Jurgen Klopp has succeeded where seven managers before him failed by ending Liverpool’s 30-year wait for a top-flight title and guiding them to a first Premier League crown.
The Reds are on course for a record-breaking domestic season, but it has not always been smooth sailing for the charismatic German, who took charge in October 2015.
BBC Sport – in conjunction with a BBC Radio 5 Live special featuring football correspondent John Murray, former Reds defender Stephen Warnock and John Gibbons from The Anfield Wrap – have selected 10 games which have shaped Klopp’s reign at Anfield.
Here they are in chronological order – and you can rank them in terms of importance at the bottom. You can listen to the discussion as an edition of the Football Daily podcast from 12:00 BST on Friday or on BBC Radio 5 Live on Sunday at 11:00 BST.
Klopp gets the fans on board
Two months into Klopp’s tenure, a late Divock Origi goal rescued a point for Liverpool against West Brom at Anfield, taking them up to ninth in the Premier League table.
Klopp did not shake hands with opposite number Tony Pulis – with then Baggies winger James McClean calling the German an “idiot” – and instead pumped his chest and took his players over to salute the fans.
He was ridiculed at the time for such a reaction to a draw against a team of West Brom’s status, but he said years later: “I wanted to show that we really are one unit. That means I know I am responsible for the performance, but the people are responsible for the atmosphere.”
It was the first sign that a bond was developing between Klopp and the club’s supporters.
Warnock: “I remember watching it and thinking: ‘What is he doing?’ A draw against West Brom – is that really where he thinks Liverpool are? But it was so much deeper than that, and it set things up for future games at Anfield.”
Gibbons: “About a month or so before, Liverpool lost to Crystal Palace – and when they scored their second goal in the 82nd minute everyone just left. Klopp was a bit taken aback by the exodus. He said after that game he felt lonely and gave us a bit of a telling off. He made the point that we decide when games are finished and we should go to the end. His words made an impact and against West Brom far more people stayed. He was then saying: ‘Look what we can do when we stick together.’ Jurgen believes in togetherness and unity, and when he talks about being stronger together there are echoes of Bill Shankly. The fact he was saying that chimed with supporters, who felt there had never been a greater gap between supporters and players. It was really exciting.”
The return of magical European nights at Anfield
Klopp again got his players to take a bow at the Kop after this one – but nobody was laughing this time.
Trailing 4-2 on aggregate, Liverpool scored three goals in the final 24 minutes to knock Klopp’s old side Borussia Dortmund out of the Europa League quarter-finals.
It was a sensational atmosphere at Anfield, with Klopp almost in a frenzy urging Reds fans to cheer them on in the dramatic finale.
“It was brilliant, outstanding, emotional,” said Klopp afterwards. “When we scored everyone could see something happen in the stadium. You could feel it, hear it, smell it.”
They would go on to lose the final against Sevilla, costing them a place in the Champions League.
Gibbons: “It was almost like the start of Klopp’s reign – it felt like night one, where we saw it all make sense. Dortmund were a phenomenal side. They went 2-0 up playing some of the best football I’d seen at Anfield. But after that game we felt like we’d seen the template of Klopp’s football. I’d say it’s in my top five nights at Anfield and it felt like the start of the adventure.”
Murray: “When we talk about defining games for Klopp, this is one of the ones that instantly comes to mind. This is probably top three. It was pivotal in what Klopp’s Liverpool turned into.”
Liverpool make a ‘wonderful base’ with Champions League qualification
Liverpool had only qualified for the Champions League once – going out in the group stage – in the six seasons prior to reaching the 2018 final in Kiev.
But they only just sealed that spot in Europe’s top competition with a victory over Middlesbrough on the final day of the season, finishing one point above fifth-placed Arsenal and 17 points behind champions Chelsea.
“I’m really looking forward to next season. I think we have created a wonderful base,” said Klopp afterwards.
BBC Match of the Day pundit Alan Shearer correctly predicted: “They’ll be bigger and better next season.”
Murray: “It was crucial in terms of the players they wanted to attract. You’ve got that extra level to persuade players to come. It was a huge step to get back into the Champions League.”
Gibbons: “Fans were hoping for steady progress – we knew things wouldn’t happen overnight. We knew there were teams with better resources and coming from a better starting position. Jurgen has achieved the things he has done in steps. Achieving this aim was vital for supporters.”
Salah, Mane and Firmino all start… and score
Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino had already been at Liverpool for one and two seasons respectively when Mohamed Salah arrived from Roma in 2017.
The attacking trident which Liverpool’s recent success has been built on all started on the opening day of the 2017-18 season.
And they all found the back of the net.
Mane scored their first, before Salah won a penalty which Firmino converted – and Firmino then set up Salah for their third.
The three of them have scored a sensational 211 goals in less than three seasons (92 for Salah, 65 for Mane and 54 for Firmino). It was a formula that worked from the start – and the Reds have never looked back.
Warnock: “I remember thinking: ‘Salah has missed so many chances, he’s not going to score many goals if he carries on finishing like that.’ But why was he getting so many chances? The way he was cutting in was something we hadn’t really seen from someone in that position.
“Liverpool at this point weren’t spending silly money on players. This was a long-term vision that they had – to fit players into the system. Eyebrows were raised at all three when they were signed, but you have to pat Klopp and sporting director Michael Edwards on the back for seeing the players and fitting them into a vision. They are now the best three in world football for their link-up play, and also in the way they press and close teams down.”
Gibbons: “I remember coming out of the ground and all the talk was about the defence. It’s amazing to think that was the birth of this front three. We weren’t quite sure about Salah – no-one came out thinking this forward line is going to be amazing.”
Van Dijk announces himself at Anfield
Having failed to prise defender Virgil van Dijk from Southampton in the summer of 2017, Klopp eventually got his man when the Dutchman joined for £75m, a world-record fee for a defender at the time. Their attempts to sign him months earlier failed when they annoyed the Saints with an alleged illegal approach.
If anybody wondered if he would be worth the wait – and the money – they were probably slightly more convinced after his debut, when his 84th-minute header won the Merseyside derby in the FA Cup.
He had an instant rapport with the Anfield faithful from that moment he slid in front of them to celebrate.
But his real impact that season was at the back. By the time he made his first Premier League appearance for the Reds, they had conceded 28 goals in their 23 league matches. They let in 10 in the 14 he played.
Warnock: “At Southampton he had everything going for him but I don’t think we realised how good a one-on-one defender he was and the stature he would bring into the Liverpool changing room. When you walk out against him you think: ‘Gosh, how am I going to win a header against him? How am I going to go past him?’ Liverpool hadn’t had that. The big thing for me was whether he could handle the price tag. He was always going to take time to get up to speed – but when he did, wow, what a signing.”
Gibbons: “That goal almost paid the fee on its own. Because we’d waited so long there had been this build-up – he probably could have retired after that game!”
Karius nightmare prompts Alisson transfer
Some teams struggle to come back from Champions League final defeats. Borussia Dortmund have won one German Cup since losing in 2013, Atletico Madrid have won nothing since losing in 2014 and 2016, and Mauricio Pochettino ended up being sacked as Tottenham Hotspur struggled to recover from 2019.
But Liverpool made one crucial change after losing 3-1 to Real Madrid in Kiev in 2018, when Loris Karius made two of the worst mistakes any goalkeeper has made in a Champions League final.
His confidence was shot in pre-season and so the Reds turned to Roma’s Alisson for a world record £66.8m, despite the Brazilian conceding seven goals over two legs against Liverpool in the semi-finals.
That signing changed everything as the Reds went on to win the Champions League the following year and the Premier League this season. Alisson has only conceded 51 goals in 81 games.
Gibbons: “When we came back for pre-season Karius actually played the first few games but that must have just been to get the price down for Alisson. He looked absolutely shot and it was sad to see. You couldn’t help but feel sorry for him. He didn’t look like he could cope with the pressure and it was clear we had to do something. It had clearly affected him so much. It was very obvious quite soon that this was the end for Karius.”
Warnock: “A lot of people thought it was a strange buy. Alisson had only really played one season at Roma so the homework they had done must have been big – to be able to go to your board and say he is the next piece of the jigsaw and he’s going to bring us success, so please give me £66.8m. How do you swing that fee on that basis? But the manager had earned that trust and respect, and that enabled him to go out and spend that money.
“Klopp had put all his trust in Karius and believed he was going to be a world-class keeper. He made world-class saves but he always had that concentration issue. One day Klopp just knew that wasn’t good enough if he wanted to take Liverpool to the next step. I think he knew he needed to put a bit of loyalty aside, be ruthless and say: ‘You’re not good enough to get us to the next level.’ He put his money into Alisson and he has been quite sensational.”
A full-back dynasty is born
While Liverpool broke world records for Alisson and Van Dijk, one of the key components of their triumphs has been their full-backs, who cost a combined £8m.
It took a while for Andy Robertson and hometown hero Trent Alexander-Arnold, who is still only 21, to turn into the assist machines they are today.
The first game they both set up a goal in was a fairly nondescript win over rock-bottom Fulham. Alexander-Arnold teed up Salah’s opener and Robertson crossed for Xherdan Shaqiri’s goal.
Before that match they had a combined nine Premier League assists (seven for Robertson and two for Alexander-Arnold), but from that point on – including that Fulham game – they have racked up a joint 40 since (23 for Alexander-Arnold and 17 for Robertson).
Gibbons: “Both of them really resonate with the fans. At the end of last season we presented an award for the player who most represents the values of the club and that went to Robertson, which says a lot given all the great players we have.
“Trent is the player young boys and girls can look at and see that he’s fulfilled a dream. He’s such a good role model and so humble. Those two are the heartbeat and soul of the team. They don’t take any nonsense. They are phenomenal footballers.”
Warnock: “The quality they both possess is frightening. They don’t panic when they know the next cross can be to a goalscoring situation. There is a calmness about them.”
Football’s greatest comeback?
Liverpool looked down and out after losing 3-0 at the Nou Camp in last season’s Champions League semi-final first leg.
But the second leg produced one of Anfield’s greatest nights as the Reds scored four goals without conceding to reach the final.
Alexander-Arnold’s quick corner for Divock Origi’s winner while Barca’s defence slept will probably be discussed in Merseyside pubs 50 years from now.
And without that, there would not have been the next match on our list.
Gibbons: “We do like to keep the faith but I turned up that night thinking there was no real chance. It was the most incredible thing we’d ever seen. As soon as we got that first goal we thought: ‘Maybe.’ Then it started to feel like it was written and you were watching the most amazing piece of theatre. We’ve seen some brilliant nights at Anfield but that is right at the top for me.”
Warnock: “It was all about the emotion and the energy. I was on the front row of the Kop and I’d never heard a roar like it when that first goal went in. People were turning around and looking at each other and thinking: ‘Could we?’ I’ve never felt a feeling like that in my life, and I grew up standing on the Kop as a kid. It sends shivers down my spine even now thinking about it.
“I walked out after that game and there was just a stunned silence, and I’ve never witnessed that before. People were sitting in the pub I went into in shock. No-one could believe what had just happened. No-one had believed it was possible.”
Liverpool win sixth European Cup
It will almost be forgotten now but it actually took Klopp nearly four years to win his first trophy with Liverpool.
He had lost his previous six finals with Borussia Dortmund and the Reds. And they had just finished second in the Premier League to Manchester City with 97 points, the highest tally any team had achieved when not winning the title.
But they found a way to win the Champions League final against their English rivals Spurs, despite not playing particularly well. Salah gave them a second-minute lead after Moussa Sissoko’s handball and cult hero Origi added a late goal to seal the result.
“It was an intense season with the most beautiful finish I could have imagined,” Klopp said.
Murray: “It was a great narrative – the fact they had to knock and knock and knock until they finally got through. We know in sport it’s not always like Hollywood – it doesn’t always turn out right in the end. With Klopp’s Liverpool I genuinely believed this would be the start of trophies coming. They won the Champions League and they deserve to be a multiple trophy-winning team.”
Gibbons: “We can talk about the mentality of the players but if they hadn’t won that night I don’t think this season would have happened in quite the same way. I think doubts might have started to creep in. Against Real Madrid the previous season we weren’t expected to win. But it would have been worse if we’d lost to Spurs and it might have been a blow too many for this project.”
Liverpool go eight clear and never look back
Liverpool ended up missing out on the Premier League title in 2018-19 because of a 2-1 defeat by Manchester City on 3 January 2019.
But their redemption came in November this season at Anfield. A win for Pep Guardiola’s side would have reduced the gap to three points, but instead the Reds won 3-1 – with 21 key seconds that could have decided the title race.
Liverpool went nine points above City – and eight above second-placed Leicester – and never looked back, with an 18-game winning run and 422-day unbeaten streak ending with the shock 3-0 reverse at Watford. By that point the Reds were in total control.
They won the league without playing, thanks to Manchester City failing to beat Chelsea, and are on course for a record points tally.
Gibbons: “We knew the head to heads were going to be important even at this early stage. You couldn’t rely on anyone else to take points off City – you had to do it yourself.”
Murray: “It was a symbolic win. What happened the previous season, particularly at Etihad Stadium, was the difference between it going one way or the other. For Liverpool to continue the start they had made and to win like that – and to win well – opened up the gap and Liverpool never let go. It was a real foot-on-the-windpipe moment.” – BBC