And Then I Saw His Face, Now I’m a Believer

When hired as Liverpool manager in October of 2015, Jürgen Klopp promised the faithful Liverpool following he would bring silverware back to Anfield “within four years”. He called for patience, as even Rome wasn’t built in a day! Coming from a club like Borussia Dortmund, Klopp believed, instilled and embodies the “holy trinity”, the relationship between manager, players and fans, that legendary manager Bill Shankly stressed as the key factor to Liverpool’s constant success during his reign. Jürgen himself said it in his opening press conference: “We must change from doubters to believers”.

Klopp’s first ever game in charge of Liverpool came against Tottenham at White Hart Lane. The starting XI from that match was : Mignolet, Moreno, Sakho, Skrtel, Clyne, Can, Leiva, Milner, Coutinho, Lallana, Origi. That game ended in a 0-0 draw. Looking at that starting XI from Klopp’s first game, most of the starters make up what is now Liverpool’s squad rotation players.

Players like Lallana, Sturridge, Milner, Origi and Clyne watched their starting positions be taken from them, but Jürgen didn’t forget them. These players have played crucial roles in seasons past, helping Liverpool qualify for the Champions League, reach 3 European Finals in 4 years, as well as a cup final; and break the clubs points record for a single league season.

After qualifying for Champions League in Klopp’s first full season in charge, the biggest task at hand was holding onto prized attacking midfielder Philippe Coutinho. In a sales pitch in which Klopp offered Coutinho the captains armband, he told him to “stay here and win and they’ll build a statue in your honor, but leave for Barcelona and you become just another player”. Coutinho initially signed a 5 year contract extension, but shortly after forced his dream move to Barcelona in what was a major setback for Jürgen and his rebuilding plans. Or was it?

The fee Barcelona paid for Coutinho funded moves for two of Liverpool’s key signings that helped bring them back to the top of Europe. After a failed summer move due to “tapping up”, Virgil Van Dijk finally signed for Liverpool in the January transfer window of last season, completely transforming the swagger, chemistry and professionalism of the struggling Liverpool back line.

Once the summer window arrived, Klopp found himself looking for a goalkeeper after an absolute disaster of a performance in the Champions League Final against Real Madrid. Liverpool broke the transfer record for highly-rated, Brazilian goalkeeper Alisson Becker, who has brought home all the awards as the top keeper in the league and maybe even in Europe. These two moves would’ve proved to be much more costly without cancelling out the fees with the profit from the Coutinho sale.

Klopp was judged heavily in the beginning for losing Coutinho in a team that looked like it needed to score 3 goals to ensure victory any night out. Coutinho left for Barcelona to “win the biggest prizes in football”. A year and a half later, Liverpool eliminated Barcelona in the most legendary night at the most legendary stadium in Champions League History, paving their way to European Cup #6. A year and a half after losing our best player to Barcelona, Liverpool have become the place to be. Sadio Mané recently said it himself in an interview, calling Liverpool the “sexy club” when discussing speculation from Real Madrid.

From selling our top players to other top clubs, to having our best players committing themselves to the project, world class players from Europe’s top clubs want to come play for Jürgen Klopp. They want to play for him because they believe in him.

When I began following Liverpool, they were a few years past winning their 5th European Cup and far from a favorable position to do that once more anytime soon. I used to get more joy watching the YouTube highlight reels of legendary European Nights and Anfield. An Anfield that was a fortress. A fortress feared across Europe, a place where the impossible is made possible. After watching Brendan Rodgers almost get us over that hurdle to the first Premier League title, Luis Suarez left. My belief was shattered when Rodgers was fired, but higher than ever when Klopp was hired.

Klopp May have failed in a Cup Final, Europa League Final, Champions League Final and finished second in the league after recording 97 points, but he brought back that belief, that shear optimism that makes Liverpool teams and fans “Dare to Dream”. Even when trailing 3-0 to arguably the best team in Europe at the time, Klopp believed. His pre match speech before the return leg stressed one thing, belief. “Boys, believe. One or two goals, even if we don’t score in the first 15, 20 minutes, believe in the 65th, 66th, 67th minute that we can score, and then with Anfield behind us, trust me guys, we can do it.” They only went and did it, while also bringing the cup back home. From the moment he touched the sideline at Anfield, the belief began growing again. “Then I saw his face, now I’m a believer. Not a trace of doubt in my mind.” Jürgen Norbert Klopp, Boss Tha.

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