When Jurgen Klopp told the media at the start of the season that this would be a team that could take on anyone, we all knew exactly what the phrase meant. The “anyone” wore blue shirts and had just blown all opposition out of the water in the previous season. Any cynical suggestions that it was all just pre-season bluster have been put to bed – with the season in full flow and Christmas on the horizon, there is nothing between Liverpool and City.
Of course, success in football is a team effort, but Klopp’s role in instilling the belief in his charges that they really can “take on anyone” should not be underestimated. There is still a lot of the 2018/19 season ahead, but if things continue as they have started, Klopp’s name will be right up there with the top managers. But will he be considered the very best? Let’s looks at some of the other contenders.
Roy Evans (1994 to 1998)
Evans is looked back on with fondness, not least because he brought a sense of purpose and vibrancy to Anfield after some difficult years under Graeme Souness. His tenure included some truly memorable moments, including the League Cup in 1995 and, of course, what many consider one of the best matches ever over Newcastle United. It’s unfortunate that the popular media associate it more with the style disaster that was the Spice Boys era and that there was not more silverware to show from his time at the top. But a little like Duncan Fletcher in English cricket, Evans helped Liverpool develop a backbone that would help them go from strength to strength in the subsequent years.
Gerard Houllier (1998 to 2004)
When Houllier joined Evans on the management team in 1998, it was only ever going to be a matter of time before he had the top job to himself. What followed was Liverpool’s most successful period in the Premier League era. The 2001 season alone yielded a remarkable five trophies, as the Community Shield, UEFA Cup, UEFA Super Cup, League Cup and, of course, the FA Cup all found their way to Anfield. It’s little surprise that among the Anfield faithful many look back on Houllier with a fondness otherwise reserved only for the likes of King Kenny. However, despite the wealth of silverware in that one year, his primary role was one of overseeing a transition to the very top. When Liverpool finished fourth in 2004, he agreed with management that it was time for someone else to guide them to the next stage. And we all know who that was.
Rafa Benitez (2004 to 2010)
Benitez proved that competing with the big boys is not all about money, and Liverpool’s Champions League victory in 2005 was his crowning achievement. Here was a manager who knew what components he needed to build a successful team. When the likes of Alonso, Reina and Agger were brought onboard, there was a proliferation of blank looks among the fans. Yet these coalesced into a whole that was greater than the sum of its parts, and surely that is the sign of a great manager.
Klopp’s place in history
So where will Jurgen Klopp stand in the pantheon of Liverpool Premier League managers? He has shown all the savvy of Benitez, while winning the hearts and minds of fans in a way not seen since Houllier. However, it’s results on which any manager is ultimately assessed. There are plenty of challenges ahead, but with Manchester City fussing over potential injury concerns, there is clearly a chink showing in their armour – catch the latest at https://sportsbet.io/sports/soccer/news/boss-pep-guardiola-sweating-on-the-fitness-of-manchester-city-midfielder-kevin-de-bruyne-after-latest-injury-
This could represent the perfect opportunity for Klopp to lead Liverpool up onto the top step, but ultimately, we will only know next May exactly where Klopp stands among these other great names.