Then love knew it was called love.

And when I lifted my eyes to your name,

suddenly your heart showed me my way

Pablo Neruda, Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair.


KUALA LUMPUR, May 19 — Jürgen Klopp and Liverpool FC. It was not love at first sight – and let us be honest about it. On October 9, 2015, Klopp strode into a club that was shriveling from within under the ownership of another American cluster. The Fenway Sports Group (FSG) had made one managerial mistake too many in the five years since assuming control of the club and they were not positioned to miscalculate again.

The FSG had handed the Anfield hotseat to Brendan Rodgers, Klopp’s predecessor, on the illusory promise of his PowerPoint presentation. A rapid reading of the former Swansea City boss’s arid track record would have raised red flags. But the FSG were keen to extend their data-fueled corporate thinking into the employment of the most important individual outside of the boardroom.

Barring one season (2013/14) – when the goalscoring mastery of Luis Suárez and Steven Gerrard’s unwavering drive edged the Reds closest to the Premier League success – Rodgers was a washout. Most supporters had cut through his lavatorial philosophy and exposed him as a sham that has been allowed to run for far too long. The rest – and this includes the FSG – were dazzled by his superficial statements and smiles.


The next appointment was one that the Americans had to nail down. There was all that nonsense on how the FSG relied on a Cambridge physicist’s study to hire Klopp – never mind that a bin collector in Boston could have informed them that anyone who had collected silverware of significance in his career stands a great chance of succeeding at Liverpool.

Gérard Houllier and Rafael Benítez, both title winners in their native France and Spain respectively, are Exhibits A and B. Houllier secured the unique treble of the UEFA, FA and League Cups in 2001 while Benítez delivered the Champions League four years later on a magical night in Istanbul. Klopp’s credentials were even more impressive: at Borussia Dortmund he had swept up all honours in Germany, with back-to-back Bundesliga shields as the standout achievements.

At a football club, there’s a holy trinity – the players, the manager and the supporters. Directors don’t come into it. They are only there to sign the checks – Bill Shankly.

There was also a trait that the trio shared: they “got Liverpool.” The nexus between a Liverpool manager, his side and supporters has been made sacrosanct since the days of Shankly. Supporters revere Houllier and Benítez while their teams have earned their iconic places, as they ended trophy-less phases in a truly unexpected style and restored pride in the club. Klopp asked for four years before securing success and, seven months later, his team skipped their gestation period to reach the UEFA Cup Final.

The genesis of this connection between Klopp and Liverpool loyalists materialised in the journey to the Final against Sevilla and, if we were point out the exact moment, it would be the semi-finals against – the irony of all ironies – Dortmund on April 14, 2016. The Reds held the advantage after the 1-1 draw in the first leg at Westfalenstadoin and Anfield expected the Reds to complete the task on another memorable European night.

As was his habit, Klopp stepped onto the pitch to absorb Anfield’s raucous atmosphere before the match as his players warmed up. In his white track top and black pants, Klopp observed the banners swaying at the Kop End. The combative proclamations We Climbed The Hill In Our Own Way and There Is A Light That Never Goes Out stared back at Klopp.

We have to change from doubters to believers. Now – Klopp

The message, if he and his men did not grasp it much earlier when supporters queued up at Anfield Road to welcome the team bus as it approached the stadium, was loud and lucid. The Reds, however, did not respond immediately to the baying anticipation of Anfield and any advantage appeared to have vanished in the first nine minutes as Dortmund carved out a 2-0 lead.

Minutes before the hour mark, Dortmund made it 3-1 to virtually expel any hope of redemption. In scenes divining the many improbable triumphs that studded the Klopp’s epoch, his men refused to bow to the inevitable and pushed back. Mamadou Sakho’s 77th minute header had the supporters across the world dreaming and they were all actual believers when another header, courtesy of Dejan Lovren, screamed into the net in the 91st minute.

Perseverance and defiance seep out of every pore of Liverpool. The city and people lie in isolation of mainstream England and any manager attempting to harness the power of the Liverpool base must understand the political, social, and cultural layers that define and shape them. Klopp valued them and immersed himself into these pockets of the Liverpudlian life, which could be incongruous to a stranger.

Instead of looking in from the outside, Klopp set his view from the inside. He adopted Shanky’s ethos and added to this bulging canon. Supporters loved the anti-establishment streak in him, which is best represented by this glorious quote: I would never vote for a party because they promised to lower the top tax rate. My political understanding is this: if I’m doing well, I want others to do well, too. If there’s something I’ll never do in my life it’s voting for the right, in Raphael Honigstein’s Klopp: Bring the Noise.

This was the credo that dictated his willingness to speak without fear for the supporters, who approved his protest on various issues that affected them. He reiterated his opposition to the European Super League scam in 2019 – with the FSG disrobed as one of its main proponents – in 2023, when he mused “I hope this Super League will never happen. Of course, it’s economically important, but why should we create a system where Liverpool faces Real Madrid for 10 straight years? Who wants to see that every year?”

It’s not so important what people think when you come in, it’s much more important what people think when you leave – Klopp

Any other manager would have adhered to the company line; Klopp was not built for it. It was his plain-speaking on everything Liverpool that rattled the media – and possibly the FSG in private. The same was true when he lashed out at the muted match-goers at Anfeld and when he felt that the club faithful – fattened on the deluge of trophies that he had unlocked – was uncommitted in their backing for his team.

Klopp demanded focus and solidarity from his players and supporters. That famous intensity that marks out his technical area antics has the tendency to spread around the stadium and to those watching it from afar. He was a lightning rod for Liverpool supporters, which will be remembered with much amusement and appreciation, and an enduring symbol of Liverpool itself.

The memories that Klopp leave will never mottle with time; they are deeply embedded within his believers. Liverpool supporters who had begun their love affair with the club in the 1970s and 1980s never had thought they would live long enough to clasp parallel stories. They have now – and they have a new generation of adherents who were there alongside them to experience those bygone glories for themselves.

The gospel of Klopp will be passed on for generations to come, just as those in the 1970s and 1980s had amidst a recession in faith that followed for more than a decade before this millennium appeared. For the majority of Liverpool’s grateful supporters, Klopp is no longer the Normal One; he is The One. And that means more ...