Better it will never be. This is a thought that most sports fans try to suppress when it comes to their minds. It always eventually infiltrates our thoughts, but when it is as good as it gets to follow a team in a particular moment, it will ruin everything that comes after. No matter how glorious the present is, there is always hope that something just as good or even better is waiting for us out there. But every Liverpool fan has had this thought at some point in the nine years that Jürgen Klopp has led our club. „Our club.“ In the face of the cynicism that sport can provoke nowadays, it can still sound a bit strange to say that. But the allure of being a football fan is that there is a unique bond between fans and the team that is not found anywhere else, even if Liverpool itself has the habit of showing off this idea embarrassingly. There is still the belief or hope that it lies beyond the customer-business dynamic that has plagued American sports. Klopp made us all feel that it was our club, and he was simply a manager who brought it back to where it was before. That we were one and the same. Maybe some of us had this „Never Better“ thought when he was first hired. Finally, Liverpool had a manager who deserved that title, we were told, because for Liverpool fans of this and the subsequent generation, LIVERPOOL FC was just an idea and not really something we had ever seen. The stories and names of past league titles and European Cups were yellowed and green with mold. We had only ever had fleeting glimpses. We had long ago been overshadowed by Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, City, and even the Spurs were arrogant at that time. There were flashes of Gerard Houllier or Rafa Benitez, even trophies, even a fifth European Cup won miraculously, but they were mostly fleeting and most of their teams were boring. We experienced inferior young talents (Brendan Rodgers) or old legends who just didn’t feel like it anymore (Kenny Dalglish) or simply old farts who never felt like it (Roy Hodgson). But here was Klopp, the hottest manager since leaving Dortmund, the mad inventor of Heavy Metal football that made Dortmund the loudest and most chaotic apparatus in Europe. And he thought Liverpool was the perfect landing spot? Even at this moment, everything seemed possible. Maybe we fans knew during this first incredibly rocky season, when Liverpool showed what was to come, that Valhalla was approaching. Whether it was the first time we pushed Jose Mourinho to be fired (this time at Chelsea), or a win at City where Martin Skrtel hit half volleys home or the 5-4 against Norwich where Klopp stormed the sidelines, or the madness of the comeback against Dortmund in the Europa League. There were equally bad losses, but something was clearly growing. Or maybe it was the following season, Klopp’s first full season, when Sadio Mane and Gini Wijnaldum arrived and the plan became more obvious as they made Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal team of the last decade look twice as good (at the end of Anfield Road).aye) or when Mane stole the derby in stoppage time at the end of the last game or in the Champions League qualifying. Perhaps it was after Mo Salah arrived and Liverpool beat Man City twice at Anfield Road, or when he scored five times in the first half of the semi-final against Roma, or when Virgil van Dijk arrived in the middle of the season. Maybe it could have been the title challenges that followed, the Champions League win in 2019 (quite likely, when Jürgen was so finished he would almost have fallen out of the parade bus) or probably the comeback against Barcelona. I don’t know the name of the man who jumped into my arms when Wijnaldum tied the ball and Origi won it, but I will remember his expression of shock and joy and the fear of how strong both were on his face forever. It would be not only easy but also right in many ways as a sports fan to focus on what we missed during those years. The UEFA Cup final failed after taking the lead. What could have happened if Sergio Ramos hadn’t judoed Salah in the 2018 Champions League final and ruined his shoulder? What draw or defeat could have made the difference in 2019 or 2022 to level the one point we lost to City’s title? Or maybe if Thibault Courtois hadn’t played the game of his life in another defeat against Madrid. Every sports fan fixates on what could have been, no matter how good it was. With that comes the belief that there is something better on the other side. The next time they score that one goal that saves a tie or the win, the other team will take a break. But just focusing on the trophies or victories of the Klopp era misses the point. Klopp has picked up and put into action an idea that most of us had never experienced. Under him, Liverpool was not just something to be a fan of. It was something you felt, even in a pub, thousands of miles from Anfield. It sounds ridiculous, I know, but it’s true. You felt it when that pressure turned the legs of other teams‘ defenders into mush. When they put on great play after great play that no Liverpool team in the past two decades could have managed. When they saved victories in the final minutes just because they wanted to. We shivered inwardly and often outwardly. You felt it when Anfield roared through the screen and Peter Drury always shouted, „Feel the place!“ Or when you saw away fan sections jumping. When it turned into a loud commotion in the pub here in the USA. Jürgen gave it to us, no matter what the final trophy haul will look like. He took the idea of FC Liverpool and turned it into reality, blow by blow. A defiance, a joy, and a knowing smile united in one force. What he created on the field fueled our frenzy and vice versa, Klopp orchestrated everything. Maybe a future manager will win even more trophies. Maybe it can even be Xabi Alonso if he is the next one (and the fact that my favorite player ever will become a coach guarantees with almost certainty that something will go completely off the rails). But it is highly unlikely, perhaps even impossible, that someone else will make us feel so much our club. It will never be the same again, and to remember how it felt then and now is what being a fan is really about.
Jürgen Klopp und die Bedeutung des Jetzt