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Liverpool Gave Jürgen Klopp The Finale He Deserved

Jurgen Klopp manager of Liverpool showing his appreciation to the fans at the end of the Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Wolverhampton Wanderers at Anfield on May 19, 2024 in Liverpool, England.
John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images

A few weeks ago, it looked like Liverpool's final match of the season, at home against Wolverhampton Wanderers, would have utmost importance in the title race. Though there was a last-day title clash in the end, Liverpool was left on the outside looking in, thanks to some disappointing results in the run-in that eventually left the club mired in third place, nine points behind eventual title winners Manchester City. After falling off the pace at the top, the team's focus shifted from a potential second Premier League title to a celebration of the manager who won Liverpool its first. Sunday was Jürgen Klopp's final game at the helm of the Reds, and though his legacy was one of trophies and success, this otherwise meaningless game set the stage for a celebration worthy of the club's most successful manager of the Premier League era.

In a way, Klopp leaving with just one trophy—the League Cup won in dramatic fashion back in February—in his final season is a fitting capstone. Under Klopp, Liverpool went from being a club in perpetual crisis (or at least what passes for "crisis" at one of the richest and most popular clubs in the world) and became a perennial title contender across England and Europe. Nevertheless, he leaves with just five major trophies in eight-and-a-half seasons as manager. This is not to knock his tenure. Liverpool's ascendancy just happened to correspond with Manchester City's unprecedented run of domestic dominance, so even taking one title out of City's grasp, along with two second-place finishes by one point each, was a massive success. In Europe, Liverpool made three Champions League finals under Klopp, winning the 2019 edition over Tottenham but falling short to Real Madrid's own unprecedented run of dominance in 2018 and 2022. Throw in two League Cups, one this year and one in 2022, as well as the 2022 FA Cup, and that's the full haul.

Did any of that sour the moment on Sunday? Not one bit. The Liverpool players did their part to send Klopp off in grand fashion, with goals from two new contributors this season giving the Reds a 2-0 win. First, marquee summer signing Alexis Mac Allister headed in the opener, and then youngster Jarrell Quansah nudged in his second league goal for the senior club six minutes later. That pairing, though not necessarily part of the iconic personnel that defined the Klopp era, made for a perfect conclusion to this era. While Klopp's tactics were often, if not always, on point, it was his man management and ability to integrate both new signings and youth players in the squad that shone most brightly. Klopp's Kids were a big part of winning the League Cup this year, after all, and he helped send signings like Mac Allister, and Mohamed Salah, and Virgil van Dijk, and so many others, into the stratosphere, taking heralded but not necessarily star-level players and turning them into world-beaters.

During the match, the Anfield crowd honed in on that facet of Klopp's tenure, singing songs for Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mané, Gini Wijnaldum, and others who came to the club and became their best selves with Klopp. What could have been a sad occasion turned into a second half party, thanks in part to Liverpool's comfortable lead—it was a much better send-off for a club legend than Steven Gerrard got at the end of his playing days for Liverpool; that 6-1 defeat to Stoke City still haunts me, and I was somewhat worried that a Liverpool team with nothing really to play for on Sunday might suffer a similar fate—but mostly due to how much love this fanbase has for Klopp. The broadcast repeatedly cut to the German manager on the bench, and though he kept his usual intensity even with the result in hand, the camera caught him smiling a few times in reaction to the songs and chants from the fans that learned to adore him.

After the game, to commemorate his time at the helm, the club gave him a ceremony on the level of a trophy celebration. (It was also 50 minutes long, so fair warning on that. Did I watch the whole thing while writing this blog? You know it, baby.) Shortly after the final whistle, Klopp went around hugging all of his coaches, as well as some of the Wolves coaches, and shook hands with referees and stadium attendants. But his embraces with the players who gave him everything stuck out to me. Particularly, his tender embrace with a tearing up Van Dijk, so often the pillar of this club, was a lovely moment.

Klopp played the hits with his trademark toothy smile never leaving his face. He ran over to the Kop, Anfield's storied fan section, and did his fist pumps one last time, roaring in delight as the crowd showered him with love.

He ran into the tunnels under Anfield to hug everyone he could find. He came back out and gave a speech, in which he said he had been uncomfortable with all the attention in the last few weeks, but that he leaves happy to be "part of this family."

Among all of the absolute scenes at Anfield on Sunday, the one I will remember most came towards the end of that speech. Though the club hasn't officially announced former Feyenoord manager Arne Slot as Klopp's successor, the German played accidental scoopster and had the crowd chant for the incoming boss:

Slot will have quite a challenge in replicating Klopp's success. He might do it, at least in one sense. As mentioned above, there aren't that many trophies to catch up to. Slot will have a harder time winning the Anfield fans' hearts the Klopp has, though, and that more than anything is Klopp's legacy. He took a proud club and made it proud once more (Klopp called Liverpool the "superpower of world football now," which isn't exactly accurate but it's a lot closer to the truth now than it was at the start of his stint), and he did it by being entirely himself. That he left on his own terms, with plenty of warning and with explicit support for what comes next, is as good a capper as this era could have had, trophies or not. For almost a decade, Jürgen Klopp was a Red, and Liverpool could not have been in better hands on its road back to relevance.

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