The moment all Borussia Dortmund fans were dreading came sooner than expected when Jurgen Klopp announced that he would be departing in the summer. Some way short of the ten year dynasty he had previously targeted.
His reason was because he no longer felt he was the perfect coach for the club. It begs the question as to how many players will also begin to wonder if they’re ‘perfect’ for Dortmund.
There are critics who feel that Klopp is running from the biggest challenge of his reign at the Westfalenstadion. After a disastrous start to the season, Dortmund have been steered into mid-table safety but will miss out on European football.
It will take another season of steady recovery to ensure that the rot has stopped. Since winning the World Cup last summer, certain members of the squad appear significantly less motivated.
Despite this season’s travails, Klopp’s stock hasn’t fallen. Put into context, it’s to be expected that he would suffer a disappointing campaign after several years of overachievement.
The Bundesliga titles, cup wins and Champions League near-miss were the result of a high intensity, pressing approach. At their best, Dortmund were a joy to behold. They ripped teams apart with attacking abandon, entwining Klopp’s primary aim of pleasing their adoring crowd with an extremely efficient end product.
Klopp announcing his departure with 6 league games left is the latest long goodbye in European football, following on from Gerrard and Xavi.
— James (@BabboPieta) April 15, 2015
But that reliance on energy has taken its toll. Players don’t seem to be running as much, to be displaying the same determination. Key men followed a World Cup hangover with delirium tremens performances.
It’s exposed Klopp’s lack of tactical flexibility and his decision to bail is a solid career move. One can only imagine that the prospect of losing star players for a fourth consecutive summer affected his decision too.
Having seen Robert Lewandowski, Mario Gotze and Shinji Kagawa exit while Dortmund were in great shakes, Klopp probably struggled to muster his best pitch for why Mats Hummels should stick around. The Germany defender hasn’t denied that his intentions are to leave the club this summer with reports linking him to Manchester United. Ilkay Gundogan is also said to be packing his bags.
As Zlatan Ibrahimovic once memorably insinuated, the biggest appeal of joining Dortmund over the last few years has been playing under Klopp. As well as embracing a positive brand of football, Klopp is a master of man-management.
His clear charisma is never more evident than when he’s addressing the media. Expect his departure to trigger a cluster of key players to follow suit. Despite signing a new contract earlier in the year, it’s hard to envision Marco Reus at the club next season.
Klopp himself has a few options when it comes to where he’ll rock up to next. The declaration that he wouldn’t be taking a sabbatical would hint that a post is already waiting and many are surmising that it’s at the Etihad. Manchester City would be a different challenge to Dortmund, one that could offer both parties exactly what they want.
At the top of the food chain, City could assure Klopp that no player would ever be lost due to a lack of financial muscle. The German could offer to inspire the mercenaries that aren’t chucked out the door, to motivate them with his passion.
It’s not a very romantic option but it’s one that you could forgive Klopp for struggling to resist. There are bound to be other clubs of repute in for his signature, Napoli and AC Milan have been linked. While in Spain we could see him at the Bernabeu if Real Madrid opt to sack Carlo Ancelotti. Should he plump for City, does he risk becoming what he always fought against at Dortmund? A man who can pick his rivals apart with mountains of cash?
“We have bows and arrows. And when we aim precisely, we can hit the target,” Klopp once said, comparing his club to their great rivals. “It’s only that Bayern have a bazooka. The probability that they will hit the target is clearly higher. But then Robin Hood was apparently quite successful.” Maybe he’ll decide that a challenge like restoring Liverpool to their former glories would be more fulfilling. We can only hope that football’s very own Robin Hood never forgets about why he took up a bow and arrow in the first place.
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