Liverpool have run out of steam.But Klopp’s legacy has been cemented | Liverpool


ATherefore, there will be no glorious farewell for Jurgen Klopp. Saturday’s 2-2 draw with West Ham, combined with wins at Manchester City and Arsenal, means realistic hopes of a second Premier League title are effectively over. Klopp is exhausted, his team is exhausted, and the mania during and immediately following the Carabao Cup final has dissipated.

People will question the wisdom of when he revealed he was leaving. This has been a truism in English football since 2001, when Alex Ferguson announced his plans to quit Manchester United. Do this even if you are as formidable as Ferguson, and the danger is the erosion of authority. A similar situation appears to be happening with Emma Hayes, who is leaving Chelsea Women this summer after a hugely successful 12 years at the helm of the US Women’s team. Would Saturday’s touchline altercation with Mohamed Salah still happen if the Egyptian thinks Klopp will still be his manager next season? (It now appears that Salah, who has only one year left on his contract, may also leave in the summer).

Oddly enough, Liverpool haven’t been particularly bad in recent weeks. As Klopp pointed out, they have a chance not only to beat West Ham but also Manchester United, Crystal Palace and even Atalanta in the league and FA Cup. It’s just that when the wheels came off, they all came off. Chances were missed, defensive mistakes were made, and a sense of exhaustion and anxiety slowly crept through the team.

Injuries didn’t help. Given the changes in the midfield, this is likely to be a transitional season. No one expects Fabinho or Jordan Henderson to leave, let alone both, and Endo, as he has shown, is merely a stop-gap measure. There are reasons to doubt whether Darwin Nunez or Luis Diaz have the shooting accuracy to be a forward at the highest level. Salah has started the season well but has been in poor form since suffering a hamstring injury at the Africa Cup of Nations.

In this case, Liverpool performed well and stayed in the title race. Yet the past few weeks have meant Klopp has ended his time at Liverpool with a career-defining season. He has struggled against the odds at Mainz, Dortmund and Liverpool. He always had to fight at least one opponent with better resources, but at the same time, he often narrowly missed the prize.

He won the Champions League with Liverpool but also lost in three European finals. He ended his league title drought but also finished runner-up twice. This will likely be his second third-place finish this season. At Dortmund, he won the Bundesliga twice but finished runner-up twice. He has won the Spanish Cup once but lost in the final twice and also lost in the Champions League final. Mainz came close to qualifying twice (they took just 2 points from the last three games of the 2001-02 season and evaporated with a three-goal difference in the final 10 minutes the following year).

Obviously, it’s ridiculous to be too picky, because in many cases the achievement is getting the position in the first place. But Klopp’s constant hesitation near the penalty line is also a glaring flaw: it’s one thing to end up beaten by Bayern, Real Madrid or Manchester City, another to lose to Eintracht Frankfurt, Wolfsburg or Sevilla. Something happened.

To some, his record of one Champions League and one Premier League campaign may feel a little trivial, but context is vital. He did it against a much richer club in Manchester City, one with one of the greatest managers in history. In the two seasons in which Liverpool finished second, they scored 97 and 92 points respectively, which even 15 years ago would have guaranteed them the title.

Or in other words. Who are the five greatest managers in Premier League history? Is it true that no one wants Klopp to play alongside Ferguson, Wenger, Mourinho and Guardiola? He transformed Liverpool from the giants they once were to serious contenders. He took a form of football that was popular in England 40 years ago, rejuvenated it, repackaged it and sold it back to the British. He built a team that was exciting even for neutrals.

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Things didn’t end the way Klopp or Liverpool had hoped. The fatigue has passed and reality has set in. For Klopp, nothing could be more characteristic.

This article is excerpted from Jonathan Wilson Football, The Guardian’s weekly coverage of football matches across Europe and beyond. Subscribe for free here. Have a question for Jonathan?Email Footballwithjw@theguardian.com and he will answer the best answers in a future edition



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