One of the most celebrated soccer clubs in the world, Liverpool FC, has spent the better part of the last three decades wondering when and praying for their return to the top of the English Premier League table. With 18 league titles to their name, they rank second all time behind Manchester United for total Premier League titles, but they haven’t won one in 30 years. They have been mocked and shamed for the failure to return to their historic greatness. They’ve only gotten close a handful of times – until now.
Insert Jurgen Klopp as headman of Liverpool FC. The energetic, witty, risk-taking German came over after a successful stint in the Bundesliga with Borussia Dortmund in 2015. He’s considered one of the best coaching minds in the game, though he’s still yet to win his first major trophy.
He immediately changed Liverpool’s style of play. They went from the classic English approach; hard-nosed and defensive to a modern, attacking, high pressure, transition styled team that requires high levels of fitness and technical prowess. He brought in players like Sadio Mane, Robert Firmino, Mo Salah, Allison Bekker and Virgil Van Dijk, who have transformed the club and he developed youngsters like Andrew Robertson and Trent Alexander Arnold into two of the best two-way fullbacks in the world. All the while, earning the respect of his club, players, fans, and the footballing world. How did he do all of this? Culture.
Klopp is a man of high character. He values family, he values morals, he values equality, and he values relationships. He has instilled those values in the club and it has been recognized across the footballing world. When 750,000 Liverpool fans turned out for the parade celebrating the Champions League triumph last June, Klopp swears he tried to hold eye contact for at least a fraction of a second with each person he saw from his perch atop the team bus. That’s Klopp in a nutshell.
Klopp and U.S. Women’s National Team star, Megan Rapione, share mutual respect and admiration as well as some similar qualities and behaviors. Much like Rapinoe, Klopp has used football’s platform to call for social change. He is an unabashed lefty, and it’s by design that he has managed clubs, Liverpool and Dortmund, whose fan base’s politics largely match his own.
Rapinoe, FIFA Women’s Player of the Year, was quoted saying “I was excited to meet him, so I just went right up and got in there. He’s so warm and genuine. I think everyone would say that about Jürgen Klopp.”
Klopp shares that same level of respect for Rapinoe. “I met Megan for the first time that night and I loved her,” says Klopp. “It’s very important that we have people like her to be a bit chatty about important things. I share 100% her opinion about Donald Trump. That’s easy to do, but you need to have balls to do it in public, in these moments when you win something. Megan and Alex (Alex Morgan), they were brilliant company.”
Perhaps the greatest testament to Klopp’s character and charisma is the fact that even in tribal England, where fans tend to turn the most successful opposing coaches into villains, he’s viewed mostly positively. He remains a grinning unifier even as he destroys his foes, even as he wades into the politics of an increasingly polarized world. Klopp broke through the trophy barrier by guiding Liverpool to their 6th Champions League Trophy in 2019, the most prestigious in all of Europe. They did so after beating Barcelona 4-0 in the second leg of the semi final. What seemed like an impossible task, became a reality on that special night at Anfield. It was the culmination of all the cultural work he had done with his organization.
Now Liverpool sits on top of the table of the English Premier League, having won 20 of their first 21 games. Their only blemish was a 1-1 draw at Manchester United earlier in the year. This weekend they meet them again, this time back at home. It has been the greatest start to a Premier League season in history and while it will undoubtedly end with their first Premier League Title in 30 years, it may also end as the greatest season ever seen in the league’s rich history. Klopp has become one of the greatest leaders in all of sports and he’s done it with a bright smile across his face, something our world needs more of.