Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool Team: The Greatest in Club History

Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool Team: The Greatest in Club History

I feared all along that Jurgen Klopp may leave England with only one Premier League title to his name. Manchester City’s era of crushing dominance has seen to that.

The value of football is measured not only by trophies though. If it was then 90 per cent of our Premier League clubs may as well stop playing.

So Klopp’s single title success from nine years on Merseyside doesn’t stop me from thinking that the German built and developed perhaps the greatest team ever to represent Liverpool.

It’s a bold statement and one that devotees of Bill Shankly’s time and certainly of the remarkable Bob Paisley era would contest.

Paisley’s greatest team was perhaps the one that almost won a treble in 1977. Ray Clemence, Emlyn Hughes, Terry McDermott, Kevin Keegan and the rest.

Jurgen Klopp has built and developed perhaps the greatest team ever to represent Liverpool

Bob Paisley, who won the First Division six times as Liverpool boss, celebrates with the 1982 Manager of Year trophy

Shankly managed Liverpool between 1959 and 1974, winning three top flight league titles

Klopp’s side was better than anything built by Bob Paisley (L) or Bill Shankly (R) before him

The German is held aloft by his Liverpool players after winning the Champions League in 2019

The German is held aloft by his Liverpool players after winning the Champions League in 2019

Liverpool's legendary defender Virgil van Dijk celebrates winning the Carabao Cup in 2022

Liverpool’s legendary defender Virgil van Dijk celebrates winning the Carabao Cup in 2022

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Well Liverpool lost eight of their 42 league games that season. They lost to Tottenham – who finished bottom – and also to Birmingham, West Ham, Ipswich, Norwich, Aston Villa (1-5 away), Newcastle and Bristol City. Under the modern three-points-for-a-win system, they would have finished the season with 80 points. Kevin Keegan was the top scorer with 12 league goals.

In 2021-22, meanwhile, Klopp’s team briefly had four trophies in their sights. They ended up with the only the two domestic cups, losing the Premier League to City by a point on the last day of the season and the Champions League final to Real Madrid in Paris.

But they amassed 93 points from 38 games that season and in all competitions lost only five times in 75 matches between March 2021 and May 2022.

That Liverpool team, with Alisson in goal, Virgil van Dijk at his peak as centre half, two remarkable full-backs and an attacking threat carried by Mo Salah and the criminally unheralded Sadio Mane would, I suggest, have been too much for any of the Liverpool line-ups that passed before.

The purpose here is not to denigrate Paisley’s great team. That was a side that broke new ground for the club in Europe.

But a look back at 1977 is instructive as it enables us to place Liverpool’s football under Klopp into context. What is clear is that the greatness of his best Liverpool side is beyond doubt. It doesn’t need trophies to prove the point.

Roberto Firmino (centre), Mohamed Salah (right) and criminally underrated Sadio Mane (left) forged one of the most explosive front threes in the history of the Premier League under Klopp

Roberto Firmino (centre), Mohamed Salah (right) and criminally underrated Sadio Mane (left) forged one of the most explosive front threes in the history of the Premier League under Klopp

Klopp will depart Anfield having only marshalled Liverpool to one Premier League title in 2020

Klopp will depart Anfield having only marshalled Liverpool to one Premier League title in 2020

Manchester City's dominance has led to Klopp leaving with fewer trophies than he deserves

Manchester City’s dominance has led to Klopp leaving with fewer trophies than he deserves

 

The thought of Forest leaving the City Ground horrifies me 

A walk through my adopted home town a year ago took me to me to the place where Manchester City’s Maine Road stadium used to be. In the middle of a housing estate, a patch of ground has been preserved and the old centre spot remains.

It’s a lovely touch and important too. Still, it struck me this week reading about the row over the future of Nottingham Forest’s City Ground just how many of our great football venues have been taken from us. Important pieces of history flattened in the name of progress.

In the main, this sits okay with me. It’s painful and it ages those of us who remember visiting these places. But that doesn’t mean it’s not okay.

Clubs don’t just have responsibilities to the past, they also have an obligation to safe guarding the future.

In Nottingham, however, it doesn’t really feel as though it’s okay. Quite the opposite in fact. The story of Forest’s dispute with the local council is shot through with stubbornness.

Mail Sport's Football Editor Ian Ladyman

Mail Sport’s Football Editor Ian Ladyman

In short, Forest lease the ground on which the City Ground sits from the local authority. The council want to increase the cost of the lease and the Forest owner Evangelos Marinakis says he is considering abandoning plans to redevelop the ground and relocating six miles outside of town on the Derbyshire border.

The very thought of this horrifies me and it’s at this point that I should declare an interest. I used to work for the local newspaper in Nottingham so the city and the football club mean something to me.

Regardless, the City Ground remains one of this country’s finest places to watch football. Sitting by the River Trent with Notts County’s Meadow Lane on the other side and Trent Bridge Cricket Ground over the road, it is impossible to pass through that section of prime sporting real estate without thinking of the likes of Brian Clough, Harold Larwood and Tommy Lawton.

There is a beauty to it, especially at night when the floodlights reflect from the water down by the rowing clubs that serve as pre-match drinking dens. From that perspective it is almost unmatched.

The City Ground currently sits on land owned by Nottingham City Council, whose demands are stalling the club's plans to redevelop their historic stadium which first opened in 1898

The City Ground currently sits on land owned by Nottingham City Council, whose demands are stalling the club’s plans to redevelop their historic stadium which first opened in 1898

With the council wanting to increase the cost of the lease, Forest owner Evangelos Marinakis may scrap the redevelopment plans and build the club's new stadium six miles out of town

With the council wanting to increase the cost of the lease, Forest owner Evangelos Marinakis may scrap the redevelopment plans and build the club’s new stadium six miles out of town

Newcastle has that feel to it, also. Walk from the station up the hill towards the back of the towering Gallowgate End and it’s impossible not to be moved by the very sense of history. But while Newcastle owners have also considered moving, there is an unfortunate logic to that. There is precious little space to redevelop St James’ Park and the club does need a bigger stadium. Everton are moving for the same reason.

In Nottingham, it’s different. The City Ground sits on land with scope for expansion and redevelopment. The club already have plans for a 40,000-capacity redesign drawn up and tucked away.

And this is the point. This is not really a debate about the future and about the best interests of a club and its supporters. No, it’s about money and as such is pretty ugly.

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Forest currently pay an annual rent of £250,000 for the land on which their stadium sits and object to the council’s intentions to hike it to closer to £1m. Meanwhile there is an option to buy the land for £10m sitting on the table.

Forest’s wage bill is just over £150m a year so it’s easy to see why many of the club’s supporters feel Marinakis should stump up and quickly.

Marinakis – interviewed and portrayed expertly by Sami Mokbel in these pages this week – sees opportunity in relocation and that’s understandable. In the current climate, clubs can only spend what they earn and the Greek businessman envisages a 50,000-capacity venue and all the financial opportunities that would come with it.

The truth is, though, that Forest do not have to go. The Athletic has reported expertly and thoroughly on this matter but instead of scoring points through the media it would sit rather better if the club and the council sat down and talked.

Progress is essential in modern sport. Those who get left behind tend to wither. Clubs who move out of necessity do so with heavy hearts but a clear conscience.

Nottingham Forest simply do not have to leave their little piece of sporting heaven by the Trent. If they did they wouldn’t have drawn up those redevelopment plans in the first place. Those on both sides of this rather unseemly debate owe it to their city, its biggest football club and its supporters to get together and sort this out.

 

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Ortega saved Akanji from his ‘Gerrard’ moment

Reserve goalkeepers are like theatre understudies. All the hard work and hardly ever the acclaim.

But Stefan Ortega’s impact in saving from Son Heung-min for Manchester City against Tottenham was profound.

Man City's Stefan Ortega made a significant save late on to deny Son Heung-min on Tuesday

Man City’s Stefan Ortega made a significant save late on to deny Son Heung-min on Tuesday

The substitute goalkeeper also saved his Manchester City team-mate Manuel Akanji (left) from what would have become known as his own 'Steven Gerrard' moment in years to come

The substitute goalkeeper also saved his Manchester City team-mate Manuel Akanji (left) from what would have become known as his own ‘Steven Gerrard’ moment in years to come

Gerrard infamously slipped during Chelsea's 2-0 win over Liverpool at Anfield in 2014 and ultimately handed Manchester City a decisive advantage during the Premier League title race

Gerrard infamously slipped during Chelsea’s 2-0 win over Liverpool at Anfield in 2014 and ultimately handed Manchester City a decisive advantage during the Premier League title race

Not only did the German, on as a substitute, ensure City took a huge step towards in all likelihood winning the Premier League yet again, he also saved his team-mate Manuel Akanji from what would have become known as his own Steven Gerrard moment.

Gerrard handed the title to City when he slipped over against Chelsea in 2014 and admits that he thinks about it every day. Ortega saved Akanji from that misery and in doing so wrote one of the great sporting stories of the year.

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