How Jurgen Klopp Took Liverpool From Nowhere To Euro Kings In Four Years
"I am the Normal One," a grinning Jurgen Klopp told a room full of reporters while being unveiled as Liverpool's new manager four years ago.
The charismatic 48-year-old German had just ended his break from football having guided Borussia Dortmund to back-to-back Bundesliga titles and the Champions League final. He walked in at Anfield to take over a Liverpool team that were 10th in the Premier League, labouring in the Europa League and going nowhere fast. Steven Gerrard's stellar Reds career had ended, Luis Suarez was long gone and success seemed a long way off for the Kop faithful.
Klopp said: "Does anyone in this room think I can do wonders? No. I am a normal guy. I come from the Black Forest. My mother is probably sat at home now watching this, not able to understand a word of what I am saying but very proud."
Four years later, and Klopp has Liverpool fans feeling proud again as kings of Europe having won their sixth Champions League last season in Madrid. Here, SPORTbible looks at the key moments in Klopp's Reds revolution from mid-table mediocrity to champions of the continent, and how Vincent Kompany helped them out.
1. Tearing apart Man City 4-1 at the Etihad
Jamie Carragher described Liverpool's front three in this game as 'the Red Arrows'. In Klopp's fifth Premier League game in charge, the Reds were irresistible in ripping Manchester City to shreds.
Roberto Firmino and Philippe Coutinho both scored and gave Man City's defence nightmares and, for the first time under Klopp's reign, there were glimpses of the pressing and "heavy metal football" that the Reds are now renowned for.
2. The West Brom draw celebration
In December 2015, a 96th-minute equaliser from Divock Origi salvaged Liverpool a draw against West Brom at Anfield. Klopp rounded his troops and lined them up in front of the Kop to salute the fans by joining arms and waving them up and down. The Reds have since been ridiculed for the vociferous celebrations, but Klopp's explanation made a lot of sense.
He said: "There was a big misunderstanding against West Brom. I wanted to say thank you to the supporters after that game so I took my team towards the Kop to do it and there was a discussion everywhere about it. I wanted to show that we really we are one unit, 100 per cent one unit. That means I know I am responsible for the performance, but the people are responsible for the atmosphere."
3. Run to the Europa League final
For the first time since the Rafa Benitez days, Anfield felt like a place to be on European nights once again. Liverpool beat fierce rivals Manchester United, came from behind to see off Borussia Dortmund in a thriller, and eased past Villarreal on their run to the final in Switzerland. Klopp's men came up short in a 3-1 loss to Sevilla and missed out on Champions League football the following season, but maybe that served them well.
4. Bringing in Sadio Mane
This is where the revolution really started. At last, Liverpool had someone with pace who could challenge the space in behind defenders and stretch teams. Liverpool forked out £34million for the Senegal star in the summer of 2016 and he's been integral to their success and style of play.
His impact was readily apparent when he went to the Africa Cup of Nations in January 2017. Liverpool didn't win any of their four league games while Mane was away. They were dumped out of the FA Cup by Wolves and lost home and away to Southampton in the EFL Cup semi-finals. Mane returned in devastating fashion with a double to beat Tottenham at Anfield in February and get the Reds back on track. And boy were the Kop faithful happy to see him return.
5. Back in the Champions League
Despite a stutter in the second half of the season, Klopp's men held off Arsenal to clinch fourth place on the final day with a 3-0 win over Middlesbrough. Forget their failure against Sevilla in the Europa League final the year before, Liverpool were back in the Champions League where they belong for the first time in three seasons.
6. Bringing in the Egyptian King
Few expected Mo Salah to make quite the impact he did in his debut season at Anfield. A £35million signing from Roma in summer 2017, Salah came to England with a reputation of a Chelsea flop after his miserable spell at Stamford Bridge. Nobody, not even Liverpool fans, expected the record-breaking numbers he delivered to catapult himself into Ballon d'Or contention.
Salah scored 32 Premier League goals in his first season, the most in a 38-game season. His 44-goal haul in all competitions has only been bettered by Ian Rush (47 in 1983/84) in the club's illustrious history.
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7. Coutinho out, Van Dijk in
Liverpool were a terrifying force going forward, led by the 'Fab Four' of Mane, Salah, Roberto Firmino and Philippe Coutinho. At the back, though, they were leaky. In fact, they were more than leaky. Four times between August and December in 2017 they conceded three or more goals and Coutinho's wish to leave for Barcelona presented the opening they were waiting for.
Liverpool cashed in on the Brazilian as he moved to Barcelona in a £150m deal. They invested straight away in signing Virgil van Dijk from Southampton for £75m, and he has been a colossus at the back. A debut winner against Everton at the Kop end in an FA Cup third round tie under the lights, what a way to introduce yourself to your new fans.
8. The Road to Kiev
Liverpool were in the knockout stages of the Champions League for the first time since 2009. They breezed past Porto in the last-16 and were too good for runaway Premier League leaders Manchester City in the quarter-finals. Klopp's men beat Roma 7-6 on aggregate in the semi-finals to reach club football's showpiece - the Champions League final.
It didn't work out that night for the Reds with Salah being forced off injured and Loris Karius' howlers costing them dear in defeat to Real Madrid. But they were back among Europe's elite.
9. The final pieces of the jigsaw
But for Karius' calamity showing in Kiev, Liverpool might have won their sixth Champions League trophy in 2018. That performance convinced Klopp, though, that it was finally time to look for a new goalkeeper. The German boss stuck by Karius and Simon Mignolet, but he couldn't dig his heels in any longer.
Liverpool signed Alisson from Roma for a then world record £75million fee. They had a quality shot stopper in goal behind a defence that comprised Van Dijk and two vastly improving full-backs in Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson.
Academy product Alexander-Arnold and £8m signing Robertson have turned into assist machines for the formidable front three with their excellent delivery from wide areas.
10. Liverpool 1-0 Napoli
Liverpool's Premier League campaign was going well, but they were faltering in Europe. On December 11, 2018 on match day six in Group C, the Reds had to beat Napoli 1-0 or by two clear goals to go through to the knockout stages.
Salah gave them the lead in the first half, but Klopp's side were wasteful and never got the goals they needed to kill the game off. And in injury time, Napoli's Arkadiusz Milik was unmarked in Liverpool's penalty area, eight yards from goal and with the ball at his feet. Alisson stood tall and made the most crucial save of his career. Liverpool held on and qualified with PSG. Without that save, there would have been no sixth time.
11. Kompany's stunner against Leicester
The 2018-19 Premier League title race between Liverpool and Man City was going to the wire. Neither juggernaut put a foot wrong in the closing months off the season in a thrilling battle.
Man City faced Leicester in their final home game, knowing that victory would effectively seal the title with just a trip to Brighton to come.Pep Guardiola's men laboured to make a breakthrough as Leicester looked like taking two points off them, which would've put Liverpool in pole position in the title race.
Captain Kompany stepped up and fired a rocket into the top corner from 20 yards to lift Man City to victory and take them back to the top of the table. Liverpool fans knew that Leicester were their last real hope in the title race. They had just the Champions League left to play for, and in that faced a 3-0 semi-final first-leg deficit against Barcelona.
Had Kompany not scored that memorable winner, Liverpool would have been in the driving seat in the title race. Would Anfield have felt the same the following night against Barcelona? Would Klopp have rested some of his big guns for their final Premier League game against Wolves at the weekend? Who are we to speculate?
12. The greatest night in Anfield history
The final itself in Madrid was rather unforgettable. A laboured 2-0 win over Tottenham in a match lacking in quality and tempo gave the Reds the Champions League glory they craved. But there was nothing missing from their semi-final, second leg against Barcelona. Facing a 3-0 deficit with their Premier League title hopes all but gone, Liverpool were in "Never Give Up" mode.
For a club steeped in history and tradition and a stadium that has seen so many famous nights, they somehow topped it all against Lionel Messi and Co. Two goals from Divock Origi and a double from Georginio Wijnaldum completed an impossible comeback. Liverpool were in the Champions League final and on their way to six times.