Jurgen Klopp: The Mentality Monster That Made Anfield Rock Again

Liverpool Football Club are champions of England once again, a reality many associated with the club have waited with increasingly faint hopes to witness these past 30 years.

And finally, it has happened. It is true, three decades of hurt ended without the Reds kicking a ball as Manchester City’s 2-1 defeat at Chelsea left them with an unassailable lead.

Expectedly, years of pent up frustrations from near-misses, the agony of seeing their rivals win multiple titles and the creeping sense of dread that the title may never return to Liverpool finally exploded in an outpouring of joy and Reds all over the world celebrated wildly at being England’s dominant team once more.

Despite authorities urging fans to stay at home, supporters congregated outside Liverpool’s Anfield Stadium within minutes of the final whistle setting off flares, singing and celebrating in front of the players’ entrance and the famous Kop.

A visibly emotional Jurgen Klopp struggled to hold back tears in an interview with Sky Sports.

“I have no words,” he said.

“It’s the best thing I can imagine and more than I could have ever dreamed of. It’s unbelievable. Much more than I ever thought would be possible.”

The German, who was wearing a Liverpool shirt during his interview added: “Becoming champions with this club is absolutely incredible.

“It is an incredible achievement from my players… and a pure joy for me to coach them.

“I haven’t waited 30 years, I have been here for four-and-a-half years, but it is quite an achievement, especially with the three-month break because nobody knew if we could go on.

“I know it is difficult for people in this moment but we could not hold back. We will enjoy this with our supporters when we can.”

Klopp’s emotional response to Liverpool’s 19th top-flight title and their first since 1989-90, when Sir Kenny Dalglish led them to victory was as much a realisation of the incredible transformation he has wrought at the club as an outpouring of relief that many years of hurt was finally over.

Appointed in October 2015 following the dismissal of Brendan Rodgers, Klopp inherited a club in disarray and still suffering from the agonising heartbreak of missing out on the title in 2014.

Liverpool were 10th in the table, shorn of the totemic Steven Gerrard and the talismanic Luis Suarez and home to fans who seemed to have lost all belief.

But the rock ‘n’ roll loving bespectacled German with a weird love of hugs and kamikaze football always had a certainty that he would revive the club, dispel the burden of history and drive them across the finish line.

And he made that abundantly clear in his first press conference.

“Last night we signed the contract and this morning I wake and I’m manager of Liverpool FC,” Klopp said at his unveiling.

“Please give us time to do the work but when I sit here in four years I think we may have one title.

“We have to change from doubters to believers. Now.”

Having broken Bayern Munich’s hegemony in Germany where he led Borussia Dortmund to two league titles and a Champions League final, the former Mainz coach had plenty of reasons to be optimistic.

Many Reds wanted to share his optimism but after everything they’d witnessed in the intervening 25 years, they had become weary from constant disappointment and wary of getting their hopes too high yet again.

Decades of disappointment had tempered expectations at the once-proud club which ruled England with such ruthless dominance it was unthinkable two years could pass without a league title never mind three decades.

Liverpool’s dominance was such that they won eleven league titles between 1973 and 1990 and only failed to finish first or second in the league once in that spell.

Not that they been without silverware since they were last crowned champions of England in 1990.

Three FA Cups, four League Cups, a UEFA Cup, two Champions League triumphs – the latest coming last season under Klopp – as well as three Super Cups and one Club World Cup is more than a decent return.

However, it was all scant compensation for decades of drought in the league especially as the Reds had to endure seeing their record tally of titles surpassed by rivals Manchester United whose manager Sir Alex Ferguson famously declared his mission was to “knock Liverpool off their perch”.

There were times when it felt the Reds were on the verge of reclaiming their spot at the summit of English football, finishing second in the Premier League on four occasions.

Gerard Houllier in 2001-02 and Rafael Benitez in 2008-09 both pushed eventual champions Arsenal and Manchester United very close.

But it was in the 2013-14 season when it seemed all but certain that the wait for the Holy Grail was finally over.

However, Brendan Rodgers’ side capitulated late in the season following an unfortunate defeat to Chelsea at Anfield where a Steven Gerrard slip enabled Demba Ba to score and help the visitors to victory and destroy Liverpool’s dream.

It was into that desolate atmosphere that Jurgen Klopp was lowered four and a half years ago with a task to arrest the slide and return Liverpool to their rightful position.

An eight-place finish and two losses in Cup finals wasn’t the auspicious start that Reds had hoped for but a shift in mentality was palpable, an identity discernable and progress was clear.

Each year was an improvement on the last in every aspect as Klopp set about laying the foundations for his project.

The owners and fans understood intuitively what Klopp was trying to achieve and supported him unconditionally.

Better players were procured who were more suited to the gung ho brand of football highly favoured by the German and the progress was reflected in their league positions.

Two fourth-place finishes followed, and there was yet another loss in a final to Real Madrid in the Champions League.

And then last season happened. 

Despite racking up an astonishing 97 points and losing only one game all season, the Reds failed to topple Manchester City who beat them to the title by a point on the last day of the season.Β 

Never had it happened that a team achieved so many points without winning the league.

Reds fans could be forgiven for thinking they were destined never to win the league in the Premier League era.

But rather than wallow in the crushing disappointment of yet another heartbreaking near-miss, the German and his squad bottled the hurt and used it as fuel to drive the new season.

Where in the past they failed to push on after challenging for the title, it was never going to be a similar situation with Klopp at the helm.

And this is perhaps of Klopp’s greatest achievements, engineering a shift in outlook so stark from the past, making the players “mentality monsters” not deterred by failure nor overwhelmed by success.

“I felt from day one when he came in the door he changed everything,” Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson told Sky Sports.

“We followed him and believed him. It’s been an amazing journey. I’m hoping there is more – we just stay hungry, keep wanting more and following him.

“The biggest thing is no matter what we all follow him, believe in him and he’s taken us to this point. This wouldn’t be possible without him.”

An incredibly dominant campaign this season, in which the Reds have won 28 of their 31 fixtures, meant a repeat of last season’s drama was unlikely.

Although it would have been keeping with their rotten luck in recent times if the season had been curtailed because of the global coronavirus pandemic as had seemed likely at a point.

Liverpool and their manager were forced to wait an extra three months but their coronation was never in doubt.

By wrapping up the league after just 31 games the Reds have recorded the earliest Premier League victory by matches played, yet, conversely, the coronavirus-induced 100-day suspension means it is the latest success by date.

That it is not the earliest title win by date is only because football in England went into abeyance between March and May as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

And Klopp and his wards can still own a number of records by the end of the season with City’s 100-point total for a season one of such in their sights.

The Reds can still set the record for the most wins in a season (the record is 32), most home wins (18), most away wins (16) and biggest winning margin (19 points).

By any measure, what Jurgen Klopp has achieved has been monumental and Liverpool’s principal owner John W Henry described his team’s campaign as a “season for the ages”.

He tweeted: “It has been an incredible year of magnificent achievement culminating tonight in capturing the Premier League title.

“The totality of this accomplishment has brought respite and joy to so many in a year filled with so much tragedy.

“Liverpool has made the beautiful game more beautiful than ever.”

Speaking to the BBC, Reds midfielder James Milner said: “It shows the character in the squad to get so close last time and to go again.

“We have proven we are fuelled by disappointment and learning.

“I am sure the hunger will stay and we want to keep being successful. It is absolutely massive – to get over the line is huge.”

“We had to wait 13 weeks,” Liverpool defender Andrew Robertson added. “It was 13 long weeks with uncertainty but a lot of our fans had to wait 30 years so it was a short time compared to what they’ve had.

“I hope they enjoy their night, we will enjoy ours.”

And it is all down to the charismatic German with the larger than life personality who promised change and delivered it.

Though it has taken him five years to win English football’s biggest prize, Klopp who describes his brand of football as “heavy metal football” has returned the music to Anfield and Reds look set to be rocking for a long time.