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Liverpool have already been sent Jurgen Klopp exit warning by Dortmund and FSG must listen

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Liverpool: Klopp insits squad still have hunger

“We did not try to change his mind anymore. But that was maybe a mistake. Perhaps it would have been better if we had changed the entire team – not the coach. Because I knew that, we would never get back such a coach.” The words of Borussia Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke in his 2019 biography, True love: a life with BVB, discussing Jurgen Klopp’s exit.
Klopp called quits on a seven-year spell with Dortmund in the summer of 2015, having delivered two Bundesliga titles, a DFB Pokal and two Supercups as well as taking the club to a first Champions League final since 1997, only the second in the club’s history. Their familiar conquerors Bayern Munich downed them at Wembley.

The manager’s last season saw Dortmund enter the winter break in the relegation zone before a Lazarus-like recovery in the second half of the season saw them qualify for the Europa League and at least send Klopp out on a high, even though the campaign overall was a disappointing one.

Just like when he arrived at Liverpool, Dortmund were on their knees when Klopp took over, even more so in fact. He transformed them in the same style he did the Merseyside club and overcame the might of Bayern – twice. Despite working with limited resources. That, simply, is what he does.

Since Klopp left, Dortmund have won one trophy, the DFB Pokal under now Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel in 2017. Their best league season saw them finish two points behind Bayern Munich in 2018-19.

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In the other five years since the German left though, they’ve ended 10 points, 18 points, 29 points and 13 points off of Bayern, who can win a ninth straight league title this season. The gap between Bayern and Dortmund down in sixth right now stands at 16 points with 10 games to go. Marco Rose will take over next year, becoming the sixth man at the helm since Klopp left six years ago.

Liverpool have already been sent Jurgen Klopp exit warning by Dortmund and FSG must listen

Liverpool have already been sent Jurgen Klopp exit warning by Dortmund and FSG must listen (Image: GETTY)

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Liverpool have already been sent Jurgen Klopp exit warning by Dortmund and FSG must listen

Liverpool have already been sent Jurgen Klopp exit warning by Dortmund and FSG must listen (Image: GETTY)

Dortmund didn’t sack Klopp, he walked away himself. But might he have stayed if the hierarchy had promised to build him a new-look team that could challenge for major honours? Possibly. We’ll never truly know – but clearly Watzke and the higher powers at the Signal Iduna Park feel in hindsight that there was another chapter to be written.

With Klopp now in his sixth season (his fifth full season) with Liverpool, the club are in the midst of a full-blown crisis. No doubt about it. It is their worst sustained spell of results for a decade. Comparisons have naturally been drawn with his last year at Dortmund.

“I had a situation at Dortmund after a very successful spell and then it’s not that easy,” Klopp said last week. “But it’s not even close, the situation. At Dortmund, it was not even half as bad, from an injury point of view, as it is here now.”

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This is unquestionably the nadir of Klopp’s managerial spell at Liverpool, coming so soon after the overwhelming highs of a Champions League triumph and a Premier League in back-to-back seasons. They won 196 of an available 228 points in the league over those two campaigns and the latter was the first in which they ended as champions for 30 years. This year they’ve collected 43 from an available 84 and are staring at a finish outside the top six, maybe even outside the top eight.

Liverpool have just suffered a sixth-straight Anfield defeat for the first time in their entire 129-year history. The latest was as predictable as it was meek, Fulham playing well but never really being properly tested bar one or two moments.

The Reds, all of a sudden, have become the easiest team to play against in the Premier League. Especially at Anfield, which would have been a farcical claim to make as recently as mid-January.

Between 30 January 2019 and 16 December 2020, Liverpool won 33 of 34 Anfield league matches – drawing to Burnley in the other – and enjoyed a run of 24 straight victories. They’ve now not won in eight straight league games at home, scoring only one open play goal in that time and losing 1-0 four times.

Liverpool have already been sent Jurgen Klopp exit warning by Dortmund and FSG must listen

Liverpool have already been sent Jurgen Klopp exit warning by Dortmund and FSG must listen (Image: GETTY)

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The drop-off has been staggering. In their 14 games since beating Crystal Palace 7-0 away from home in December they have picked up 12 points from an available 42. By contrast from the first 14 games of this term, they amassed 31 points, winning nine, drawing four and losing one.

It is the perfect storm of problems, with injuries at the very heart of it. Liverpool have been crippled by fitness woes and the structure of the side has been hurt. Players have had to play too many minutes and be relied too heavily upon. Gini Wijnaldum and Andy Robertson are two of them and both look blown out.

Yet injuries can no longer be the sole excuse, for that would allow some of the players to be excused from blame. They cannot. For as much as it has been an incredibly taxing season, for a team who have exerted incredible energy the past few years both physical and emotional, they are simply so much better than this. They were in December, when they were top.

Confidence has now clearly gone too and the body language has changed dramatically. There is no simple solution to all these issues. Mixing up the team didn’t work against Fulham, despite the underperforming Trent Alexander-Arnold and Sadio Mane dropping to the bench with Roberto Firmino, equally as poor this term, also out due to a minor injury. Would a change of formation help? Possibly. Will it happen? Probably not.

Whether the Champions League can provide some respite remains to be seen – most likely not, given the calibre of quarter-final opponents they could come up against if they even manage to get past RB Leipzig. It is completely feasible they will squander their two-goal lead to the Bundesliga title hopefuls in the second leg of their last 16 tie on current form.

There are also more league defeats still to come for Liverpool and with them will come more pressure and more outside questions of just how many losses can be withstood before Klopp’s long-term future is called into question.

This Liverpool team simply needs to drag itself through until the end of the season and recollect ahead of 2021-22. It would be helpful if it could restore some pride at Anfield before then. 

The probability of FSG cutting ties with the 53-year-old coach, even if Liverpool lose another five games of their last 10, is almost zero. So it should be. There is no manager in world football with whom Liverpool could replace Klopp who would be an upgrade on the German, provided he’s hungry to do the job. And make no mistake he is.

Liverpool: Klopp outlines what needs to change

Liverpool have already been sent Jurgen Klopp exit warning by Dortmund and FSG must listenLiverpool have already been sent Jurgen Klopp exit warning b

Liverpool have already been sent Jurgen Klopp exit warning by Dortmund and FSG must listen (Image: GETTY)

It is not simply that this squad needs to hear a fresh voice, similar to how Chelsea have improved under Thomas Tuchel since Frank Lampard was sacked in January. The same could be said when Antonio Conte came in after Jose Mourinho’s exit.

Waiting for players to return from injury will not solve all of Liverpool’s problems, especially the psychological scars that will stem from such a losing streak. It is very easy to get into the habit of losing – and very hard to get out of it. Instead, the squad needs improving and refreshening in several areas.

The club’s Boston-based owners need to ensure that Klopp is adequately backed. Right now, Liverpool need at the very least a new centre-back – Joel Matip is constantly injured and Ozan Kabak doesn’t appear the long-term solution – a new midfielder to replace Gini Wijnaldum and a new forward to rival the likes of Firmino and Mane.

Those all need to be top-level players capable of starting regularly, they have to be Diogo Jota-level additions. Then they need to strengthen the depth of their squad too. Divock Origi and Xherdan Shaqiri will need to be replaced with better options, for starters. Is Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain offering enough? There are plenty of questions and a lot of work needs to be done.

Reshaping a squad and knowing when players have gone past their peak, a job Sir Alex Ferguson was masterful at with Manchester United, is not something Klopp is familiar with. But he is the right manager to oversee the rebuild. He’s built one great team at Anfield but they are now physically and mentally drained – you can see it in their faces. The squad needs a facelift because this is no longer a blip. And those returning from injury will not be enough to totally transform the team back into what it was 12 months ago.

With the Champions League cash gone, it might be on Liverpool’s owners to find a solution to ensure the squad’s rejuvenation is properly funded so that Klopp does not have to settle for third, fourth or fifth choice targets instead of who he and Michael Edwards really want. The lure of playing for Klopp’s Liverpool should still be there for most players, even if not for all. FSG must ensure he has the finances to bolster the squad as he sees fit, that be through bank loans or by using money out of their own back pocket. 

Liverpool have already been sent Jurgen Klopp exit warning by Dortmund and FSG must listen

Liverpool have already been sent Jurgen Klopp exit warning by Dortmund and FSG must listen (Image: GETTY)

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Manchester City are back at breakneck speed again and Manchester United and Chelsea are among the teams closing the gap in the chasing pack. If the Reds lose Klopp in the next couple of years, it’ll be a long time before they can be the hunted rather than the hunter. 

Not properly backing him would leave them more vulnerable to an approach from Germany. There is a real chance that Die Mannschaft will come calling if Joachim Low leaves post-Euros later this year or after the World Cup in December 2022. There is an increasing amount of noise suggesting Klopp would consider cutting short his Liverpool contract, that runs until 2024, to take up the national team job if he’s offered it.

Would he really leave Liverpool before then? Well it’s no secret that Klopp would liked to have spent more than he has been able to in the past couple of years. His comments in January suggested that FSG told him he could not sign a new centre-half at the start of January.

Klopp said then: “I am not a five-year-old kid any more and if I don’t get what I want I start crying.” But it’s clear he needs to be backed if he is to build a new team.

Liverpool then signed Kabak on loan and Ben Davies, yet to even play a single minute, for nominal fees. They are stopgaps at best. Taking the same approach into the summer will put far too much pressure on the players returning to catapult them back into contention for major honours. Asking Jordan Henderson and Virgil van Dijk to have that impact alone will result in disappointment. This squad have already been asked too much of both physically and mentally.

The best thing to ever happen to FSG was and is Klopp – without him, none of their success as Liverpool’s owners would have been possible. Perhaps no other manager in the world would be able to build what he has on Liverpool’s finances. It’s not a shoestring budget, but his net spend since his arrival is just £103m. Pep Guardiola’s at Manchester City is £400m more, and the options the Catalan can call upon off the substitutes’ bench are significantly superior to that of Klopp’s. 

Whether he can do it again is uncertain but FSG must ensure Klopp’s kept happy and convinced that the club match his ambition because if they want more major titles before their ownership ends – he is the man to deliver them. If he leaves, Liverpool will surely be left to regret it. Dortmund were.

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Liverpool have already been sent Jurgen Klopp exit warning by Dortmund and FSG must listen
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