Liverpool Football Club is spectacularly unlikely ever to sack Jurgen Klopp. The German manager is one of the most popular managers the club has had since the days of Dalglish (his first stint as manager – definitely not his second) and has brought a Champions League trophy and, more importantly, a Premier League trophy to Anfield. It’s a shame for the club that its first title victory in thirty years happened in 2020 – the season there were no fans in attendance to see it happen – but the long wait for league glory was ended by Klopp nonetheless. The club owes the likeable Klopp a great deal.
Why, then, are we debating whether or not this is the right time for Klopp to say his goodbyes and make way for a new manager? At the risk of sounding cliched, all good things come to an end. Klopp might have brought great success to Liverpool, but there are signs that his tenure has already peaked and is now declining. Let’s look at them.
A season to forget
As we type these words, it’s still mathematically possible for Liverpool to qualify for next season’s UEFA Champions League by finishing fourth or even third in the Premier League. Doing so would be an overachievement after what’s been a disastrous season for the club. The Reds will end the campaign without a trophy and were never truly in contention for one. Manchester City will be the champions of England again, and Arsenal will finish second. Liverpool are twenty points behind either of them and need to rely on either Manchester United or Newcastle United dropping points if they’re to secure a top-four finish.
Is there any truth to the accusation? Perhaps. James Milner has now been moved on to Brighton, but his services were called upon far too often prior to that point for a 37-year-old whose pace has long deserted him. Jordan Henderson, the club captain, is also showing signs of age. Trent Alexander Arnold is still played at right-back despite never showing any sign of being a competent right-back. He’s a right winger or right midfielder, and it seems everybody in the world can see that other than Jurgen Klopp. Meanwhile, Virgil van Dyke has never been the same player since being injured by Everton’s Jordan Pickford a couple of years ago and might never be again.
A poor season isn’t the only reason why Klopp might decide that now is the right time to step away from the glare of the Anfield spotlight; there’s also the behind-the-scenes turmoil of the club’s ownership to consider. It’s an open secret that Klopp has grown increasingly frustrated by Liverpool’s budgetary limitations compared to the likes of Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea and even Newcastle. At one point earlier this season, it looked likely that Liverpool would move for England star Jude Bellingham this summer. Bellingham is currently at Borussia Dortmund, and German clubs generally don’t overcharge for players when it comes to transfer fees. That move will not be happening. Bellingham is likely to end up at Real Madrid, assuming Manchester City don’t swoop in and hijack the deal.
Liverpool makes as much money as any other Premier League club thanks to TV money, competing in the Champions League and being a merchandising powerhouse. However, the Anfield club never spends as much as its rivals. This used to be a point of pride among the club’s supporters, but it’s become a hindrance. The expected transfer fee for Bellingham is £100m. There’s no reason why Liverpool can’t afford to pay a fee like that – the club simply refuses to do it, and so the club misses out on the best players.
For most of the season, it seemed like this problem might solve itself. The club’s ultimate owners, FSG, have long been unpopular with fans and hinted at the end of 2022 that they might be willing to sell. However, much like the sale of rivals Manchester United, it’s turned into a protracted matter and may not happen at all. Ideally, Liverpool needs the ownership position to be sorted before the end of the season so the club can head into the transfer market with a clear idea of budget and structure. That doesn’t look likely to happen, so it’s likely to be a summer of frustration for the German. That might turn out to be one frustration too many.
Jurgen Klopp loves Liverpool, but he’s not from Liverpool. He didn’t grow up supporting the club. There’s no reason to believe that he intends to spend the rest of his managerial career at Anfield, and he’s already been there for a very long time – it was 2015 when he accepted the job. He’s fifty-five years old now and is likely contemplating how long he wants to continue as a football manager. Part and parcel of that contemplation will be the question of whether he wants to manage somewhere else before he calls it a day. That “somewhere else” could be any top club in Europe – they’d all love to have him. Alternatively, he might fancy having a run as the manager of the German national team. That would involve vacating the Liverpool hot seat.
Leaving Liverpool would be a gamble. It’s a club that loves him, and there’s no doubt that the love is returned. Gambling, though, is in the Liverpool DNA. That’s why they’re the only Premier League club to have an official online slots game, which is popular at several casino sister sites UK players frequent. We can’t tell you whether or not Klopp visits any of those online casinos or enjoys a gamble himself, but if he does, he’ll likely know all about the risk-reward ratio. All good gamblers do. There will come a time when staying at Liverpool is a bigger risk than it is a reward, and that time might be sooner than anyone knows.
We’re not saying that it’s likely that Klopp will leave Liverpool this summer, but we also don’t think it’s as unlikely as a lot of Liverpool fans believe it to be. As the old saying goes, it’s better to quit while you’re ahead – and after this season, Klopp may no longer be ahead. A change is as good as a rest – and a change or a rest might be precisely what Klopp needs.