Jurgen Klopp’s eight years of managing Liverpool started with a massive lie. At his opening news conference in October 2015, he said: “I’m a totally normal guy.” He stuttered for a second then couldn’t resist: “I’m the normal one, maybe.”
Everyone in the room started laughing because they knew what he was referring to: Back in 2004, at Jose Mourinho’s opening news conference with Chelsea, Mourinho made sure to point out that he was not a normal guy. “Please don’t call me arrogant,” Mourinho said, “because what I’m saying is true. I’m a European champion. I’m not one of the bottle. I think I’m a special one.” Mourinho’s tenure at Chelsea was special. He backed it all up — and he only lasted at Stamford Bridge for three full seasons.
Klopp shocked the world on Friday by announcing that he’d be leaving Liverpool this spring, and with that, the Normal One will ultimately outlast the Special One by five seasons. Klopp has won every potential trophy he could and oversaw Liverpool’s rise from 10th place to top of the table. The last Liverpool manager to log as many games as Klopp was Bob Paisley, who won six league titles and three European Cups. Paisley stepped down in 1983 and died in 1996 at age 77.
Outside of Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola, Klopp has no peers among his managerial contemporaries. He’s keeping the company of ghosts and men who stopped coaching a long time ago. A “normal” coach? Hardly.
In other words, Klopp is irreplaceable — but Liverpool still do have to replace him. So, how might they do it?