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Jürgen Norbert Klopp (German pronunciation: [ˈjʏɐ̯ɡn̩ ˈklɔp] (About this soundlisten); born 16 June 1967) is a German professional football manager and former player who is the manager of Premier League club Liverpool. Often credited with popularising the football philosophy known as Gegenpressing, Klopp is regarded by many as one of the best managers in the world.
As a player, Klopp spent the majority of his career at Mainz 05 in the second tier of German football after signing for the club in 1990. A hard-working and physical player, he was initially deployed as a striker, before converting to play as a defender for the rest of his career. Upon his retirement in 2001, Klopp became the club’s manager, leading them to promotion to the Bundesliga in 2004. After suffering relegation in the 2006–07 season and being unable to achieve promotion the following campaign, Klopp resigned at Mainz in 2008, departing as the club’s longest-serving manager.
Klopp then became manager of Borussia Dortmund, guiding them to the Bundesliga title in 2010–11. The next season Klopp guided Dortmund to their first ever domestic double. In 2013, he guided Dortmund to the UEFA Champions League Final, where they lost 2–1 to Bayern Munich. He left Dortmund in 2015 as their longest-serving manager.
Klopp was appointed manager of Liverpool two months into the 2015–16 season and led them to the finals of that season’s EFL Cup and UEFA Europa League, although they finished runners-up in both competitions. Liverpool finished fourth in the league in his first two full seasons in charge. He guided the club to successive UEFA Champions League Finals in 2018 and 2019, with the club winning the 2019 Final. He also led Liverpool to second in the 2018–19 Premier League with a record number of points in Europe’s top five leagues for a runner-up (97).
Early Life and Playing Career
Born in Stuttgart, the state capital of Baden-Württemberg, to Norbert Klopp, a travelling salesman and a former goalkeeper, Klopp grew up in the countryside in the Black Forest village of Glatten near Freudenstadt with two older sisters. He started playing for local club SV Glatten and later TuS Ergenzingen as a junior player, with the next stint at 1. FC Pforzheim and then at three Frankfurt clubs, Eintracht Frankfurt II, Viktoria Sindlingen and Rot-Weiss Frankfurt during his adolescence.Introduced to football through his father, Klopp was a supporter of VfB Stuttgart in his youth. As a young boy, Klopp aspired to become a doctor, but he did not believe he “was ever smart enough for a medical career”, saying “when they were handing out our A-Level certificates, my headmaster said to me, ‘I hope it works out with football, otherwise it’s not looking too good for you'”.
While playing as an amateur footballer, Klopp worked a number of part-time jobs including working at a local video rental store and loading heavy items onto lorries. In 1988, while attending the Goethe University of Frankfurt, as well as playing for Eintracht Frankfurt non-professionals, Klopp managed the Frankfurt D-Juniors. In the summer of 1990, Klopp was signed by Mainz 05. He spent most of his professional career in Mainz, from 1990 to 2001, with his attitude and commitment making him a fan-favourite. Originally a striker, Klopp began playing as a defender in 1995. That same year, Klopp obtained a diploma in sports science at the Goethe University of Frankfurt, writing his thesis about walking. He retired as Mainz 05’s record goal scorer, registering 56 goals in total, including 52 league goals
Klopp confessed that as a player he felt more suited to a managerial role, describing himself saying “I had fourth-division feet and a first-division head”. Recalling his trial at Eintracht Frankfurt where he played alongside Andreas Möller, Klopp described how his 19-year-old self thought, “if that’s football, I’m playing a completely different game. He was world-class. I was not even class”. As a player, Klopp closely followed his manager’s methods on the training field as well as making weekly trips to Cologne to study under Erich Rutemöller to obtain his Football Coaching Licence.
Upon his retirement playing for Mainz 05, Klopp was appointed as the club’s manager on 27 February 2001 following the sacking of Eckhard Krautzun. The day after, Klopp took charge of their first match, which saw Mainz 05 secure a 1–0 home win over MSV Duisburg. Klopp went on to win six out of his first seven games in charge, eventually finishing in 14th place, avoiding relegation with one game to spare. In his first full season in charge in 2001–02, Klopp guided Mainz to finish 4th in the league as he implemented his favoured pressing and counter-pressing tactics, narrowly missing promotion. Mainz finished 4th in 2002–03, denied promotion again on the final day on goal difference. After two seasons of disappointment, Klopp led Mainz to a third place finish in the 2003–04 season, securing promotion to the Bundesliga for the first time in the club’s history.
Despite having the smallest budget and the smallest stadium in the league, Mainz finished 11th in their first top-flight season in 2004–05. Klopp’s side finished 11th again in 2005–06 as well as securing qualification for the 2005–06 UEFA Cup, although they were knocked out in the first round by eventual champions Sevilla. At the end of the 2006–07 season, Mainz 05 were relegated, but Klopp chose to remain with the club. However, unable to achieve promotion the next year, Klopp resigned at the end of the 2007–08 season. He finished with a record of 109 wins, 78 draws and 83 losses.
In May 2008, Klopp was approached to become the new manager of Borussia Dortmund. Despite having interest from German champions Bayern Munich, Klopp eventually signed a two-year contract at the club, which had finished in a disappointing 13th place under previous manager Thomas Doll. Klopp’s opening game as manager was on 9 August 2008 in a 3–1 DFB-Pokal victory away to Rot-Weiss Essen. In his first season, Klopp won his first trophy with the club after defeating German champions Bayern Munich to claim the 2008 German Supercup. He led the club to a sixth-place finish in his first season in charge. The next season Klopp secured European football as he led Dortmund to a fifth-place finish, despite having one of the youngest squads in the league.
After losing 2–0 to Bayer Leverkusen on the opening day of the 2010–11 season, Klopp’s Dortmund side won fourteen of their next fifteen matches to secure the top spot in the league for Christmas. They clinched the 2010–11 Bundesliga, their seventh league title, with two games to spare on 30 April 2011, beating 1. FC Nürnberg 2–0 at home. Klopp’s side were the youngest ever side to win the Bundesliga. Klopp and his team successfully defended their title, winning the 2011–12 Bundesliga. Their total of 81 points that season was the greatest total points in Bundesliga history and the 47 points earned in the second half of the season also set a new record. Their 25 league wins equalled Bayern Munich’s record, while their 28-league match unbeaten run was the best ever recorded in a single German top-flight season. Dortmund lost the German Super Cup in 2011 against rivals Schalke 04. On 12 May 2012, Klopp sealed the club’s first ever domestic double, by defeating Bayern Munich 5–2 to win the 2012 DFB-Pokal Final, which he described as being “better than [he] could have imagined”.
Dortmund’s league form during the 2012–13 season was not as impressive as in the previous campaign, with Klopp insisting that his team would focus on the UEFA Champions League to make up for their disappointing run in that competition in the previous season. Klopp’s team were drawn against Manchester City, Real Madrid and Ajax in the competition’s group of death. However, they did not lose a game, topping the group with some impressive performances.Dortmund faced José Mourinho’s Real Madrid again, this time in the semi-finals. After an excellent result against them at home in the first leg, a 4–1 victory, a 2–0 loss meant Dortmund narrowly progressed to the final. On 23 April 2013, it was announced that Dortmund’s crucial playmaker Mario Götze was moving on 1 July 2013 to rivals Bayern Munich after they had triggered Götze’s release clause of €37 million. Klopp admitted his annoyance at the timing of the announcement of Götze’s move, as it was barely 36 hours before Dortmund’s Champions League semi-final with Real Madrid. Klopp later said that Dortmund had no chance of convincing Götze to stay with Dortmund, saying, “He is a Pep Guardiola favourite”. Dortmund lost the final 2–1 to Bayern Munich, with an 89th-minute goal from Arjen Robben. Dortmund finished in second place in the Bundesliga. They also lost the 2012 DFL-Supercup, and were knocked out of the DFB-Pokal in the round of 16.
At the beginning of the 2013–14 season, Klopp extended his contract until June 2018. Klopp received a fine of €10,000 on 17 March 2014 after getting sent off from a Bundesliga match against Borussia Mönchengladbach. The ejection was a result of “verbal attack” on the referee. Deniz Aytekin, who was the referee, stated that Klopp’s behavior was “rude on more than one occasion”. Borussia Dortmund vorstand chairman Hans-Joachim Watzke stated that “I have to support Jürgen Klopp 100 percent in this case” because he saw no reason for a fine and denied that Klopp insulted the fourth official. Dortmund finished the 2013–14 season in second place. On 4 January 2014 it was announced that Klopp’s star striker Robert Lewandowski signed a pre-contract agreement to join Bayern Munich at the end of the season, becoming the second key player after Götze to leave the club within a year. Also during the 2013–14 season, Dortmund won the German Super Cup, but were knocked out of the Champions League in the quarter-finals by eventual champions Real Madrid.
Dortmund started the 2014–15 season by winning the German Super Cup. After a disappointing beginning of the season, Klopp announced in April that he would leave Borussia Dortmund at the end of the 2014–15 season, saying “I really think the decision is the right one. This club deserves to be coached from the 100% right manager” as well as adding “I chose this time to announce it because in the last few years some player decisions were made late and there was no time to react”, referring to the departures of Götze and Lewandowski in the seasons prior. He denied speculation that he was tired of the role, saying, “It’s not that I’m tired, I’ve not had contact with another club but don’t plan to take a sabbatical”. Confronted with the thesis that Dortmund’s form immediately improved after the announcement, he joked, “If I’d known, I would have announced it at the beginning of the season”. His final match in charge of the team was the 2015 DFB-Pokal Final, which Dortmund lost 3–1 against VfL Wolfsburg. Dortmund finished in the league in seventh place and were knocked out of Champions League in the round of 16 by Juventus. He finished with a record of 179 wins, 69 draws, and 70 losses.
On 8 October 2015, Klopp agreed a three-year deal to become Liverpool manager, replacing Brendan Rodgers. According to El País, Liverpool co-owner John W. Henry didn’t trust public opinion so he looked for a mathematical method very similar to Moneyball, the approach that Henry used for the Boston Red Sox (in guiding them to three World Series wins) which he also owns via Fenway Sports Group. The mathematical model turned out to be that of Cambridge physicist Ian Graham, which was used to select the manager (Klopp) and players essential for Liverpool to win the UEFA Champions League. In his first press conference, Klopp described his new side saying “it is not a normal club, it is a special club. I had two very special clubs with Mainz and Dortmund. It is the perfect next step for me to be here and try and help” and stating his intention to deliver trophies within four years. During his first conference, Klopp dubbed himself ‘The Normal One’ in a parody of José Mourinho’s famous ‘The Special One’ statement in 2004. His debut was a 0–0 away draw with Tottenham Hotspur on 17 October 2015. On 28 October 2015, Klopp secured his first win as Liverpool manager against Bournemouth in the League Cup to proceed to the quarter-finals. His first Premier League win came three days later, a 3–1 away victory against Chelsea. After three 1–1 draws in the opening matches of the UEFA Europa League, Liverpool defeated Rubin Kazan 1–0 in Klopp’s first win in Europe as a Liverpool manager. On 6 February 2016, he missed a league match to have an appendectomy after suffering suspected appendicitis.
On 28 February 2016, Liverpool lost the 2016 League Cup Final at Wembley to Manchester City on penalties. On 17 March 2016, Klopp’s Liverpool progressed to the quarter-final of the UEFA Europa League by defeating Manchester United 3–1 on aggregate. On 14 April 2016, Liverpool fought back from a 3–1 second half deficit in the second leg of their quarter-final match against his former club, Borussia Dortmund, to win 4–3, advancing to the semi-finals 5–4 on aggregate. On 5 May 2016, Klopp guided Liverpool to their first European final since 2007 by beating Villarreal 3–1 on aggregate in the semi-finals of the UEFA Europa League. In the final, Liverpool faced Sevilla, losing 1–3 with Daniel Sturridge scoring the opening goal for Liverpool in the first half. Liverpool finished the 2015–16 season in eighth place.
On 8 July 2016, Klopp and his coaching staff signed six-year extensions to their deals keeping them at Liverpool until 2022. Liverpool qualified for the Champions League for the first time since 2014–15 on 21 May 2017, after winning 3–0 at home against Middlesbrough and placing fourth in the 2016–17 Premier League season. Klopp guided Liverpool to their first UEFA Champions League Final since 2007 in 2018 after a 5–1 aggregate quarter-final win against the eventual Premier League champions, Manchester City and 7–6 aggregate win over Roma in the semi-final. However, Liverpool went on to lose in the final 3–1 to Real Madrid. This was Klopp’s sixth defeat in seven major finals. Despite their attacking prowess, Klopp’s side had been criticised for their relatively high number of goals conceded, something which Klopp sought to improve by signing defender Virgil van Dijk in the January transfer window, for a reported fee of £75 million, a world record transfer fee for a defender. Klopp’s side finished fourth in the 2017–18 Premier League, securing qualification for the Champions League for a second consecutive season. Along with the emergence of Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold as regular starters at fullback, Van Dijk and Dejan Lovren built a strong partnership at the heart of Liverpool’s defence, with the Dutchman being credited for improving Liverpool’s previous defensive issues.
In the summer transfer window, Klopp made a number of high profile signings including midfielders Naby Keïta and Fabinho, forward Xherdan Shaqiri and goalkeeper Alisson Becker. Liverpool started the 2018–19 season with their best league start in the club’s 126 year history, winning all of their first six matches. On 2 December 2018, Klopp was charged with misconduct after running onto the pitch during the Merseyside Derby to celebrate Divock Origi’s 96th minute winning goal with goalkeeper Alisson Becker. Following a 2–0 win against Wolverhampton Wanderers (Wolves), Liverpool ended Christmas Day four points clear at the top of the Premier League. A 4–0 win against Newcastle United on Boxing Day saw Klopp’s side extend their lead in the league to six points at the half-way point of the season, as well as becoming only the fourth Premier League team to be unbeaten at this stage. It was Klopp’s 100th win as Liverpool manager in 181 matches. Klopp’s defensive additions proved to be effective as his side equalled the all-time record for the fewest goals conceded at this stage of a top-flight season, conceding just 7 goals and keeping 12 clean sheets in 19 matches.
On 29 December 2018, Klopp’s side thrashed Arsenal 5–1 at Anfield, extending their unbeaten home run in the league to 31 matches, their joint-longest ever unbeaten home run in the competition. The result also saw them move nine points clear at the top of the league, and meant Liverpool won all 8 out of their 8 matches played in December. Klopp subsequently received the Premier League Manager of the Month award for December 2018. Klopp’s side finished the season as runners-up to Manchester City, to whom they suffered their only league defeat of the season. Winning all of their last nine matches, Klopp’s Liverpool scored 97 points, the third-highest total in the history of the English top-division and the most points scored by a team without winning the title, and remained unbeaten at home for the second season running. Their thirty league wins matched the club record for wins in a season. Success eluded Klopp’s Liverpool side in both domestic club competitions in 2018–19. On 26 September 2018, Klopp’s side were knocked out in the third round of the League Cup after losing 2–1 to Chelsea, their first defeat of the season in all competitions. Liverpool were knocked out of the FA Cup after losing 2–1 to Wolves in the third round.
In the 2018–19 UEFA Champions League, Klopp’s side finished second in their group by virtue of goals scored to qualify for the knockout phase after winning 1–0 against Napoli. Klopp’s side were matched against German champions Bayern Munich in the round of 16. A scoreless draw in the first leg, followed by 3–1 victory in the second leg at the Allianz Arena saw Liverpool qualify for the quarter-finals. Liverpool won their quarter-final tie against Porto with an aggregate score of 6–1, winning 2–0 in the first leg at home and 4–1 away at the Estádio do Dragão. In the semi-finals, Klopp’s Liverpool faced tournament favourites Barcelona. After suffering a 3–0 defeat at the Nou Camp, Klopp reportedly asked his players to “just try” or “fail in the most beautiful way” in the second leg of the tie at Anfield. In the second leg, Klopp’s side overturned the deficit with a 4–0 win, advancing to the final 4–3 on aggregate, despite Salah and Firmino being absent with injuries, in what was described as one of the greatest comebacks in Champions League history. In the final at Wanda Metropolitano stadium in Madrid against Tottenham Liverpool won 2–0 with goals from Mohamed Salah and Origi, giving Klopp his first trophy with Liverpool and also his first Champions League title which was the club’s sixth overall.
Road to UEFA Champions League Final 2019 in Madrid
Liverpool Squad 2018-2019 Season
English Premier League Table 2018-2019 Season
Klopp is a notable proponent of Gegenpressing, a tactic in which the team, after losing possession of the ball, immediately attempts to win back possession, rather than falling back to regroup. Klopp has stated that a well-executed counter-pressing system can be more effective than any playmaker when it comes to creating chances. Commenting on his pressing tactics, Klopp said that “The best moment to win the ball is immediately after your team just lost it. The opponent is still looking for orientation where to pass the ball. He will have taken his eyes off the game to make his tackle or interception and he will have expended energy. Both make him vulnerable”. The tactic requires great amounts of speed, organisation and stamina, with the idea of regaining possession of the ball as far up the pitch as possible in order to counter possible counter-attacks. It also requires high levels of discipline: The team must be compact to close down spaces for the opponent to thread passes through, and must learn when to stop pressing to avoid exhaustion and protect from long balls passed into the space behind the pressing defence. Despite Klopp’s pressing tactics resulting in a high attacking output, his Liverpool side were criticised at times for their inability to control games and keep clean sheets. However, Klopp developed his tactics to incorporate more possession based football and more midfield organisation, as well as overseeing the transfers of Alisson, Van Dijk, Keïta and Fabinho ahead of the 2018–19 season which saw Liverpool achieve their best league start in the club’s history, and equal the all-time record for the fewest goals conceded at the mid-point of a top-flight season, conceding just 7 goals and keeping 12 clean sheets.
One of Klopp’s main influences is Italian coach Arrigo Sacchi, whose ideas about the closing down of space in defence and the use of zones and reference points inspired the basis of Klopp’s counter-pressing tactics, as well Wolfgang Frank, his former coach during his time as a player for Mainz from 1995–97 and then 1998–2000. Klopp himself said “I’ve never met Sacchi, but I learned everything I am as a coach from him and my former coach [Frank], who took it from Sacchi”.
The importance of emotion is something Klopp has underlined throughout his managerial career, saying “Tactical things are so important, you cannot win without tactical things, but the emotion makes the difference”. He believes that the players should embrace their emotions, describing how “[football is] the only sport where emotion has this big of an influence”. Ahead of the Merseyside Derby in 2016, Klopp said “The best football is always about expression of emotion”.
“If you win the ball back high up the pitch and you are close to the goal, it is only one pass away a really good opportunity most of the time. No playmaker in the world can be as good as a good counter-pressing situation.”
—Klopp explaining his belief in the effectiveness of Gegenpressing in creating chances.
In his first two full seasons at Liverpool, Klopp almost exclusively employed a 4–3–3 formation, utilising a front three of wingers Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané surrounding false-9 Roberto Firmino, supported by Philippe Coutinho in midfield. The foursome earned the moniker of the ‘Fab Four’ as they supplied the majority of the team’s goals over this period of time. Firmino’s exceptionally high number of tackles for a striker under Klopp’s management encapsulates his style of play, demanding a high-press from all his players and having his striker defend from the front. Following Coutinho’s departure in January 2018, the remaining front three increased their attacking output and continued to create chances as Salah won the Premier League Golden Boot in 2018, before sharing the award with his team-mate, Mané, in 2019. In the early part of the 2018–19 season Klopp, at times, utilised the 4–2–3–1 formation, which he had previously used at Dortmund. While this was partially to account for a number of injuries to key players, it also allowed Klopp to accommodate new signing Xherdan Shaqiri, playing Firmino in a more creative role and allowing Salah to play in a more central offensive position. However, for the remainder of the season, the 4–3–3 formation, as with the previous two seasons, became Klopp’s preferred setup as his side finished as runners-up in the Premier League and reached a second-consecutive Champions League final, where Klopp won his first Champions League title as a manager.
Klopp is often credited with pioneering the resurgence of Gegenpressing in modern football, and is regarded by fellow professional managers and players as one of the best managers in the world. In 2016, Guardiola suggested that Klopp could be “the best manager in the world at creating teams who attack”. As well receiving plaudits for his tactics, Klopp is also highly regarded as a motivator, with striker Roberto Firmino saying “He motivates us in a different way every day”, and being praised by Guardiola as a “huge motivator”. Klopp has also received praise for building competitive teams without spending as much as many direct rivals, placing emphasis on sustainability.
Klopp has gained notoriety for his enthusiastic touchline celebrations, although received criticism in 2018 for taking things ‘too far’ when running to on to the pitch to embrace Alisson Becker in celebrating an added time winner in the Merseyside Derby. Pep Guardiola spoke in defence of Klopp, saying “I did it against Southampton. There are a lot of emotions there in those moments”.
“Maybe Klopp is the best manager in the world at creating teams who attack […] I don’t think there is another team in the world attacking in this way with so many players capable of launching moves in an instant. […] When Klopp speaks about his football being heavy metal, I understand completely. It is so aggressive. For the fans it is really good.”
—Pep Guardiola speaking about Klopp, who remains the only manager with a positive head-to-head record against the Spaniard, in 2016.
Klopp has been married twice. He was previously wedded to Sabine and they have a son, Marc (born 1988), who has played for a number of German clubs including FSV Frankfurt under-19s, KSV Klein-Karben, SV Darmstadt 98, Borussia Dortmund II and the Kreisliga side VfL Kemminghausen 1925. On 5 December 2005, Klopp married social worker and children’s writer Ulla Sandrock. They met at a pub during an Oktoberfest celebration that same year. She has a son, Dennis, from a previous marriage. Klopp is a Protestant Christian who has referred to his faith in public, citing the importance of Jesus in his life in a media interview.
In an interview for The Guardian in April 2018, Klopp expressed his opposition to Brexit. Politically, Klopp considers himself left-wing, stating: “I’m on the left, of course. More left than middle. I believe in the welfare state. I’m not privately insured. I would never vote for a party because they promised to lower the top tax rate. My political understanding is this: if I am doing well, I want others to do well, too. If there’s something I will never do in my life it is vote for the right”.
In 2005, Klopp was a regular expert commentator on the German television network ZDF, analysing the Germany national team. He worked as a match analyst during the 2006 World Cup, for which he received the Deutscher Fernsehpreis for “Best Sports Show” in October 2006, as well as Euro 2008. Klopp’s term came to an end after the latter competition and he was succeeded by Oliver Kahn. During the 2010 World Cup, Klopp worked with RTL alongside Günther Jauch, for which Klopp again won the award for the same category. Klopp has also appeared in the documentary films Trainer! (2013) and Und vorne hilft der liebe Gott (2016).
Klopp’s popularity is used in advertisements by, among others, Puma, Opel and the German cooperative banking group Volksbanken-Raiffeisenbanken. According to Horizont, trade magazine for the German advertising industry, and the business weekly Wirtschaftswoche, Klopp’s role as “brand ambassador” for Opel successfully helped the struggling carmaker to increase sales. He is also an ambassador for the German anti-racism campaign “Respekt! Kein Platz für Rassismus” (“Respect! No room for racism”).
a. All appearances in DFB-Pokal.
b. Appearances in Aufstiegsrunde 2. Bundesliga (Promotion play-offs).
c. Appearances in the 2. Bundesliga Süd as the league was split into a ‘North’ and ‘South’ due to the merging of clubs from former East Germany.
As of match played 1 June 2019
As of match played 1 June 2019
2 Bundesliga third-place promotion: 2003–04
- Bundesliga: 2010–11, 2011–12
- DFB-Pokal: 2011–12
- DFL-Supercup: 2013, 2014
- UEFA Champions League runner-up: 2012–13
- UEFA Champions League: 2018–2019; Runner-up: 2017–2018
- Football League Cup runner-up: 2015–2016
- UEFA Europa League runner-up: 2015–2016
- German Football Manager of the Year: 2011, 2012
- Premier League Manager of the Month: September 2016, December 2018, March 2019
- Deutscher Fernsehpreis (German Television Award): 2006, 2010
- Mainzer Medienpreis (Mainz Media Award): 2018