Jurgen Klopp is a star. And I am not going to lie, Jurgen Klopp’s first press conference was an incredible event to follow. However, this was not necessarily in terms of what he had to say, but definitely in the way it was covered. Klopp’s answers were rational, well thought out and quite predictable. Yet the media were waiting in anticipation of any ‘rock star’ moment, even deliberately pushing for a sound-bite (‘the Normal One?’) to latch on to. The intrigue and excitement around a new manager was obvious, especially in this case considering it is for a club where most of its most famous players have strong ties to the media. But why is there always so much focus on the manager, especially by the media?
In all fairness, any manager who has been linked to Real Madrid tends to spark headlines, Manuel Pellegrini aside. Klopp has also benefited from what seems to be a magical serum for most football managers – a sabbatical. Pep Guardiola’s troublesome and draining final year with an incredibly talented squad was largely forgotten. Instead, an emphasis was rightly placed on the scintillating football they played during their peak. Likewise, Klopp’s Dortmund thrilled during their run to their Champions League final, and their famous ‘gegenpressing’ took the Bundesliga by storm during both the 2010/11 and 2011/12 seasons.
He has massively overachieved at the club he was at, and his experience in restoring a slumbering giant with a fervent fan base will be vital. Reiterating what countless pundits have already said, Dortmund when Klopp first took over in 2008 were in a very similar situation to the one Liverpool currently find themselves in. But has Klopp reinvented a style of football, i.e. a Guardiola? His final season with Dortmund was a tough one and has resulted in them being out of the Champions League. Moreover, he has only yet managed at two clubs, and one wanders how he will fair at a club with bigger expectations in a foreign league.
However, this constant emphasis on the manager often seems to overestimate the impact a manager can be seen to have. Although Klopp may be seen by many to a step above Rodgers, the actual impact he can have will be questionable. While Klopp’s suave charm and charisma couldn’t be more different to Rodgers, similar problems (notably defensively) seemed to haunt Liverpool in the 2-1 defeat to Crystal Palace. Perhaps it is not healthy for a club of Liverpool’s stature to be fawning over a manager. Klopp will undoubtedly bring a different air and spark back to the club. But managers should not be bigger than the club, especially when they are new arrivals – not just to the club, but to the league.
Yet this focus is not just apparent with new managers. The same can be said about the relentless focus on Jose Mourinho this season. His Chelsea side have had an abysmal campaign, but the focus seems to mostly be placed on the manager rather than the players. Questions surrounding whether he can handle the pressure of a side in chaos seem rather harsh when players who were so superb last year are so surprisingly out of form just a few months later. Sacking ‘the Special One’, a persistent winner, would stem more from believing media hysteria rather than rational common sense. If one of the most successful managers in history is struggling, how can a change of manager really cause that much of a transformation?
Ultimately, the media has helped push this superstar status on managers. The positives and negatives of this are multiple, and whether managers actually want this is much debated. However, what is clear is that this stance by the media lends itself to scapegoating and quick fixes that certainly please the media. What is more questionable is whether this has deflected the pressure from poor performances away from the players and on to the managers.
Klopp’s promise of a title within four years is a bold statement – but imagine the media hysteria if he fails.
PHOTO 1/ Jim Humphrey
PHOTO 2/Chris Elia