Baggies to Barcelona: 10 standout moments of Klopp’s Liverpool reign

<span><a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Trent Alexander-Arnold;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Trent Alexander-Arnold</a> celebrates <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Liverpool;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Liverpool</a>’s stunning 4-0 victory over <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Barcelona;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Barcelona</a> in May 2019.</span><span>Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Observer</span>

1) First impressions, 8 October 2015

Recruiting Jürgen Klopp was a coup for Fenway Sports Group – Liverpool were not what they are now in 2015 – and his willingness to end a planned year-long sabbatical after four months to take the job generated a level of excitement and anticipation among supporters rarely witnessed before. It would not be misplaced. After signing a three-year contract at the city’s Hope Street hotel, and before going for a drink with his family at a bar around the corner, Klopp gave his first interview as Liverpool’s manager. “The message to those Liverpool supporters?” he asks, rhetorically. “We have to change, from doubter to believer. Now.” He had the entire club onside from the word go.

2) Liverpool 2-2 West Brom, 13 December 2015

The 14th game of Klopp’s reign, and eighth in the Premier League, was an ugly, spiteful affair. Liverpool salvaged a draw with a deflected 95th-minute equaliser from Divock Origi to move up to ninth. Klopp, infuriated by Tony Pulis’s tactics and a horrible Craig Gardner tackle that led to Dejan Lovren being taken off on a stretcher, celebrated by pounding his chest in front of the visiting bench, snarling in the West Brom manager’s face and refusing his offer of a post-match handshake. He then ordered the Liverpool team to line up, hold hands and celebrate a fortunate draw in front of the Kop. Liverpool were widely mocked but the reaction was important in building the unity and never-say-die attitude that characterised Klopp’s tenure. No one mocked when the scenes were repeated after Barcelona.

3) Hardline stance on Sakho, July 2016

Unlikely to be heralded as a key moment but Klopp’s treatment of Mamadou Sakho had a major influence on the fiercely committed dressing-room culture he created. The France international played an important role in Liverpool reaching the Europa League final in Klopp’s debut campaign, scoring in the quarter-final comeback against Borussia Dortmund, but missed the final against Sevilla after receiving a 30-day ban from Uefa over a drug test (the ban was overturned on appeal). That summer Sakho missed the flight for a pre-season tour of the US, a training session and turned up late for a team meal. Klopp sent him home. “It’s not that serious,” the manager claimed. Sakho never played for him again. For all the star names and big characters that have worked for Klopp since, it is striking how few stepped out of line. Klopp recruited good personalities as well as good talent.

4) Real Madrid 3-1 Liverpool, 26 May 2018

Heartbreak is part of the Klopp story, and few defeats were as painful as the 2018 Champions League final. Liverpool enjoyed an exhilarating ride to Kyiv, dismantling Manchester City 5-1 on aggregate in the quarter-finals and managing to make hard work of a 5-0 lead over Roma in the semis. Mohamed Salah came into the final on the high of a sensational debut season that had produced 44 goals. He exited after 30 minutes with a shoulder injury sustained under Sergio Ramos. A Gareth Bale ‘worldie’ and two Loris Karius howlers then consigned Klopp to his sixth defeat in seven major finals. Back home in Formby in the early hours, a few shandies in, Klopp sang about bringing the European Cup back to Liverpool one day. A man of his word.

5) Man City 2-1 Liverpool, 3 January 2019

Another defeat, but there are no apologies for including this breathless contest between the two finest teams of the modern Premier League era. It was the game that exhibited the best of two rivals pushing each other to greater heights, raising the bar not only in performance level but the consistency needed to win the title. Liverpool, unbeaten in the first 20 games, scored a wonderful team goal but were left to rue John Stones’ famous clearance with the ball 11mm from crossing the goalline. Klopp’s team ended on 97 points, the highest total by any club not to be champions of England. It was the first of two occasions when Liverpool missed out on the title by a point to a club later charged with 115 breaches of Premier League regulations.

6) Liverpool 4-0 Barcelona, 7 May 2019

The standout game of the Klopp era. An unforgettable night when the “mentality giants” reduced Lionel Messi’s Barcelona to a quivering wreck. Liverpool were trailing 3-0 from the first leg of the Champions League semi-final – their only loss in the final 24 games of that season – and without the concussed Salah or injured Roberto Firmino, but staged their greatest fightback to reach a second successive final. Victory followed a rousing pre-match speech from Klopp, who told his players their task was: “Impossible. But because it’s you, you have a chance.” Liverpool’s sixth European Cup triumph felt a formality in Madrid after that. It was.

7) Formby Hall golf club, 25 June 2020

The circumstances were grim but after 30 years, 58 days and a three-month interruption to the season caused by a pandemic, Liverpool were finally English champions again. Klopp had delivered the prize that Liverpool craved most. Players and staff gathered in their bubble – remember them? – at the golf club having outclassed Crystal Palace 4-0 at an eerily deserted Anfield the night before. They had resumed the season with an astonishing 25-point lead and Manchester City’s defeat at Chelsea guaranteed Liverpool’s 19th league title and first of the Premier League era. Klopp was in tears as the enormity of the achievement sank in. His team had won the Premier League, the Champions League, the Club World Cup for the first time in Liverpool’s history and the Uefa Super Cup within 13 extraordinary months.

First press conference, October 2015 “I heard from my agent that Liverpool is interested and I felt immediately: ‘Oh God.' It’s like when I met my wife – I saw her and thought: 'OK, I marry her.' And it was like that with the club. It felt right from the first moment.”

On Anfield, May 2018 “If you had Wikipedia or Google and put in ‘European nights’ the answer must be: Anfield.”

After historic comeback against Barcelona, May 2019 “I said to the boys: ‘I think it’s impossible but because it’s you we have a chance.’ And we believed in this chance. I don’t know how the boys did it. These boys are fucking mentality giants – it’s unbelievable.”

After winning Champions League, June 2019 “I feel mostly relieved, to be honest. Relieved for my family because the last six times we were away on holiday and always with a silver medal and that doesn’t feel so cool."

On winning Covid-interrupted Premier League, June 2020 “It is historic now more than ever. Give us an asterisk. Yes, do it. Because it is the most difficult season ever.”

On leaving Liverpool, January 2024 “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.”

On 12.30pm kick-offs, May 2024 “They dare to give us Thursday, Sunday, Wednesday, Saturday 12.30 – it’s a crime! I was actually waiting for Amnesty International to go to them. I would like to be part of that meeting when someone says: ‘Liverpool 12:30’ and the whole room is bursting into laughter.”

Compiled by Morgan Ofori

8) West Brom 1-2 Liverpool, 16 May 2021

With key players sustaining long-term injuries, and without the emotional energy of the Anfield crowd, Liverpool’s title defence flatlined. European qualification looked beyond the reigning champions after six consecutive home league defeats, the worst run in Liverpool’s history, but a storming 10-game unbeaten finale secured Champions League football again. The pressure was firmly on a team with a central defensive pairing of Rhys Williams and Nat Phillips when they entered the 93rd minute at the Hawthorns with the score at 1-1. In desperation, Alisson came up for a corner and, with a towering header, became the first Liverpool goalkeeper to score a competitive goal. The Brazil international dedicated the winner to his father, who had drowned three months earlier, in a moving post-match interview.

9) Liverpool 7-0 Man Utd, 5 March 2023

Liverpool’s great rivals are architects of their own downfall but Klopp made a habit of giving them a push along the way. There was the 3-1 win at Anfield that proved José Mourinho’s final game as United manager, the 5-0 rout at Old Trafford that exposed Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s limitations and the 4-0 exhibition that embarrassed the interim manager Ralf Rangnick later that season. But nothing compared with the historic humiliation inflicted on Erik ten Hag’s supposedly in-form side one week after they had won the Carabao Cup. It was United’s joint-worst defeat and Liverpool’s biggest win in the fixture. How Anfield revelled in their old rival’s heaviest loss for 92 years.

10) Liverpool 1-0 Chelsea, 25 February 2024

On his first full day as Liverpool manager Klopp visited the academy at Kirkby – now part of a sprawling training complex that houses the first team and that he helped design – to underline the importance of young talent to his plans. Klopp has demonstrated faith in academy players throughout his reign but there was no finer example than when Liverpool picked up the final trophy of his tenure. Five academy products, three of them teenagers, were on the pitch when one of Klopp’s most transformative signings, Virgil van Dijk, headed the winner against “the billion- pound bottle jobs” of Chelsea. “In more than 20 years it is easily the most special trophy I have ever won,” said an emotional Klopp, his legacy on display at Wembley and secure.