Nine months ago, the suggestion that their Premier League title-winning coach Jurgen Klopp would not be Liverpool manager beyond the summer of 2021 seemed inexplicable.
In truth, it still does, but such is the remarkable crisis the champions have plunged into since the turn of the year, that it has inevitably led to speculation about his future.
He almost certainly won’t be axed - and if you believe he could be you don't understand Liverpool Football Club - but there may have been a few worried frowns among Kopites following the news Joachim Low will be leaving his post as Germany’s head coach after the European Championships this summer.
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Klopp has already stated he is unavailable while Liverpool’s owners FSG have reportedly laughed off speculation over his future as ‘absurd’, and yet, there is that nagging feeling that the post-season could still prove to be a significant moment for the loveable German if an offer from his country did emerge.
After a glorious, trophy-laden adventure it would be a huge shame if Klopp took some small amount of shine off his legacy, and his all-conquering Liverpool story thundered to a halt with a disappointing finale of Game of Thrones proportions this summer.
That’s exactly why he will probably opt not to depart, assuming the Reds don't complete a stunning turnaround and win this season's Champions League. That in itself looks a tall order given their current weaknesses and the calibre of teams still in the competition.
Klopp is very much Liverpool’s present - and their future. Steven Gerrard is the Kop’s dream successor and that crept closer to reality this week when he won the Scottish Premiership title with Rangers. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Like Gerrard, Klopp is now part of Liverpool’s DNA. He is firmly rooted as a legendary figure in the club’s folklore and has overseen the rise and rise of what looked like remaining an unstoppable red machine not so long ago.
Right now he is faced with what he has himself stated as his toughest moment in management, but it is hard to see him leaving under a cloud, even if it is for a position that he may have long dreamed of with his national side.
Jürgen Klopp, Borussia Dortmund
Image credit: Getty Images
His Liverpool team currently look bereft of confidence having lost nine of their 15 matches in all competitions in 2021. Their propensity for breaking some glorious Anfield records has nose-dived the other way, losing six in a row on home turf for the first time ever.
It’s sent shockwaves through the Premier League landscape and will no doubt have some implications for the Liverpool hierarchy’s planning for next term. Some minor tinkering to the squad this summer now looks like requiring expensive surgery which could well be hampered by a lack of Champions League football, should the Reds miss out on the top four and fail in their bid for a seventh crown in the competition.
It would be churlish to suggest this group of winners can’t turn the tide and achieve one of these targets with a few months of the season left to play, but you have to admit it’s looking highly improbable at this point.
The simple question some think Klopp might be tempted to ask himself as a result of the season ending in disappointment is: should he see it as mission accomplished by way of the fact he secured the title and leave it for someone else to rebuild in a new era?
The short answer is no and it is certainly not his style. Klopp is committed to the Reds until 2024 and has always honoured his contracts. His pride and track record as a serial winner won’t allow this to continue on a downward trajectory for too long. He’ll see it as a massive blip, an extraordinary season blighted by unprecedented defensive injuries, a lack of fans in the stadium and a relentless schedule affected by the pandemic.
He has looked tired at times and has often been spiky and too quick to find excuses when dealing with the media. The players are jaded and lacking urgency in their play which has inevitably led to comparisons with Klopp’s spell at Borussia Dortmund. After a successful run from 2008-2013, which saw BVB land two Bundesliga titles and reach a Champions League final, the team’s form dramatically fell away. They finished seventh in his final campaign and observers in his homeland are now claiming the same drop off is happening at Liverpool.
Steven Gerrard and James Tavernier
Image credit: Getty Images
It could be wishful thinking on their part or it could be that the high intensity of Klopp’s demanding style coupled with the fast turnaround in seasons following the pandemic, have taken their toll on what is a Liverpool side that aren’t getting any younger. Injuries have obviously had a massive impact on the Merseysiders, but there’s also the fact this is a team that have been together for some time and will require some new blood in the summer, regardless of who is fit for the next campaign.
It’s all come together to forge a perfect storm from Liverpool’s point of view. There will be a belief that things won’t be as bad once players return from injury and they have time to prepare for a new season. However, the damage could well be significant if they fail to make the Champions League.
Whether FSG will provide the funds to ensure this doesn't happen again is also another matter. The pandemic has impacted upon all of football when it comes to the bank balance and Klopp’s desire to bring in a top-class, big money centre back in January fell on deaf ears. It isn’t the only reason for Liverpool’s sensational fall from grace, but it is one that should not be overlooked on the back of recent woes.
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Publicly Klopp has said ‘no thanks’ to Germany but there are still a number of months before this season finishes and his country compete at the Euros. He only needs to look at what has happened since late December to see how fast things can turn against you.
However, somewhat perversely, it is this fact that makes it more likely he will be determined to stay. He has not had a chance to celebrate the title with Liverpool’s fans yet and would no doubt like to go out in a blaze of glory rather than echo the failings in the autumn of his Dortmund days. Klopp could even use the interest from Germany to strengthen his hand with Liverpool, particularly when it comes to transfer plans.
There has long been the dream of a fairytale progression amongst Reds followers that Klopp will leave Liverpool on the back of a glorious period of success and take his sabbatical or the Germany role in many years to come. In that time Gerrard could have further proven his managerial credentials for a job of such magnitude and a changing of the guard would feel more natural.
Klopp would no doubt love a similar conclusion. He will believe he has unfinished business with Liverpool on the back of what has been a chastening season trying to defend their title. He will be even more determined to ensure his legacy follows a pattern of continued success like Bill Shankly laying the foundations for Bob Paisley. That would be more befitting than the self-proclaimed 'normal one' ending his tenure in a low-key, ordinary way - and let's face it, club football would be a much poorer place without the charismatic Klopp and his powerhouse brand of football.
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