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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Jurgen Klopp reveals exactly how Liverpool are set up for success once he’s gone

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Jurgen Klopp was standing in part of his legacy as his thoughts turned to another aspect of it. Now, the off-field decisions are being taken by others. “I just try to provide the basis for the future,” he said. Liverpool’s deluxe training ground is part of it. So is the team that he has reshaped in the last couple of years. There is an added element of uncertainty with his imminent departure, the possibility that his side will be broken up. But Klopp is confident that Liverpool 2.0 will not die, that the project will continue without its architect.

“The basis we created is really good and that was the job, I thought,” he said. “Liverpool 2.0 does not end with me. It’s just the new Liverpool. It’s just the start. They can make the next steps.” This season has been a leap forward. Qualification for the Champions League had long looked a formality but became a mathematical certainty on Thursday. “It is an achievement,” Klopp said. “Does it feel for everyone like that? Maybe not.”

It is another part of his bequest to Arne Slot. Recency bias can colour perceptions of the group of players the Dutchman will inherit. Liverpool’s recent struggles, the end of their title challenge, the failure of their forwards to take chances in the last few games and the touchline altercation between Klopp and Mohamed Salah at West Ham have all contributed to a school of thought that a revamp is required.

The German would disagree. What does he leave behind? “A fantastic squad,” he said. “Four weeks ago it was all fine and we just had too many injuries.” A season that threatened to bring a quadruple, that overflowed with goals and comebacks and reasons for optimism, is petering out but does not render everything that went before irrelevant. Nor, Klopp thinks, will they be ignored in any appraisal. He argued expensive arrivals will not always be required.

“The people who [come into] this club will be calm enough,” he said. “They will all look at the information about the squad we have during the season. Age group is great, what’s coming up from the academy, positions, can you improve from outside? You always can [improve] but the basis is absolutely great. Look at the age of the midfield, really top. Stefan Bajcetic is back, that’s really cool. Centre-half, if you have to buy him, you have to go really deep into the pocket. Stefan, if you want to have a player like that, it’s really expensive. Up front, Dannsy [Jayden Danns], [Lewis] Koumas… [in midfield] Bobby Clark, James McConnell, they all did really well. Some will be here, some will go on loan, some will be sold. That’s all part of the thing.”

Stefan Bajcetic’s emergence has been a boon for Liverpool (PA Wire)

Klopp arrowed in on the academy, and its capacity to both produce players and make money, but there are other facets. In Jarell Quansah, the centre-back who may have saved Liverpool millions, and Conor Bradley, he has added two talents to the banks of the first-team contenders now.

His summer midfield makeover amounted to a mass rebuilding job and brought in three players in their early twenties, plus an energetic older figure, in Wataru Endo. Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai, in particular, ooze class. The overhaul in attack came earlier. One of the enduring questions surrounds Darwin Nunez, whether he is clinical enough and whether Slot would build around the Uruguayan or look to replace him, but there has been an unselfishness to much of Klopp’s work.

The age profile of Liverpool’s squad is excellent. There is strength in depth and plenty of players who have improved under his tutelage. There is also work to do, with the contracts of Trent Alexander-Arnold, Virgil van Dijk and Salah expiring in 2025. Liverpool expect Salah to stay; “I don’t have any signs it will not be like that,” Klopp said. The top scorer and the captain came to the club during the returning Michael Edwards’s first spell, as did Alisson Becker and Andy Robertson. Much of Klopp’s rebuilding came in the interregnum before the recruitment guru’s return: last summer’s four midfield arrivals were not his, nor the forwards Luis Diaz, Cody Gakpo and Nunez. Perhaps he may want a different profile of player.

Klopp has given his thoughts on the squad to Edwards, Fenway Sports Group’s new CEO of football. He is willing to do likewise to Slot. “When new people come in, if they want to know something they can call me – the whole world has my number,” he said. “We can speak about absolutely everything, I love talking about everything in this club.”

Arne Slot will replace Klopp and try to continue Liverpool 2.0 (Richard Sellers/PA Wire)

The sense is that he has loved Liverpool 2.0, too. Now it will be someone else’s team. Klopp hopes the talk will not apply too much pressure.

“It’s all a question of perspective, what you put on them next year, if you say, ‘Last year was third, now you have to become champions’,” he said. “We had the time when we started. Do they have to wait four or five years? But if you give them time again, there’s a chance. We will see that. Who wins that battle, the patient ones or the other ones who waited long enough? There’s a really bright future, I’m sure.”

If, in different ways, Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger did not leave sides on the up or teams that won major silverware under their successors, maybe Klopp will. But it will be Liverpool 2.0 under a second manager.

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