“It’s easy to believe when it’s going well. If you are only united when you’re winning, then there’s something wrong with you. It’s a tough moment, in a tough season, in a strange situation for us, but we will go again.”
– Jurgen Klopp after Man City loss
Jurgen Klopp isn’t perfect. He says daft, irrational things, he’s a bad loser and he can be hostile towards the media. Regardless of how he has been portrayed, he is by no means a big warm cuddly toy.
Balance of probabilities? He’s not even that nice of a guy.
Here’s the thing though: that’s fine.
You can accept criticisms of Klopp’s character while still liking him as a person. People still like Jose Mourinho for goodness sake. He doesn’t have to be easy-going and affable all the time. He is allowed to be flawed, edgy, a bit of a d*ck sometimes, and still have the affection of fans. Welcome to real life.
In the same breath, he doesn’t have to get it all right on the pitch, season after season, to merit continued support from Liverpool and the club’s faithful.
Since the moment Klopp won the Premier League with Liverpool, he has been held up to an impossible standard. He went from Rafa Benitez to Bill Shankly, and because Liverpool do nothing in moderation, it was just assumed that after 30 years without a single league title, another era of dominance was just going to fall into their lap.
Obviously, though, that is not happening. Not right away at least. This season has been humbling: Liverpool are one of the worst defending champions of the Premier League era, and though it is only February, their enigmatic manager has already written off the prospect of retaining the trophy.
But Klopp’s message throughout has been consistent. Things are tough, the team is struggling, but stay patient and keep the faith, because it will come. It was the same message he stressed after the Europa League final defeat to Sevilla in 2016, and the Champions League final defeat to Real Madrid a couple of years later, and after Man City beat them to the 2019/20 Premier League title by a single point.
Through thick and thin, the manager has maintained an unwavering faith in his players and staff. And that’s why he will be going nowhere in the weeks and months ahead.
It’s not making excuses for Klopp to say that he is going through a difficult time. Despite being the face and voice of Liverpool, he is a human being suffering through the slog of the pandemic like the rest of us. He lost his mum last week, and due to travel restrictions, he was unable to attend the funeral in Germany.
Throw into the mix the pressures of managing one of the biggest football clubs on the planet and trying to keep morale up within a group of players who are obviously suffering from a crisis of confidence, and it can’t be a great time to be Jurgen Klopp.
His TV interviews have raised concern, with some floating the suggestion that he should step aside, at least from media duties, and let his assistant Pep Lijnders shoulder some of the burden for a while. But you just know he won’t; he loves the job too much, and won’t put any unnecessary pressure on those beneath him.
Klopp may have more flaws to his character and management than previously thought, but he will stay on the front lines and bat for Liverpool until he’s blue in the face. He’s done it before; the net result of that is five major trophies, including a European Cup and a first league title in three decades.
It is easy to believe when it’s going well, just as it’s easy to lose faith when things are going against you.
But how rubbish would football be if it was all plain sailing?
As Liverpool gear up to go again, be sure to stick with it, because as long as Klopp is at the helm, there will be more good times on the horizon.