Premier League: Jurgen Klopp's maddening levels of positivity the key to Liverpool's record-breaking success

Klopp is the biggest influence at Liverpool in the last three decades. He has transformed the club into a happy place and a desirable destination for players.

Akarsh Sharma July 02, 2020 11:58:18 IST
Premier League: Jurgen Klopp's maddening levels of positivity the key to Liverpool's record-breaking success

It was the morning after Kiev. Only hours ago, Liverpool had lost the Champions League final to Real Madrid. A season of barnstorming, adventurous, bonkers football had just ended with a bit of a whimper. Spirits were low. The manner of defeat was even worse.

Then, a video started doing the rounds. Four men, who were a little drunk, were singing in defiance. One of them was Jurgen Klopp, the Liverpool manager, alongside his assistant Peter Krawietz and a couple of friends from Germany.

“We saw the European Cup.
“Madrid had all the f***ing luck.
“We swear we'll keep on being cool.
“We'll bring it back to Liverpool!”

This was an astonishing level of optimism. Even for Klopp. He had just lost his seventh final in a row. And his third with Liverpool. How could this person radiate such maddening levels of positivity all the time? When does it end? Or does it ever end?

There are no answers yet.

The fans began to smile again. One video had changed the narrative the next morning. Liverpool were not expected to reach the 2018 European Cup final. It was important to be reminded of that. Reaching the final, and seeing the trophy within an arm’s distance, was an achievement on its own. “We saw the European Cup”.

A year later, Liverpool were crowned the European champions. “We’ll bring it back to Liverpool.” The 14-year wait had ended. A year after that, the club will be crowned the champions of England in record-breaking fashion. The 30-year wait will be over. A maiden Club World Cup title and a UEFA Super Cup trophy have also been grabbed for good measure.

At Liverpool, Klopp has laughed his way to success—literally and metaphorically. He is unique in the football world. There is nobody like him. He is just relentlessly positive. Once asked about the record of defeats in seven straight finals, he enquired whether that meant he had a world record in winning semi-finals.

Modern English football has seen the eras of a seething Sir Alex Ferguson, a studious Arsene Wenger, an egotistical Jose Mourinho, a grumpy Roberto Mancini and a perpetually unsatisfied Pep Guardiola. Claudio Ranieri, briefly, was a breath of fresh air.

Premier League Jurgen Klopps maddening levels of positivity the key to Liverpools recordbreaking success

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp. AP

And then there is Klopp, in an eccentric league of his own.

You can chart Liverpool’s rise by plotting the extraordinary moments delivered by the club’s manager. All by himself, Klopp has injected life back into a football club wallowing in a state of self-pity. He chose happiness first, the success followed naturally.

When the German joined Liverpool in October 2015, the proud institution on Merseyside was steeped in mediocrity, controversy and a barrage of bad memories.

On the brink of administration in 2010. Embroiled in a racism saga in 2011. Reeling emotionally from Steven Gerrard’s slip in 2014. Finishing the league sixth or worse in five of the six seasons from 2009-15. A fanbase feeling sorry for itself on most days, if not all. And an unspectacular squad of players, a few light years away from challenging for major honours. The future looked bleak.

In stepped Klopp.

His first message to the fans? Let’s change from “doubters to believers”—said with his signature infectious smile. The German’s eccentric nature and idiosyncratic methods make him easy to love, even if it is accompanied with ridicule from rival fanbases.

Take, for instance, how Klopp made his players celebrate a home draw versus West Bromwich Albion two months into his tenure. It had fuelled a flurry of internet memes: how the mighty have fallen.

Anfield’s atmosphere had been nervous and tepid in recent years. Klopp wanted that to change. He wanted a better connection between the fans and the players. Quite often, he would turn back and deliver a verbal bashing to the Main Stand—the stand at Anfield right behind the dugout—for moaning and groaning during some matches. He wanted unconditional support a la German football. He wanted Anfield to become a fortress. And it did.

Today, Liverpool are on a 56-game unbeaten home run in the Premier League which stretches back to April 2017. Everton, with eight unbeaten, are the next best. The West Brom celebration was just a dress rehearsal. The comeback win over Dortmund made it a real thing. An even better one against Barcelona took it to another level. Those internet memes? They have disappeared.

Football has looked easy and delightful under Klopp. Drown out the noise. Enjoy. Laugh. Let others laugh. Stay positive. Repeat.

Liverpool’s best moments have almost always been punctuated by Klopp's reaction. There was the famous “boom” to describe the thrashing of Manchester City. A mad celebration after the 5-4 win at Norwich when he broke his glasses. The piggyback celebration with Sadio Mane on the player’s debut.

Another mad sprint onto the pitch after a stoppage-time win against Everton. A mega dash to celebrate the UEFA Super Cup triumph with penalty-shootout hero Adrian, at a time when Klopp knew he needed his second-choice goalkeeper to step up badly in Alisson’s absence. Even this celebration was derided by rival fans.

There was also a surprise appearance at a preseason event in 2018 to sing the popular “Allez, Allez, Allez” song with the fans. Which isn’t something managers usually do.

The German understands the fans and the club. His ideologies help too. He has been vocal against Brexit and has publicly declared that he would "never vote for the right", which is largely in sync with how Liverpool, the city, has traditionally voted. He is a great human being and an exceptional manager, the kind the fans have always longed for.

Klopp is the biggest influence at Liverpool in the last three decades. He has transformed the club into a happy place and a desirable destination for players. Liverpool didn't just need repairing on the pitch, but off the pitch too. It needed emotional repairing.

To that extent, Klopp has been a godsend. There is an aura of fun and mischief around the club, today. It reflects in the football too.

All of it started with just one man, and his maddening drive to stay positive all the time.

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