Jurgen Klopp Argues Managers Shouldn't Be Judged on Trophies Ahead of UCL Final

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistMay 31, 2019

MADRID, SPAIN - MAY 31: coach Jurgen Klopp of Liverpool FC  during the   Training Liverpool at the Estadio Wanda Metropolitano on May 31, 2019 in Madrid Spain (Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images)
Soccrates Images/Getty Images

Jurgen Klopp knows his Liverpool tenure will be judged on the trophies he wins, although he doesn't think it's the best way to assess a manager's work.

Instead, Klopp agrees with Tottenham Hotspur boss Mauricio Pochettino, his counterpart in Saturday's UEFA Champions League final. "I think Poch is right, but that's not important," Klopp said, per the Guardian's Andy Hunter. "The thing is, you—the outside world—it is your right to judge us by what we win and what we don't win."

Both managers enter the game at Madrid's Wanda Metropolitano Stadium still waiting to win their first silverware at their clubs. Klopp has come the closest after finishing second in this season's Premier League, despite tallying a whopping 97 points.

While he acknowledges few will remember Liverpool's commendable effort but ultimate failure to usurp Manchester City, Klopp said this campaign "stays forever."

Ironically, winning the Champions League final in a third attempt would make many forget about the Reds' near-miss in England's top flight. Klopp couldn't do it last year when Liverpool were beaten 3-1 by a Gareth Bale-inspired Real Madrid.

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The German was also on the losing end when Borussia Dortmund were beaten 2-1 by Bundesliga rivals Bayern Munich in 2013's showpiece fixture at Wembley Stadium. Those high-profile defeats on this stage are part of a sequence of six losses in finals for Klopp.

He also lost two DFB-Pokal finals with Dortmund and a Capital One Cup and UEFA Europa League final with Liverpool.

It's the kind of run that would have most other managers dubbed as "nearly men," yet Klopp refuses to focus on the negative side of his record: "I am probably the world record-holder in winning semi-finals. I could write a book about that but no one would buy it. I don't sit here and think about myself and think 'loser.'"

Rather than deliver a verdict on his career based on the number of trinkets it's brought him, Klopp argued a manager's performance must be put into context.

Pochettino and Klopp are in agreement that trophies aren't the most important measure of a manager.
Pochettino and Klopp are in agreement that trophies aren't the most important measure of a manager.Getty Images/Getty Images

He referenced Chris Wilder being named the LMA Manager of the Year for guiding Sheffield United to promotion from the Championship as a prime example: "It's a good sign that people are looking behind the scenes when making this decision, looking at the circumstances, his resources and how they played."

Klopp thinks it's "a silly thing" to assess managers only by the contents of the trophy cabinet. It's not something those in the profession engage in, according to the 51-year-old: "Coaches, most of us, judge each other not on trophies. And not because most of us don't win but because we know about the job. I don't say Pep Guardiola is the best—which is what I really think—because he constantly wins the league he's in. It's because of the football they play and the things he's doing."

Hunter noted how Pochettino thinks the same way, with the Argentinian dubbing the insistence on correlating success with trophies as "unfair."

Despite trying to make sure Klopp remains trophyless at Liverpool, Pochettino is also supportive of the work he has done since this season:

It's not a stretch to say these are the two most highly rated managers on the continent, despite the lack of trophies. Both Klopp and Pochettino are applauded for revitalising their clubs with energetic brands of attacking football, smart recruitment and the development of young players.

Those traits have helped each man compete against richer clubs:

Of course, Klopp has spent big in recent years. He acquired centre-back Virgil van Dijk for £75 million, a world-record fee for a defender, and also spent £66.9 million on goalkeeper Alisson Becker.

They join a list of pricey recruits Klopp has brought to Anfield, also including Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah, Fabinho, Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Yet any critic believing this detracts from the job Klopp has done should remember he has spent well, while other clubs, including bitter rivals Manchester United, have not enjoyed the same returns on their investments.

Even so, Pochettino may be considered the bigger success because he hasn't had the luxury of splashing the cash while Spurs accelerated the process of switching stadiums:

There is a strong argument to be made to rate managers more on the overall context in which they work. The truth is that balance is needed in how the men in the dugouts are viewed.

Even so, fans of other clubs naturally may not look so kindly on the positive perceptions of Pochettino and Klopp sans silverware. Former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger endured strong criticism, both from supporters and in the media, during a nine-year trophy drought stretching from 2005-14.

Meanwhile, Jose Mourinho's first few seasons at United were derided, despite delivering the EFL Cup and Europa League in 2017.

While many in the media may be willing to judge Klopp and Pochettino differently, fans of Liverpool or Spurs might take a different view when one man leaves the final still without a trophy to his credit.