Friday 9 December 2016

Ronnie Whelan: Crystal Palace win completes circle for happy Jurgen Klopp

Read Ronnie Whelan every Monday only in The Herald

Herald Sport

Published 07/03/2016 | 18:23

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp celebrates with Mamadou Sakho at the end of the match
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp celebrates with Mamadou Sakho at the end of the match

Jurgen Klopp is never far from cracking a smile but the feral grin I saw on his face after Liverpool came back from the dead to beat Crystal Palace was a great thing to see. He completed a circle at Selhurst Park.

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This was the venue which crushed Brendan Rodgers and Steven Gerrard’s cherished dreams a few years back and a team which has always caused Liverpool problems were beaten in very heartening circumstances.

Remember when Klopp signed on first? It was a home defeat by Crystal Palace which told him all he needed to know about the squad he had inherited from Brendan Rodgers and if the truth be told, a line of Liverpool managers.

When Klopp landed on Merseyside, I  think any Liverpool fan would have said that he would need a couple of seasons and plenty of money to fix the holes in the squad.

He identified fear as his biggest enemy from that defeat by Palace and it was an excellent lesson for him.

Since then, he has set about reinforcing confidence, building spirit and from what I saw against Palace yesterday, he is winning his battle.

Liverpool would have lost this game not so long ago. James Milner’s red card would have been the handy excuse which allowed heads to go down when the opposite was needed.

But Milner’s sending off was the trigger for a Liverpool performance full of hard work, committed tackling and when they opened up near the end, enough skill to win the game.

Cristian Benteke came off the bench and scored from the spot and the way he was mobbed afterwards by his team-mates showed me how well Klopp has worked his magic.

I saw faces full of passion and hunger to win that game and Klopp deserves a big round of applause for getting his players thinking that way.

During the week, Klopp was talking about how happy he is an Anfield and I believe him. It shines out of him.

I’m not sure he would be as happy in Real Madrid with astronomical money available to him and the best players money could buy.

He lives for the process and the project and feels a sense of kinship with the Liverpool story.

Klopp will be backed fully by John Henry and FSG but I suspect he won’t be spending as much money as we expect or some would demand.

Latest signing Joel Matip, the Cameroon defender from Schalke who will arrive in the summer won’t cost a penny. He’s just 24, he’s already played 200 Bundesliga games and his contract is up. That looks like a great bit of business if he can play.

I’m sure Klopp’s network is very good across Europe which was something Rodgers didn’t have or indeed the Anfield committee judging by the signings they made and the chaos which surrounded transfer dealings.

There’s hasn’t been a lot of talk about the Anfield transfer committee. January came and went and Klopp never blinked and if my instinct about this is correct, Liverpool will do their business quickly and efficiently this summer.

After this win over Palace, and Manchester United’s defeat by West Brom, Klopp is now chasing down Champions League football on two fronts and that was hardly imaginable six weeks ago.

The race for that fourth spot is becoming more and more complicated with West Ham putting in a shout now in a big way.

It’s unlikely, admittedly, but there’s a chance that Leicester, Spurs and West Ham could be in the Champions League next season and a near certainty that two will be.

I was depressed to read that Liverpool were part of that “elite” meeting in London which decided that it would be a good plan to lock down the Champions League. For that reason, the timing of Leicester’s run is a gift from above.

I read what Steve Ross, the American billionaire, had to say and my heart sank. This man knows nothing about football and his plans are all about money and nothing else.

The way they have been playing this season, Leicester would be more than comfortable in the biggest club competition of them all.

Just look at the Premier League teams still in the Champions League and remember that Leicester have more than held their own against all of them this season.

Herald Sport

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