Saturday 17 March 2018

City put on the spot by Jurgen Klopp's sudden availability

Dortmund boss insists he has no plans for break

Jurgen Klopp yesterday announced his decision to leave his role as Borussia Dortmund manager
Jurgen Klopp yesterday announced his decision to leave his role as Borussia Dortmund manager

Glenn Moore

Suddenly Manchester City have a dilemma. Even after being humbled by Manchester United on Sunday, the message from the club was consistent: despite exiting the Champions League and sliding down the Premier League table, manager Manuel Pellegrini would be given another season.

By the summer of 2016 he may have revived the team, and if not (or even if so), Pep Guardiola might then be persuaded to leave Bayern Munich.

Then yesterday Juergen Klopp walked into a function room nearly 600 miles away and announced he was quitting Borussia Dortmund. At the Etihad Campus, Ferran Soriano, Manchester City's chief executive, and Txiki Begiristain, director of football, realised they have a decision to make. Stick with Pellegrini and hope Guardiola joins them in just over a year, or move for Klopp now.

At present City are indicating they will stay with Pellegrini, but coaches of Klopp's calibre do not come along often. They will have competition if they decide to go for the 47-year-old German. Not from their domestic rivals, all of whom might have been interested had Klopp quit in 2013 or 2014, though not now; but from Real Madrid, who seem to have tired of Carlo Ancelotti despite him steering them to the long-awaited 10th European Cup last May; Napoli, ambitious and needing a new coach this summer with Rafa Benitez leaving; and possibly Barcelona as this summer's presidential elections could unseat Luis Enrique.


It may seem odd that a coach whose team lie mid-table in the Bundesliga and were facing relegation at Christmas is the most wanted in Europe but in the previous six seasons at the Westfalenstadion, Klopp forged a glittering reputation.

It is not just the success - two Bundesliga titles despite Bayern Munich's financial superiority, and reaching the 2013 Champions League final - but the thrilling way his team plays and the bond he built with supporters.

Ebullient, quotable, hyper-active, Klopp attracts attention, but not of the sort which alienates people and damages a club's reputation.

Now, though, it seems he has had enough of competing on an unequal playing field with Guardiola's Bayern. At the height of Kloppmania he signed a new deal tying him to Dortmund until 2018. But yesterday the club, at his request, released him from that commitment as of 1 July. Dortmund's chief executive, Hans-Joachim Watzke, started the press conference by stating it was an event he wished he would never have to stage.

Then Klopp, emotional as ever, explained: "I have always said that the day I feel that I am no longer the perfect coach for this extraordinary club, I will say that.

"That is something I have thought about in every phase here at Dortmund and decided in the last few weeks, days, that I was no longer able to be absolutely sure about that. And then, because of the unusual relationship I have with this club, the trust we have for each other, it was my duty to tell the club."

It had been rumoured that he would take a break but he put the major European clubs on alert when he added: "I am not tired. I may look tired but I am not. I am 0.0pc tired. I haven't had any contact with any other clubs but I am not planning a sabbatical."

While Dortmund are expected to move for former Mainz coach Thomas Tuchel, the main focus of attention is where Klopp will go. Though Arsenal have long been thought to be a perfect match, they are not expected to be interested.

The team's revival has cemented Arsene Wenger's position. Indeed, City look Klopp's only avenue should he want to work in England - and he has said in the past: "It's the only country where I should work next to Germany because it's the only country I know the language a little bit and I need the language for my work."

But Manchester United, who would have been hammering down his door a year ago, are now very happy with Louis van Gaal's progress. Liverpool, who pursued Klopp in the past, appear content to persist with Brendan Rodgers. Chelsea, obviously, will not be dispensing with Jose Mourinho any time soon.

That largely concludes the English possibilities. While Premier League clubs, including moderate ones, can now match most managerial salaries in Europe, even the idiosyncratic Klopp is only likely to come to Britain to join a club with Champions League pretensions. Tottenham have played in the competition, but would have to work hard to attract Klopp and for once seem inclined to stick with their current manager Mauricio Pochettino anyway. A left-field option would be West Ham, about to step up a level with their move into the Olympic Stadium, but that will not take place until August 2016. Everton may be tempted, but Klopp would want to join a club with money as well as tradition.

That much was clear as he explained the timing of his decision was to help the club plan ahead as "in the last few years some player decisions were made late and there was no time to react".

Those "player decisions" are the departures of Mario Goetze and Robert Lewandowski to Bayern. Marco Reus and Mats Hummels are also expected to leave Dortmund this summer - possibly for England, making Klopp's chance of overhauling a Bayern side currently 37 points ahead of them remote.

For all his brilliance, and Dortmund's own considerable wealth, Klopp has realised he cannot compete with Germany's richest club. But with City or Real he could. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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