Jurgen Klopp has earned the right to be mentioned in the same breath as the holy Anfield trinity of Shankly, Paisley and Fagan.
That is the verdict of Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard after an astonishing season for the German coach, which saw his side hold four major trophies in the same year, and finally end their title hoodoo.
For Gerrard, Klopp is now “up there” amongst the world’s great managers, and he believes the reason is simple: phenomenal, ferocious football created by a unique bond between manager and players.
“The institution of Liverpool is almost like a religion – people who take the baton off each other to continue the Liverpool way, going back to Shankly, Paisley, Fagan,” Gerrard explained.
“And Jurgen has come and taken all that pressure on his shoulders of one of the biggest clubs in the world, played phenomenal, ferocious football, and won trophies. He came with his shoulders back, believing he would deliver success.
“So he’s right up there with the best Liverpool managers, and the best managers in the world. FACT.”
Gerrard was speaking during a special documentary commissioned between Channel 4 and German brewing company Erdinger Weissbråu, which will air in the UK at 10pm on Monday August 3.
Another German legend, Jurgen Klinsmann, says in the film that it was written in the stars his compatriot would deliver the title to Liverpool after such a long wait.
“The way he won over the people of Liverpool and the way he became one of them, it just deserves then, this end result, meaning now this very special title.”
Yet Gerrard believes it is far more than fate which has finally delivered the Premier League trophy…one that proved so elusive during his own 18-year professional career with the Reds.
He worked under Klopp for a season as a youth team coach at Anfield, and he says the infectious personality is married with an incredible desire, which makes players wants to run through walls for him…including Gerrard himself.
“The warmth and the charisma and the smile is Jurgen as a human being, that IS his personality. but don’t worry about what’s underneath that. There is a fierce drive, a winning mentality,” the former Liverpool skipper explained.
“He makes you feel special, and wanted and welcome. Imagine playing for him. I am almost jealous of the Liverpool players, because I come out of his office after a sit down, and when I walk out of the training ground, I actually want to walk back in.
“I want to sit with him…I want to put a kit on and play for him and run for him and play hard – and that’s the reason the players are doing it for him.”
Gerrard reveals in the documentary he was actually invited to Liverpool’s title party at the Formby golf club – near to where both men live – on the night they were confirmed as Champions.
But he declined, preferring to allow the players to enjoy their moment without the spectre of the past…and to drink in the title finally being delivered with his own family.
“I was at home watching it on tv…I was invited to go and be around the the players, be with them, but I thought the right thing to do was be at home with my family, and let the players celebrate and enjoy themselves,” he said.
“The scenes were absolute fantastic. There was no happier house in Formby than my house let me tell you. I was onboard and all in with Jurgen from day one – from the star he made everyone believe they were about to go on a special journey.
“So I was immensely proud when I saw him deliver the title – and there was relief, from waiting so long as a fan and as a player. To watch what it meant for all those players and all the people around them was special.”
Jürgen Klopp: Germany’s Greatest Export is on Channel 4, Monday Aug 3 at 10pm.
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