Jurgen Klopp will leave Liverpool at the end of the season, he and the team he has managed since 2016, announced on Friday. The stunning decision, which sees the German depart two years before his contract at Anfield was scheduled to expire, comes with Liverpool at the top of the Premier League and in the mix to win an unprecedented quadruple.
Klopp had informed Liverpool’s owners of his intention in November, but the decision remained a closely guarded secret, and he was the first to acknowledge that the decision will come as a shock to supporters, with whom he has developed the deepest of bonds during his tenure.
Since his appointment in October 2015, Klopp has revolutionized Liverpool, leading them to a first Premier League title in 31 years as well as a sixth European Cup. This season he could win the league again while his side advanced to the EFL Cup final on Wednesday night. The 56 year old has won that trophy as well as the FA Cup, winning all the top titles available to him in England.
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“I can understand that it’s a shock for a lot of people in this moment, when you hear it for the first time, but obviously I can explain it – or at least try to explain it,” said Klopp, speaking as part of an interview released by Liverpool. “I love absolutely everything about this club, I love everything about the city, I love everything about our supporters, I love the team, I love the staff. I love everything. But that I still take this decision shows you that I am convinced it is the one I have to take.
“It is that I am, how can I say it, running out of energy. I have no problem now, obviously, I knew it already for longer that I will have to announce it at one point, but I am absolutely fine now. I know that I cannot do the job again and again and again and again.
“After the years we had together and after all the time we spent together and after all the things we went through together, the respect grew for you, the love grew for you and the least I owe you is the truth – and that is the truth.”
Liverpool have also confirmed that assistant managers Pepijn Lijnders and Peter Krawietz and elite development coach Vitor Matos will depart with Klopp. Sporting director Jorg Schmadtke, who was hired with Klopp’s blessing last summer, will also leave the club after the January transfer window. Lijnders had been viewed as a potential candidate to take the Anfield hot seat next, and Liverpool’s statement noted that the 41 year old is “keen to pursue his own career in management.” Bayer Leverkusen boss Xabi Alonso has long been viewed as another natural candidate to succeed Klopp. However, for now, Fenway Sports Group are merely assessing their options for what will be one of the most challenging appointments they ever have to make.
Fenway Sports Group president Mike Gordon said in a statement from the club, “It is testament to Jurgen’s unstinting professionalism and ongoing commitment to the best interests of Liverpool FC that his decision was arrived at in a way which allows for business as usual to be maintained for the remainder of his tenure while simultaneously creating an opportunity for us to prepare for the future.
“Our priority now is two-fold. First, to ensure that the progress that has been made on the pitch this season is maintained in the final months of the campaign. Second, to continue the due diligence behind the scenes which will allow our football operations department to adapt to a future without Jurgen. As ever, these ambitions will be pursued in the best interests of the club and its supporters and we will update fans as and when significant developments are made.”
Whether Liverpool can find the right man to succeed Klopp will not be clear until some time after he is gone but with he, his coaching staff and Schmatdke departing within the space of a few months there is a sizeable job to do in restructuring the Anfield football department. Gordon said of Schmatdke’s exit: “He has made a valuable contribution, both in terms of the support he provided to Klopp and the assistance and guidance given to our outstanding football operations department.”
Klopp’s decision to depart is all the more surprising given that this summer had seen him begin the process of refreshing the side that conquered Europe and England at the start of the decade. His successor will inherit a youthful supporting cast up front behind Mohamed Salah and a midfield refreshed around Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai. After a 2022-23 season without major trophies or Champions League qualification, that very act of putting Liverpool back on a bright new path convinced Klopp now was the time to go.
“I have to explain a little bit that maybe the job I do, people see from the outside, I’m on the touchline and in training sessions and stuff like this, but the majority of all the things happen around these kind of things. That means a season starts and you plan pretty much the next season already.
“When we sat there together talking about potential signings, the next summer camp and can we go wherever, the thought came up, ‘I am not sure I am here then anymore’ and I was surprised myself by that. I obviously start thinking about it.
“It didn’t start [then], but of course last season was kind of a super-difficult season and there were moments when at other clubs probably the decision would have been, ‘Come on, thank you very much for everything but probably we should split here, or end it here.’ That didn’t happen here, obviously.
“For me it was super, super, super-important that I can help to bring this team back onto the rails. It was all I was thinking about. When I realised pretty early that happened, it’s a really good team with massive potential and a super age group, super characters and all that, then I could start thinking about myself again and that was the outcome. It is not what I want to [do], it is just what I think is 100 percent right.”