Josh Barker: How two defeats prevented Jurgen Klopp from becoming one of Premier League’s greatest managers

Jurgen Klopp took charge of Liverpool on October 8 2015. During the early stages of his tenure at Anfield, the German was tasked with rebuilding a floundering Reds side with little star power.

Following the additions of key stars such as Mohamed Salah, Virgil van Dijk and Alisson, Klopp was able to transform Liverpool into one of the best sides in England.

Over the last few years, Klopp has been widely regarded as one of the Premier League’s greatest-ever managers, with Chris Sutton naming the former Borussia Dortmund boss as the 3rd-best manager in the competition’s history:

“At three, Jurgen Klopp. Got Liverpool back to their glorious best, won a Champions League, won a Premier League, totally transformed the Liverpool team,” Sutton said in January.

“At two, Pep Guardiola. The brand of football which he’s played with, we’ve never seen the likes of the football which Pep’s Manchester City have played in the Premier League. He’s won a Champions League now, been such a dominant force with Manchester City.

“Number one, it’s obvious. Head and shoulders above everybody else. Sir Alex out there on his own, 13 Premier League titles, a couple of Champions Leagues in there as well. So pretty straightforward that actually.”

However, in the wake of Klopp confirming he is set to leave Liverpool at the close of the 2023/24 campaign, there has been much debate over whether or not he is actually one of the league’s true all-time greats.

Prior to the 2023/24 season, Klopp had won one Premier League, one Champions League, one League Cup and one FA Cup. This is by no means a terrible record, but to say a manager with said honours is one of the best to do it is perhaps a bit of an exaggeration.

In comparison, Pep Guardiola - who joined Manchester City at the start of the 2016/17 campaign - had won five Premier League titles, two FA Cups, four League Cups and one Champions League prior to the current season.

Given Manchester City versus Liverpool has been the key rivalry of the past few years, it makes sense for Klopp and Pep to be compared to one another and when it comes to all-time greatest managers, Klopp has not even been the best during his own era.

Following news of the 56-year-old’s departure, Liverpool still had a chance to make history and send Klopp off in style. They were top of the Premier League, going strong in Europe and both domestic cup competitions. Had the German been able to complete a quadruple or some form of treble in 2023/24, he could have perhaps been in the conversation for best Premier League manager.

But the last few weeks have all but killed any hope of that happening. Liverpool were able to win the League Cup in February, seeing off Chelsea in a low-quality final. But this was swiftly followed by an FA Cup quarter-final exit at the hands of Manchester United last month.

Despite being knocked out of the FA Cup, Liverpool’s treble hopes remained alive and kicking, with the Merseysiders favourites to win the Europa League and one of the favourites to clinch the league title.

Liverpool’s last two matches, though, have left them with a major mountain to climb when it comes to rescuing Jurgen Klopp’s final season.

It began at Anfield on April 11, when Liverpool were beaten at home for the first time this season. Atalanta netted three without a reply from the home side. Granted, Liverpool could cause a major upset in the reverse fixture in Italy this week, though that seems pretty unlikely.

After being bested by the Italians, Liverpool turned their attention back to the title race, travelling down south to take on a floundering Crystal Palace on April 14. Despite having 21 goal attempts and 70 per cent of the possession, the Reds fell to a 1-0 defeat. This moved Klopp and co. down to 3rd in the table, two points off top spot with a worse goal difference than both Manchester City and Arsenal.

And while Liverpool could still make comebacks in Europe and in the title race, it now looks inevitable that Jurgen Klopp’s final season in charge will end with just a League Cup. Again, winning any trophy is by no means bad, but adding just one piece of silverware to the tally mentioned above should not elevate Klopp into the conversation for greatest Premier League manager.

Josh Barker

Josh Barker

Middlesbrough fan from the North East of England. @JoshBarker979 on Twitter.