Jurgen Klopp was unveiled at Liverpool on Friday upon a wave of optimism that the charismatic former Borussia Dortmund coach will be the man to spark the floundering five-time European champions to life. His track record certainly warrants the enthusiasm that has accompanied the German’s appointment as the 20th manager in Liverpool’s history. Back-to-back Bundesliga titles followed by a Champions League final in charge of Dortmund are the types of achievements that Liverpool long to bring back to Anfield.
But Klopp faces a tough challenge to turn around a squad that his predecessor decried as once again being under transition. While there is talent there, it is a collection of players that appears to have been established without a true focus. It is perhaps no surprise then that since Rodgers was axed last Sunday, almost as many column inches have been dedicated to scrutinizing Liverpool’s “transfer committee” as they have been to discussing Klopp.
In his first press conference since taking the job, though, Klopp made it clear that he had no problem working under the current structure, although he would be the man with the ultimate say.
“It was not a problem for [even] 10 seconds,” he said. “For me it's enough to have the first and the last word and the middle words we can discuss whatever. It doesn't take a long time because we only want to discuss about very good players and it's discussing on the highest level I hope and that's what we have to do. I'm not a genius, I don't know more than the rest of the world, I need the other people to get the perfect information. When we have this, then we will sign a player or sell a player or whatever. It's really easy to handle this.”
While one of his main jobs will be to get the most out of the players at the club, and his success at Dortmund was built upon turning largely unheralded players into star names, he will also surely be keen to make changes. Already there have been reports that Klopp will initially go looking in the most obvious place: Dortmund. It is a move that would make sense, given that at Dortmund he will find players already accustomed to his demanding counter-pressing style.
Here are three players that could come into Klopp’s thinking at his former club.
His long-term future at Dortmund uncertain, Gundogan could well be one of the first names that comes into Klopp’s thinking. The Germany international was a vital part of the Dortmund team that made it to the Champions League final in 2013, setting the tempo with his energy with and without the ball and quick passing at the base of midfield. Although in the end he countered expectations by opting against leaving the club this summer, the single-year contract extension he signed means a possible exit will again soon be discussed. He is unlikely to be short of suitors, and a place in the Champions League will doubtless be required for Liverpool to have a shot of landing the 24-year-old. He would be a shrewd acquisition. Currently Liverpool lack a player quite in the same mold, and it is difficult to see the mobility-lacking Lucas Leiva having a future under Klopp.
Recruiting Reus would be a dream scenario for Klopp and Liverpool fans. Klopp brought the attacking midfielder to Dortmund in 2012 and helped him become one of Europe’s very best in his position, combining assists and goals in large numbers. It is likely, though, that even if Liverpool mount a surge to gain entry into next season’s Champions League, Reus will prove out of their reach. He has regularly been linked to some of the continent’s top clubs, including Barcelona and Real Madrid. And after signing a new contract earlier this year, it appears probable that when the 26-year-old does leave it will be for a huge fee and to a club currently of a more elevated status than Liverpool.
A more likely option to Reus is Armenia international Mkhitaryan. He is a player well known to those on Liverpool’s transfer committee, as well as Klopp, having come close to moving to Anfield before instead opting for Klopp and Dortmund when leaving Shakhtar Donetsk in 2013. Counting against the chances of Klopp wanting a reunion with the 26-year-old is the fact that he had a decidedly mixed time in his two years under the now Liverpool coach. Indeed, it is now after Klopp’s departure that Mkhitaryan is enjoying his best spell at the club, having scored three goals and contributed a further three assists in eight Bundesliga appearances this season. But perhaps Klopp saw enough to make him think that Mkhitaryan can supplement his creative midfield options alongside Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino.