Jurgen Klopp has had his first full training session with his new squad this week after taking control at Liverpool on a three year contract worth a reported £7 million a year, which would make him the third highest paid manager in British football.
He replaces the sacked Brendan Rodgers, and we look at why Klopp is being paid such a vast salary, and assess whether he can deliver the objectives expected of him by his new employers, Fenway Sports Group (FSG).
Firstly, Klopp is renowned as an excellent motivator. He will be expected to work with a squad of players that has been expensively assembled by another manager, who was unable to fuse them together as a cohesive unit. Players such as Christian Benteke, who arrived as a proven Premier League marksman from Aston Villa for £32.5 million, and Roberto Firmino, a Brazilian who came from Hoffenheim with a big reputation for £29 million, have failed to live up to expectations thus far. Klopp will be charged with getting the best out of the current players.
Luckily for Klopp, players do respond to his management style. He has told of bidding Shinji Kagawa an emotional, tear-filled farewell upon his move to Manchester United for £12 million. Kagawa did not stay at Old Trafford too long however, and like Nuri Sahin at Real Madrid, returned to Dortmund to play for his former manager after leaving for a more supposedly prestigious side, both for smaller fees than when they departed.
Kagawa is an example of another positive facet of his managerial style. Throughout his management career, he has found unpolished diamonds, helped them become better players. The Japanese playmaker arrived at Borussia Dortmund for £250,000 and left for £12 million. This will fit in with FSG’s “moneyball” policy, signing players under the age of 24 with potential to sell on at a profit. It also indicates that Klopp will be more capable of dealing with the transfer committee at Anfield, something that often seemed to frustrate Rodgers.
Kagawa also represents a problem Klopp has dealt with at Dortmund, and one Rodgers failed to deal with at Liverpool; losing your best players. Rodgers was unable to deal with losing Luis Suarez to FC Barcelona; Klopp lost Nuri Sahin, Shinji Kagawa, Mario Gotze and Robert Lewandowski in successive summers, and managed to keep his side competitive until his final season in charge.
At the end of Rodgers time at Liverpool, the football had become pedestrian. The focus had been placed too solely on possession. There was a lack of incisiveness. Klopp plays a high-tempo, counter-attacking game, a style that almost brought Liverpool their first Premier League title in 2013/14. If he can implement this style he will get the demanding Liverpool fans on board.
Liverpool are not a sacking club, and generally give their managers a chance to get it right. Klopp has shown he has staying power and loyalty, having spent seven years in charge at both Borussia Dortmund and Mainz. He is being paid handsomely to bring Liverpool FC back to the top table of English football, and has promised to deliver a “title” within four years. I believe the conditions are in place for Klopp to deliver a trophy or two, but winning the Premier League is a much more difficult task. That is the title Liverpool fans, and FSG, really want.