What an interesting time in England to be a manager. The Premier League is often marketed as ‘the best’, or ‘the most entertaining’ or ‘the most competitive’. And of late is being referred to as the place where almost all of the “World Class Managers” are plying their trade.
There’s a couple reasons for that. One is that the Premier League is nothing, if not a great self-promoter and marketer. Half a dozen years ago we had most of the world class players in our league. Now they are in Spain and Bayern, and a lesser extent Dortmund, with a handful playing in the Premier League. So the league isn’t going to market having the best players.
But another reason for is that we truly do have big-name managers in bushels. A look at a listing of names of the world’s most recognizably highly-regarded managers (in alphabetical order) would include Antonio Conte, Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp, Jose Mourinho, Mauricio Pochetino, Claudio Ranieri, Arsenne Wenger and to a lesser extent Ronald Koeman. Obviously Carlo Ancelotti from Bayern is near the top of any list regardless of where he is at. And even though some would argue that they are where they are because of the wealth of uber-players at their disposal, an argument could be made to include Luis Enrique and Zinedine Zidane from Barca and Real. What wouldn’t be argued is that Atletico’s Diego Simeone belongs in such company. And looking down to the next tier of leagues, one could pull out the names of Unai Emery at PSG (3 consecutive Europa League titles at Sevilla), Thomas Tuchel establishing his own mark at Dortmund (upon the foundation Klopp laid) and potential up-and-comer Frank DeBoer at Inter. It is clear that the lion’s share of big-time club managers are now at work in the Premier League.
That does bring up a different point, the National Team managers. There are a few really big and successful in that realm names, but for the most part the big names gravitate towards club football.
So why has this topic been floating around in my mind? Mostly because of the Tour de Force that is Jurgen Klopp. I’ve been reading some social media excerpts from fans around England commenting on Klopp’s appearance on Monday Night Football. On the show he was his charismatic self, explaining why ‘geggenpressing’ is the best form of being creative on offense, and also how he discussed other tactics. Whether what he said ever could be proven 100% accurate and truthful is deniable because of the lack of absolutes. Regardless, his understanding and conviction of his beliefs are no doubt magnetic, as is his personality. And that had fans from around England posting comments jealous of Liverpool having Klopp in charge, even wishing they could hate him, but not finding themselves able to.
As his success at Liverpool continues to grow, it is only natural that his name will be floated around for other openings (and in some cases where there aren’t even openings yet). The two most recent of these that I’ve heard is that Bayern is putting into place the plan to lure Klopp once Ancelotti steps down. The other is the unlikely possibility that the English Football Association would select a German manager, no matter how successful he is or could be, to replace flim-flam Sam as the English Manager.
Liverpool fans will naturally develop some anxiety over such links, especially the Bayern job. But I would like to calm such fears.
In regards to Klopp ever taking a national team manager job, I can’t see it anytime soon. I just can envision Klopp’s energetic personality sitting on the sideline a month-and-a-half at a time watching club games in England to analyze players for selection. If he is at a match, he want’s to be running, jumping, fist-pumping and hollering. Sitting in the box 40 rows above the action will drive him nuts. And while his ruthless nature of letting go of players who don’t make the grade would suit such a job, I feel he would miss out on the engaging personal relationships he could build day to day with players at a club.
But even IF Klopp were interested in a national team job, such as his home of the German National Team, would he be successful? Of course he is again proving that Dortmund was no fluke, and that he can build a winner. But would his style of play work in Germany, or another established country? It seems to me that Klopp’s style of management and play does totally revolve around geggenpressing. Does a national team fit such a style? I would put forth that it doesn’t. It is quite obvious that having a preseason to get in shape for such tactics was hugely important. Even players who were ‘fit’ last season when he came in during the season, weren’t what you could consider ‘Klopp-style fit.’ So I don’t think he could truly implement his identity onto a national team, at least not one with an established history. Could he go to somewhere that is emerging, like the US or Costa Rica, or an Asian/Pacific nation and do it there? I think that could be a possibility if he would be given the reigns and had a ten year plan to develop that country’s footballing identity and style. But I don’t think that would appeal to him.
That also brings up another point, which I think is relevant to him taking a job at a place like Bayern, or a big-spending club. Not that Klopp isn’t qualified to handle the pressures of such a job, but I don’t think it would be successful long-term. One only has to look to Jose Mourinho for the reason I’m getting at.
I totally believe Klopp is a great fit for Liverpool, and Fenway Sports Group BECAUSE of his style. I think his style necessitates a healthy mix of young players, and hungry older ones who are just outside the world of ludicrous-money transfers and contracts. Much like players in that category at Real Madrid and Chelsea soon grew tired of Mourinho’s defensive tactics and mind-games, could you imagine veteran superstars like Ronaldo, Benzema, Ramos, Neymar, Ribery, and Lewandoski busting their tail for 90 minutes 50 times a season for Klopp and more importantly their ‘lesser’ teammates? I could see a Luis Suarez and Thomas Muller doing so, but I think that is just their nature and more the exception rather than the rule. So they may do it off and on for one season, but I think come October or November of year two, they are ******** to the President/Chairman/Director/Owner. And at that point, it is easier to change one manager than 5-6 players and superstars.
So the good news is, Klopp was made for Liverpool, and Liverpool were made for Klopp. And long may both be aware and know it.