Just three years ago Liverpool seemed on the cusp of something quite different to a Champions League Final against Real Madrid. Sterling was about to leave for City; the players were not performing; and Brendan Rodgers had exhibited his mediocrity in a painful season culminating in a shameful rout at the hands of Stoke. Worse still, Gerrard was gone. The club’s last link to Istanbul and the shining lights of the noughties was heading off into the sunset.
Exhausting all superlatives
The melancholy at the club was palpable. Liverpool fans all mourned the false dawn of 13/14 and yearned for better days. Yet, three years later, they are here, against all the odds. Liverpool are in the biggest final in club football and by some barometers, in all of world sport.
Jurgen Klopp has transformed the club in his own image. Two and a bit seasons have seen Klopp wield his wonderful wrecking ball, sifting through the scrap left behind by half a decade of failure. The result has been some truly beautiful football. The joy of watching the players on the pitch has blown fresh spirit and humour into the fan base; Klopp has made it enjoyable once more.
The players seem to love it just as much as the fans. Who can blame them? Andy Robertson is a football romantic’s dream, Trent is a local lad, and we all love them. Milner has been a revelation next to the hardworking and improving Jordan Henderson; while the front three have exhausted all superlatives. It’s great fun to watch and is yet another example of Klopp’s masterly command of this Red machine.
A long, long way
The days of watching Wolves and Wigan come to Anfield with genuine hope of a nicking a win were painful to all fans connected to the club. The manner of the performances and the squalid personalities to play for the club made it a real chore to watch Liverpool. The gallows humour at the match was perhaps the only entertaining thing about Liverpool back then, as Raul Meireles pouted and Johnson took his money but was “alright going forward.”
All of that is gone. Klopp has made it right. His simple achievement of putting Liverpool back were they should be means the world to supporters. No club has a divine right to be at the top, but Liverpool were falling away. For Klopp to have steered the club back is one thing, but what makes him a legend is the fact that they have that dignity back. The club is talked about in the corridors of power again, and the right players will want to be part of this.
Klopp: a different man to predecessors
You’d be right to argue that Houllier and Benitez did a similar thing at the turn of the century, as they propelled Liverpool back into the light, winning trophies and signing quality players who would serves us well for years. Houllier, in particular, has become slightly diminished with the passing of time.
The Frenchman’s revolution was similarly huge and effective in its early years — similar to what Klopp has achieved, albeit without the pyrotechnic football. The mid to late nineties had seen the club dragged to the indignity of being a tabloid dream machine off the pitch. On it, Players like Ince and Ruddock were not cut from the same cloth as the great men who wore the Red before them. Liverpool’s defence was a joke and the club was adrift, lacking leaders and quality. Sounds familiar.
Houllier altered all of that. Big names like Ince were publicly taken on and driven out. Discipline and hard work came in, as the bedrock of a solid team was built almost from scratch. Trophies followed and within a three year period Liverpool were Champions League Quarter Finalists and title challengers. Like the Benitez era though, the funds dried up and the right players were missed when they should have easy prey. Success wilted and we all felt an opportunity had passed us by.
Klopp is a different man to his predecessors. We all know the football is now at a peak it hasn’t been at in three decades, and his personality is on steroids and he has everyone on board. Crucially, that last one is a biggie. There was division and mutters of boring football despite the successes of Houllier and Benitez. Klopp, though, has won all hearts; he will bowl them over completely if he wins number six tomorrow night in Kiev. Whatever happens though, the funds cannot dry up, the chance the club has with this man cannot pass us by. He has made the fans dream, he should be allowed to finish his work and continue on what has already been a wonderful journey so far.