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The Debate
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The Debate: Who's done the better job out of Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola?

The recent news that Jurgen Klopp will be leaving Liverpool at the end of the season rocked the football world.

The man who not only guided Liverpool to three Champions League finals – and a win in 2019 – but won a first league title in 30 years would be leaving Anfield.

Klopp’s time in England has coincided with Pep Guardiola’s, as the Manchester City manager has overseen a period of dominance the Premier League hasn’t witnessed since Sir Alex Ferguson’s days.

Indeed, in the last six seasons, only Klopp’s Liverpool have stopped Guardiola’s City from winning the title.

So with Klopp bringing his time at Liverpool to an end, we’re asking: pound-for-pound, who has done the better job in the Premier League out of Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola?

All things considered, Jurgen Klopp has done a better job than Pep Guardiola.

Undeniably, Pep Guardiola has had more success than Klopp, but aside from his 100-point season and the 2023 treble win (both magnificent achievements), how many times can we say Guardiola has really overachieved at Manchester City? By contrast, barring the two severely injury-hit campaigns, Jurgen Klopp has constantly punched above his weight at Liverpool.

Compare and contrast the XIs from their first Premier League games:

Manchester City: Caballero, Sagna, Stones, Kolarov, Clichy, Fernandinho, D Silva, Sterling, De Bruyne, Nolito, Aguero.

Liverpool: Mignolet, Clyne, Skrtel, Sakho, Moreno, Lucas, Can, Milner, Lallana, Coutinho, Origi. 

Guardiola’s transfers that first summer included Ilkay Gundogan, Leroy Sane, John Stones and Claudio Bravo, with Gabriel Jesus signed in the winter. It was around £170m of spending – funds Klopp could have only dreamt of having at his disposal.

Despite the players available, Guardiola’s City laboured to third place in his first season.

The following season, City wiped the floor with everyone, reaching 100 points, but again, Guardiola was able to spend another £250m on signings including Bernardo Silva, Ederson, Kyle Walker and Aymeric Laporte to do so.

Compare with Klopp’s early transfers. Liverpool made around £67m of signings in the first summer transfer window, and that was financed by around £75m of outgoings. Sadio Mane and Georginio Wijnaldum were the marquee signings, but they arrived alongside Joel Matip, Loris Karius, Ragnar Klavan and Alex Manninger for a combined £4.7m. The two managers were shopping in totally different markets.

Klopp’s first full season combined with Guardiola’s and despite the obvious gulf in talent, Liverpool finished just two points behind City.

Klopp’s next season saw the arrivals of Mohamed Salah, Andy Robertson, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Virgil van Dijk, and while the Reds did spend big to bring those players in, they were financed by selling assets including Philippe Coutinho for more than £100m.

It sums up the two managers’ time at their respective clubs. Liverpool simply haven’t had the backing to properly compete with City, yet they’ve done so consistently, and Klopp is the primary reason for that. 

Indeed, in three out of four seasons, Liverpool amassed 97, 99 and 92 points, yet only had one title to show for it. Klopp simply couldn’t have extracted any more than he did out of those Liverpool players and even if they only produced one title, they were hugely successful seasons. 

It’s also worth remembering that between the 2018/19 and 2019/20 seasons, Klopp took 106 points out of a possible 108, winning 35 and drawing one of 36 games. It’s simply unfathomable to be so good for so long and is a run even Guardiola couldn’t achieve.

Across the eight-and-a-half seasons Klopp’s been at Anfield, Liverpool’s net spend has been around £30m a season. Across that same period, Manchester City’s has been nearly treble that. 

The ability to outspend your rivals by three times every season is a luxury Klopp hasn’t been afforded, yet he’s the man who’s almost single-handedly stopped the Premier League from turning into the Bundesliga.

Even in Europe, there’s no argument who’s performed better. In Guardiola’s first six seasons, his Champions League record read L16-QF-QF-QF-RU-SF. For a team of Manchester City’s resource, that’s six years of failure, with the overdue success coinciding with the arrival of the world’s best centre forward.

In Klopp’s first six seasons in the Champions League, Liverpool’s record reads: RU-W-L16-QF-RU-L16. For a team of Liverpool’s resource, that’s at least three years of considerable overachievement. 

One of those finals was achieved despite not having a regular number one, with Loris Karius and Simon Mignolet sharing the gloves, and in the most recent final, Real Madrid’s keeper Thibaut Courtois was named Man of the Match as Real recorded something of a smash-and-grab win.

It's also worth remembering just how close Liverpool were that season to an unprecedented quadruple. After winning the EFL and FA Cups, the Reds were seemingly 15 minutes away from the title, and looked well placed to win the Champions League until Vinicius’s winner on the hour mark.

The 2020/21 season is remembered as a miserable title defence, but it’s often forgotten that Liverpool were top of the league at Christmas before absolutely everyone got injured. By the start of February, Klopp was naming Jordan Henderson and Nat Philipps in defence with Caoimhin Kelleher in goal.

As the members of Liverpool’s most successful teams got older and moved on, they weren’t adequately replaced. Whenever Guardiola’s stars have been moved on, they’ve always been replaced with expensive signings. The recent additions of Matheus Nunes, Mateo Kovacic and Kalvin Phillips cost around £125m yet none will ever be more than bit-part players.

Considering what both men have had at their disposal, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that Klopp has done a better job than his opposite number. 

Since joining Man City in 2016, Pep Guardiola has completely dominated English football.

Only in two of Guardiola’s seven seasons in England has a team other than City and a manager other than the Catalan claimed the Premier League title.

Guardiola has won a staggering 14 trophies in seven years at the Etihad – an average of two a season – including seven league titles, two FA Cups, four EFL Cups and an elusive Champions League crown.

No manager in the country can come close to this trophy haul over this period, with City becoming the undisputed juggernaut of English football under Guardiola’s stewardship.

The Barcelona legend’s win percentage of 73% is the best in Premier League history by a distance, exceeding Sir Alex in second at 65% and Jurgen Klopp in third at 63% by a considerable margin.

Inheriting a City side which only secured Champions League qualification on goal difference the year before in 2015/16, it took just one transitional trophyless season for Guardiola to cultivate a winning machine which has yet to be derailed ever since.

The Catalan’s second term in charge saw his swashbuckling City team achieve an unprecedented feat by winning the Premier League title with 100 points – the highest total in the history of the English top flight.

City’s Centurions notched a record 106 goals in the 2017/18 campaign to distinguish themselves as one of the finest teams assembled in Premier League history.

The same squad, expertly led by Guardiola, would go on to become the first team in English history to win the domestic Treble of the Premier League, FA Cup and EFL Cup the following year.

This would be the first of two Trebles overseen by the Catalan master, with City replicating rivals Manchester United’s class of 1998/1999 by winning the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League in 2022/23.

Between Guardiola’s first Premier League title win with the Centurions in 2017/18 to the Treble-winning campaign of 22/23 five years later, City would average a remarkable 91 points. 

To contextualise just how impressively consistent this run is, this average points tally of 91 would be enough to beat 12 of Sir Alex Ferguson’s 13 Premier League-winning Manchester United sides to the title, with United having only bettered this amount in the 1993/94 season.

Pep’s ability to rebuild City’s squad over this period is also admirable, with only four Centurions to have made over five Premier League appearances in 2017/18 part of the Treble-winning side five years later – Ederson, Kyle Walker, John Stones and Kevin De Bruyne.

Guardiola’s detractors will jump on the fact City have invested heavily to assemble a team of world beaters, despite the club posting a lower net spend than Premier League counterparts Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal between 2014 and 2023.

The assumption that the former Bayern Munich manager has been able to cherry-pick a group of ready-made world class players to work with at the Etihad is also misguided if you acknowledge that aside from the capture of Erling Haaland in 2022, very few of his signings for City could be considered as established stars at the top level.

Take some of City’s most impactful signings in recent seasons – including Ederson, Ruben Dias, Rodri and Bernardo Silva – these were all players which arrived in England as largely unknown quantities before being moulded into world stars by Guardiola on the training pitch.

Of course City have spent big money on transfers under Guardiola, but so have all the other behemoths of the Premier League.

The difference is that more often than not City spend wisely, and as manager Guardiola deserves credit for the club’s successful recruitment. 

Not only has the City manager cemented the club’s reputation as a powerhouse of English football around the world, but he has also prompted a revolution in how the game is played up and down the country.

Under eight years since arriving at the Etihad, Guardiola’s ideals of dominating possession and intense pressing can be identified at all levels of the English football pyramid.

Put simply, Guardiola is the manager that every coach in England aspires to be.

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