Vote Klopp – the man who knows how to win

Sound tactics: Klopp’s aggressive, attacking style has been called “heavy metal football”. © Getty

Should Jürgen Klopp be prime minister? As Liverpool move within two points of their first league title for 30 years, their manager is being hailed as an international model of leadership.

On 20 March, Jürgen Klopp summoned Liverpool’s players and staff to the club canteen. Sitting on the edge of the pool table, he addressed them off the cuff. “These are extraordinary times,” he said. “Let’s not be selfish.”

After explaining exactly how things would work in the lockdown, he ended, “No one needs to be on their own. You can call me any time […]. There is no excuse for not doing it.”

Few people had had their ambitions put more dramatically on hold by the pandemic than Klopp. His team were just five points short of the Premiership title; if not for the lockdown, they would have been champions in a matter of days.

But, instead of tearing his hair out with frustration, the German manager behaved in a manner worthy of a great politician.

“There were meetings with all the departments in the morning and everyone was given a chance to give their input,” says one of his colleagues. “The way he works is like a cabinet government with an unbelievably powerful prime minister. Klopp will take the ultimate decision, but he takes other opinions on board.”

Klopp has come a long way from the small town of Glatten in the Black Forest where he grew up. After playing as a defender for Mainz 05, he became the club’s manager, securing promotion to the Bundesliga, before winning two league titles for Borussia Dortmund.

Since his arrival at Anfield in 2015, Liverpool have won the UEFA Champions League and become runaway Premiership leaders.

It is not just his success on the pitch that has endeared him to Liverpudlians, but his and his wife Ulla’s engagement with the city as a whole. “As long as you are there, give whatever you have,” he says. “Don’t hold anything back. You are 100 per cent in this town, this club.”

During the lockdown, he and Ulla have given thousands of pounds to supermarkets to pay the bills of essential workers. “He has an inbuilt desire to fix things,” says a colleague. “If people come into his orbit with problems, he will try to help if he can.”

The key to success, Klopp argues, is collective effort. “The more you love to suffer for each other, to sacrifice for each other, the better you will be. That’s common sense.”

Should Jürgen Klopp be prime minister?

Political football

Some people argue that running a country is far more difficult than running a football club and, even if Klopp were British instead of German, he would not be able to fill the role. A prime minister has to deal non-stop with a host of different people and problems; a manager has the luxury of focusing on one game at a time, nurturing his players individually, and taking an end-of-season break.

Others believe there is no limit to Klopp’s abilities. Any successful manager needs extraordinary flexibility, changing plans to counter the opposition’s tactics, and reacting to unexpected problems like injuries. Klopp is obsessive and tough, but also compassionate and able to connect with people. If not prime minister, says the Labour MP Liam Byrne, “He could be a future chancellor of Germany.”

You Decide

  1. Should Liverpool have been awarded the title without being made to complete the season?
  2. Should sports personalities stay out of politics?

Activities

  1. Liverpool fans are famous for singing the song, You’ll Never Walk Alone. Using a new tune or an existing one, write a song for your favourite team.
  2. Imagine that Jürgen Klopp is running for Parliament and you are his campaign manager. Design a leaflet explaining why he deserves to be elected.

Some People Say...

“If you are first, you are first. If you are second, you are nothing.”

Bill Shankly (1913-1981), Scottish manager of Liverpool

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Several stars of the sports world have made their mark on politics. Pakistan’s prime minister, Imran Khan, was a cricketer who led his country to victory in the 1992 world cup. Jack Lynch, who served two terms as leader of the Republic of Ireland, was outstanding at Gaelic football and hurling. Olympic runner Sebastian Coe became a Conservative MP and now sits in the House of Lords.
What do we not know?
Which political party Klopp would choose to represent. It would certainly be a left-of-centre one. “I believe in the welfare state,” he says. “I’m not privately insured. I would never vote for a party because they promised to lower the top tax rate. My political understanding is this: if I am doing well, I want others to do well too.”

Word Watch

Off the cuff
Without preparation. Shirts used to have stiff cuffs, on which it was possible to write helpful notes if you had not prepared a speech properly.
Cabinet
A group of ministers who give the prime minister advice. The name originally meant a small room in which they met.
Black Forest
A mountainous wooded area of south-west Germany. The rich chocolate and cherry cake known as Black Forest gâteau may take its name from the cherries that grow there, or the traditional hats with red pom-poms on top worn by local women.
Bundesliga
Germany’s equivalent of the Premier League. It consists of 18 teams.
Anfield
Liverpool’s ground. Dating from 1884, it was originally the home of Liverpool’s local rivals Everton.

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