A lot of supporters of our rival clubs make claims that Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp isn’t in the same class as Manchester City coach Pep Guardiola or former Manchester United and Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho because the German hasn’t won as many trophies as they have. But that is a simplistic view to take – with some doing it because it suits their agenda of pushing him down to raise the others and others because they simply don’t understand how football works.
During his career as a professional manager, Klopp has been in charge of Mainz, Borussia Dortmund and Liverpool. He got Mainz promoted to the Bundesliga back in 2003/4 after just over three years in charge before they were relegated back down to the second tier in 2006/7. He remained with them, but resigned from his position after failing to return them to the top flight at the end of the following campaign. The relegation did little to harm his growing reputation, however, as he was offered the chance to take over at Dortmund soon after. They had just finished thirteenth in the Bundesliga and were struggling to challenge for the title having not won it since the 2001/2 season. He led them to a respectable sixth place finish during his first season and the following campaign saw Klopp steer them one more spot up the Bundesliga table to fifth. He had laid the foundations in place to challenge Bayern Munich, champions in 2009/10, and went on to win the title in both the 2010/11 and 2011/12 campaigns. Dortmund were champions by seven and eight points in each of the two Bundesliga winning seasons and Klopp had cemented his place as a legend at the club. He came agonisingly close to furthering his already golden reputation with their supporters by reaching the 2012/13 Champions League final at Wembley, where a last gasp goal by Arjen Robben won it for rivals Bayern. Dortmund went on to finish second behind Bayern in each of the following two seasons, before Klopp announced that he would be leaving Dortmund after a disappointing 2014/15 campaign. He left them after winning three major trophies after adding the DFB-Pokal to the Bundesliga title during the 2011/12 season. He was likely to be on the wanted list of several of the top clubs around Europe – but he insisted that he wanted to take a break from the game.
Klopp did take some time away from football. But it proved to be just a matter of months as he decided to accept the offer to take over from Brendan Rodgers at Anfield in October 2015. He had been linked with the manager’s job at the likes of Bayern, Real Madrid, Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City. He was reported to have rejected more than one of those clubs as they made approaches to him, but the pull of managing Liverpool was too strong for him to turn down as he cut short his self-imposed sabbatical from the game. Klopp managed to get the squad he inherited from Rodgers to the League Cup final, which was lost to Manchester City, and the Europa League final, where Sevilla won it for the third time in a row at his side’s expense. Manchester United fans pointed to Mourinho’s success in those two competitions the following season as evidence as to why ‘The Special One’ was a superior manager to ‘The Normal One’. But they need to remember that United faced Southampton and Ajax respectively in their finals in 2016/17. Hardly the same level of challenge. Their route to the Europa League final saw them overcome Saint Etienne, Rostov, Anderlecht and Celta Vigo. Liverpool had faced Augsburg, United, Dortmund and Villarreal in the previous season and, while you can only beat the team put in front of you, that shows the difference in achievement right away – and that’s before the amount of money spent to get to these finals is taken into consideration. Klopp didn’t make any permanent signings in the January of 2016, his first transfer window, and waited until the following Summer to start rebuilding his squad. So that puts how well he did to reach two cup finals in a matter of months after taking over at Liverpool with what was someone else’s squad – a struggling one at that. Mourinho had a full preseason and spent £150m on Paul Pogba, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Eric Bailly and Zlatan Ibrahimovic before a ball was kicked in anger.
Klopp was never a big spending manager during his time in Germany and has only recently started making the most of the money on offer to him in the Premier League. He made bargain signings for peanuts, such as Robert Lewandowski, Mats Hummels, Ilkay Gundogan and Neven Subotic – who cost around £15m combined. His record signing for the Bundesliga club was Mkhitaryan, who cost less than £20m in the Summer of 2013 – when he pipped Liverpool to sign the Armenian international. Germany international Marco Reus only cost around £11m, which further highlights Klopp’s eye for talent. His net spend during his seven years in charge of Dortmund was £45m thanks to £130m worth of signings and £85m recouped from sales at an average of around £6.5m per season. When you consider that he won two consecutive titles, you realise just how much he can get out of the transfer market and his players. He was up against Pep Guardiola during his final couple of years at Dortmund after the Spaniard took over at Bayern during the Summer of 2013. The former Barcelona coach spent £184m during his three years in charge of the Bavarian giants, while £110m was brought in through sales. That is a net spend of £74m – which is almost £30m more than Klopp had in more than twice the time. Guardiola won the German title in each of this three seasons at Bayern, but he could not manage to reach a Champions League final before leaving at the end of the 2015/16 campaign. His spending at Barcelona prior to his move to Germany was also huge, with £307m worth of signings offset by £161m of sales. That is a net spend of around £145m – which is more than twice as much as he spent strengthening Bayern’s grip on German football – where had former Dortmund stars Lewandowski and Mario Gotze in his squad. Klopp not only faced a club with a far larger transfer kitty, but they were also plucking his star players away almost at will.
Klopp has been accused of being a hypocrite this year after spending big on the likes of Virgil Van Dijk and Alisson Becker – but the critics might want to look a little closer at the net spend table. Liverpool sold Brazil international Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona for around £145m back in January, which put a massive amount in the kitty and allowed the German to do the world record deals for the duo. His net spend during his time in charge at Anfield is roughly £112m. That’s based on player purchases worth £382m and sales of £270m. Mourinho spent £392m during his two and a half years in charge at Old Trafford, with a net spend of £307m following the deduction of £85m worth of sales. That isn’t far off triple the money Klopp has spent in essentially the same amount of time – and doesn’t take into the consideration United having the biggest wage bill in the Premier League. For Klopp to have built a nineteen point lead over United having been afford a net spend which is dwarfed by theirs is testament to the quality both he and the off-field employees have at the club. Mourinho was able to spend £90m+ on two players, Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku, during his spell at United. Liverpool’s record signing is Virgil Van Dijk at £75m – which remains a world record for a defender. United spent £53m on Brazilian midfielder Fred in the Summer – which is more than Liverpool have ever spent on a player barring the Dutchman and Alisson Becker. Guardiola, meanwhile, has spent more than half a billion since taking over at Premier League champions in the Summer of 2016. His first transfer window saw him splash out £186m before he upped the ante the year after with a spree adding up to £276m – which saw them storm the title last season in record breaking fashion. His spend of £63m ahead of the current season looks incredibly restrained by comparison, but things such as the Spaniard already having the majority of his squad in place and Financial Fair Play (pfft) need to be factored into the equation. City’s net spend since the Summer of 2014 is in excess of £500m in itself, which puts Klopp’s achievement of simply competing with them into further perspective.
The German would no doubt have won more than three major trophies in his management career had he opted to take jobs at clubs such as Bayern, Barcelona, City or Real Madrid. They are all considered to be the top dogs in their respective leagues – at least in terms of the financial backing they have available. But the Liverpool boss is not the kind of manager who moves from league to league by taking over at the club who are expected to win their domestic title and reach the final of the Champions League. That he has reached that stage of the competition with both Dortmund and Liverpool goes to show just how able he is to compete against the dominant clubs. He clearly enjoys the challenge of pitting himself against them as he takes charge of under dog clubs who are passionately supported by a fanbase he can connect with on both a personal and professional level. He clearly factors in more than the financial backing he will receive before he chooses which club he will manage and we as Liverpool supporters can all be pleased that he wanted to come to Anfield to take on the challenge of not only beating one Bayern Munich, but three or four. United, City and Chelsea can all outspend us in the transfer market and on wages, with Arsenal also potentially having more clout from their bank account. That Klopp has been able to persuade the likes of Van Dijk, Alisson, Keita, Fabinho and Shaqiri to reject some of our rivals in favour of playing under his management at Anfield further highlights just what an asset he is to the club.
Klopp’s head to head records against the likes of Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho should also be taken into account when considering where he lies in the pecking order of elite level managers in the game. His record against the two is as follows:
MANAGER P W D L Win%
Pep Guardiola 15 8 2 5 53.28
Jose Mourinho 10 4 4 2 40.00
He has the better record from his games against the two, so trophies aren’t the only measure of how good a manager is and I would not swap ours for any other right now.