Why Jurgen Klopp is preaching ‘calm’ amid looming threat of Liverpool exodus
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There will be an Anfield exodus in the summer. But, Jurgen Klopp insists, it will be confined to the coaching staff. No sooner had the German confirmed he will stand down, along with his assistants Pep Lijnders and Peter Krawietz, elite development coach Vitor Matos and sporting director Jorg Schmadtke, then attention turned to his other key allies: to captain Virgil van Dijk, to vice-captain Trent Alexander-Arnold and top scorer Mohamed Salah, who are all out of contract in 2025.
The concern was that Liverpool 2.0 would be a one-season affair; it was not one Klopp shared, nor, he argued, the more intelligent among their fanbase do. Yet the sense the future is suddenly uncertain was amplified when Van Dijk said he was unsure if he had a part to play after Klopp goes.
The £75m centre-back turns 33 this summer, 34 a week after his contract expires. Klopp is confident he will be at Anfield for a long time. “Just to shut the story down, I will say… yes,” he said. “It’s just because somebody asked Virgil and we have made it a case. Virg is a grown man with a family, four kids. He will decide about his future, nothing to do with me or whatever, he loves this club and is so happy to be here. But when the contract is ending, you start thinking. That’s all.”
And now they have more to think about. “If the boys have to think about these things, that is a human right,” Klopp said. He is making the case there will be continuity; that may involve downplaying his own importance. But his job has changed from rejuvenating to reassuring.
But he argued: “This club is stable, 100 per cent, and everything will be fine. I would recommend to stay calm in this department, massively. A week ago when no one knew about my decision and there were 18 months on the contracts, nobody asked. So give us a break, give the boys a break. This team, the majority of everything is exactly like it is, but if you want to find someone who is not safe now, who has a contract which ends in 2025, you will find it.”
Klopp himself has provided part of Liverpool’s pulling power. Van Dijk signed from Southampton in 2018 in part because of him. Exits, he thinks, will not come because of him. “If I am here and the contract ends in 2025, it’s about what the players want to do,” he said. “‘What do I want to do?’ Would there be a reason to stay? Maybe. The boys love this place: I know that for a fact and when will what happen we will see.”
That the 2025 trios are all talismanic figures could add to the impression that Klopp’s empire might not outlast him. But he said: “Very often the fans’ concerns are not as big as the media might think. You underestimate the IQ of our supporters.”
If an era will end with Klopp, he provided a reminder that, seismic as departures can appear, his presence did not prevent them. Others have left over the course of his reign: Sadio Mane, Gini Wijnaldum and Philippe Coutinho at or near the peak of their powers, Jordan Henderson, Roberto Firmino, Fabinho and James Milner after theirs. Each, though, made a sizeable contribution.
“Some players left us when I was still here,” Klopp said. “Not happy with the offer or whatever. It’s always the same, nothing has changed since then. For the players I am very sure. The club has to work on solutions in a few departments. But this is happening since November already.”
That said, the players were only informed on Friday morning. But, Klopp said, committing them to new deals in the last couple of months would have involved hoodwinking them.
“The club knew about my departure for a while and the club could have used the time and tied the players down and then I say ‘By the way, I’m not here any more’, and they say ‘Hey, what? No-one told us that’,” he explained. “You cannot work like that, especially not with the relationship we have. There is enough time to do everything. These things – especially important things – take time. The boys love this place: I know that for a fact.”
But Klopp has loved Liverpool too. He has rebuilt, reinvented and revived them. He has a squad who, with the exception of Joe Gomez, all made their Liverpool debuts under him; in most cases they were bought by him, sometimes signing due to him. “These players love to be here, don’t forget that,” he said. “It is not that they have one foot out.” And even as he does have one foot out of the door, he does not believe there will be a stampede of others following him.