgen Norbert Klopp.
Klopp’s amazing work at both Mainz and Borussia Dortmund was well known in Germany and among people who follow the Bundesliga. But he grabbed the attention of the English media, and as a result the wider world of football, in the Champions League as he prepared to face Arsenal. His famous description of his brand of football as ‘heavy metal’ and Arsene Wenger’s, a manager he admires dearly, as ‘classical’ was a hit.
Klopp had already won two league titles and a German Cup before his side’s journey to the 2013 Champions League final. It was hard to not fall in love with that BVB team. The understanding between the front three of Mario Götze, Marco Reus and Robert Lewandowski, the genius of Ilkay Gündogan, the solid partnership of Neven Subotic and Mats Hummels were all parts of a Dortmund side that took Europe by storm. From topping a group containing Real Madrid and Manchester City, to magically bypassing a resilient Malaga side and to dismantling Los Blancos 4-1 at the Signal Iduna Park, Klopp’s troops made a hell of an impression.
In a somewhat similar vein, Klopp has fashioned a Liverpool side that is simply entertaining. He once again has a solid frontline – perhaps a better version than the one he had at BVB- in Sadio Mane, Mohammed Salah, and Roberto Firmino. He will be hoping that Kiev will have a different ending to that of Wembley.
It, of course, hasn’t been an easy ride at Liverpool and this is the job that is testing Klopp’s limits. When he took over the Reds in October 2015 they were a far cry from the team that nearly won the league title in 2013/14. Having lost key players Luis Suarez and Raheem Sterling, they were languishing in 10th place, devoid of any identity and direction. On came Klopp and in his first season guided them two Cup Finals. He recently stated that no one remembers the loser and that was right. Those achievements were seen lightly as they never yielded a trophy but rather ended in heartache. But they were significant steps to a brighter future. The incredible 4-3 victory against Borussia Dortmund in the quarterfinal of the Europa League was a big mood changer.
Klopp’s second season saw a more consistent performance and a football that was breathtaking. But once again Liverpool were the entertainers but not the trophy winners. Be that as it may, Champions League qualification was another huge stride in that direction. This season has brought another step forward. This time Liverpool have the opportunity to win Europe’s biggest prize.
The final against Real Madrid is not just any other final. It could be the start of something that Kopites have been longing for in the last couple of years. Beyond being named the kings of Europe a triumph against the record UCL champions can bring a new era of dominance for the Reds. It can help them keep star players like Mohammed Salah and it can further catapult them in their quest for a Premier League title.
This could be it. This could be the chance for Klopp to forever write his name in Liverpool folklore. And it is a chance for him to finally come out on top in a final. Will it be a joyous moment for the Reds and their charismatic manager? Or will they once again get so close but still be far away from their destination? That is a question for May 26. One thing that is certain is that when it comes to this Liverpool side nothing is ever dull. From the Klopp hug to the Firmino celebration and to the attacking energetic football Liverpool are fast becoming the most exciting team in Europe. That’s mainly thanks to the man on the sidelines, a man who is a lot more than just a manager.