Ahead of Liverpool’s Champions League final with Real Madrid, we caught up with the Liverpool Echo’s James Pearce as well as Mo Stewart and Gareth Roberts from the Anfield Wrap about the impact Jurgen Klopp has had on Merseyside.
After going close in 2009 under Rafael Benitez and then closer still under Brendan Rodgers in 2014, Liverpool fans must have wondered how much longer they’d have to wait to end their league title drought.
And while the arrival of Jurgen Klopp was certainly exciting, few could have predicted that within six full seasons, they’d have won the Premier League, Champions League, FA Cup and EFL Cup.
Liverpool Echo writer James Pearce recalls the feeling in the city following Klopp’s appointment, when supporters felt that they were at the start of a very special journey.
“I’d never seen a managerial appointment create such fervour and excitement. Fans were celebrating like Liverpool had just won a trophy and you thought ‘how does anyone live up to that?’”
The turnaround wasn’t instant, of course. After their near miss in 2014, they lost Luis Suarez, while Daniel Sturridge missed most of the season through injury. It would also be Steven Gerrard’s final campaign at Anfield.
With further regression on the cards the following season, Liverpool parted ways with Rodgers, and shortly after announced the arrival of Klopp, who had an enormous rebuilding job on his hands.
The now-famous (or perhaps infamous) first XI of the Klopp era read Mignolet, Clyne, Skrtel, Sakho, Moreno, Lucas, Can, Milner, Lallana, Coutinho, Origi.
Despite the understandable inconsistency, Klopp still guided Liverpool to the Europa League final, where they were bested by Sevilla.
Klopp’s first summer transfer window saw the arrivals of Joel Matip, Gini Wijnaldum and Sadio Mane, with a whole host of departures, as the rebuilding project began.
The improvement was suddenly becoming much more apparent. In the first half of the season, Liverpool fired 4+ goals past their opponents six times. Their form in the second half of the season was patchier, but they hung on to that all-important fourth spot.
2017/18 marked the arrivals of Mo Salah and Andy Robertson, as the squad began to take shape, but there were still holes in the side that would prevent Liverpool taking that next major step.
The big-money signing of Virgil van Dijk in January would see Liverpool take that next step. They cruised to the Champions League final, where an injury to Salah and a goalkeeping mistake from Loris Karius would see the Reds fall just short.
2018 however, would still prove to be a seminal year on Merseyside. The arrival of Van Dijk, the Champions League final, and the final piece of the puzzle arriving in the summer – a world class goalkeeper in Alisson Becker. Naby Keita and Fabinho would also bolster the midfield, as Liverpool were finally ready for a title charge.
Though they’d come short despite reaching an absurd tally of 97 points – the most, by some distance, of a second-placed team – they’d go one better in the Champions League, beating Tottenham in the final.
But Liverpool, despite having a squad that pales in comparison to that which Klopp has built, managed to win the Champions League in 2005. The league, however, had remained elusive – the Holy Grail.
”Thirty years was just a crazy period of time, and there hadn’t even been many near misses over that period. What Klopp did that season was just remarkable,” said Pearce.
“For all the great memories you give players, the history books will look back on your reign depending on silverware, that’s how you’re ultimately judged.”
Gareth Roberts of The Anfield Wrap said: “Having gone so long without winning the league, all the time I’ve been coming to the match, I kind of thought, if Jurgen Klopp can’t do it, no one can.”
It turns out, he could.
The following season, with Manchester City dropping points left, right and centre, Liverpool were as good as champions by the new year, confirmed following the Covid postponement.
2021/22 would prove to be a meek defence of their title, suffering a litany of injuries, falling well short in all competitions, but they’ve come back with a bang this season, with talk of a quadruple only finally ended with Manchester City’s dramatic title win last Sunday. They ended their domestic trophy drought with the EFL Cup in February, and their 16-year FA Cup drought earlier this month.
Though they came agonisingly short in the league, the hopes of a cup treble remains a very real possibility.