Jurgen Klopp is on top of the world. He has every reason to be. The Liverpool Football Club manager is now the champion of England (a historic Premier League title), the champion of Europe (for now) and the champion of the world (for winning the Fifa Club World Cup).
His all-conquering Liverpool broken plenty of records, and most importantly, have the trophies to show for it.
On Wednesday night, Liverpool ended a thirty-year wait for a Premier League trophy.
The dream seemed extremely distant when the charismatic German arrived at Anfield in 2015, but he took his time to make his mark in the Premier League. His revolution at Merseyside has catapulted him right into the mix when it comes to the debate of who is the world’s best football manager, at the moment.
By beating Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, a man many believe is the rightful owner of that title, Klopp has done his case a world of good. Real Madrid’s Zinedine Zidane, Tottenham’s Jose Mourinho, Inter Milan’s Antonio Conte and Massimiliano Allegri are among others who would, in some capacity, stake claim to the title.
Here’s a look at some numbers that help us compare the managerial record of Klopp with some of his illustrious peers.
Number of titles is the metric best used to judge football managers working at the highest level. Most consider the manager with the most trophies to be the best and to an extent, it’s difficult to argue with the fact.
In terms of purely the number of trophies won, Klopp, despite guiding Liverpool to the Champions League and Premier League crowns, has a long way to go before he can be considered among an all-time great.
Number of trophies won by top managers
|Manager||Trophies won||Matches managed per trophy won|
Guardiola and Mourinho are simply a cut above the rest by this parameter. Having developed an image of being perennial winners, the two managers have won titles at frequently at their clubs.
Zidane’s record too is quite incredible in his relatively short managerial career so far, as is Allegri’s. Conte and Klopp, who have worked their way up coaching in the lower divisions, are behind in this aspect.
However, a big factor behind success at the top level is the money spent by clubs. Mourinho and Guardiola have spent around £2.5 billion among themselves and are the highest spenders among the managers in question. Max Allegri also has been a high spender in his career and his trophy haul reflects that as well.
But if you consider the money spent per trophies won, Mourinho and Guardiola still come out on top despite their heavy spending. The duo have just won an incredibly high number of trophies in their careers and made the most of the financial freedom granted to them at different clubs.
Money spent by managers per trophies won
|Manager||Money spent per trophy won (in $)|
|Zinedine Zidane||45 million|
|Pep Guardiola||52 million|
|Jose Mourinho||71 million|
|Massimiliano Allegri||74 million|
|Jurgen Klopp||82 million|
|Antonio Conte||112 million|
If you look at the consistency aspect, Klopp has the lowest win percentage among all the managers in question, with Guardiola and Mourinho again leading the way.
Win percentage of managers
|Manager||Career win %|
However, another aspect that has to be considered to put these numbers in context is the health of the clubs when these managers took charge.
Guardiola’s critics often point at the strength of the clubs he has managed as being a major reason for his success.
In the case of Mourinho, he surely has managed big clubs throughout his career but has an excellent record of turning around ailing clubs’ fortunes as well. Be it helping Chelsea win their first English top-flight title in 50 years, or ending Inter’s European drought or making Real Madrid great again. The Portuguese has thrived on this narrative all throughout his career.
He was quick to remind the media of Manchester United’s ‘football heritage’ when they questioned him during a bad spell at Old Trafford. He was referring to the state of the club he had taken over from.
Here’s a look at what clubs managed by these managers were like before they joined. It takes into account average number of trophies won by clubs in the five years before the manager under consideration arrived and the average league positions of teams managed by these bosses before their arrival.
Health of top-flight clubs managed
|Manager||Total trophies won by all clubs managed in five years before manager's arrival||Number of managerial spells at clubs under consideration||Health index||Average league positions of all clubs managed in five previous seasons before arrival|
These numbers offer an important perspective on the success or relative failure of these managers. The coaches with the most successful managerial record are often the ones who have inherited stronger sides.
Even though Guardiola’s treble with Barcelona in 2008-’09 and Mourinho’s Champions League triumph with FC Porto were not anticipated, they were achieved at clubs who not so long before were competing for big honours. The same can be said about Zidane and Allegri to an extent although their contribution to taking the project further cannot be questioned.
Klopp and Conte’s success, though, deserves a lot of applause as they took over clubs that had no recent history of success. Out of the three clubs that Klopp took over as manager, there was one trophy won in the previous five years, for instance.
From Guardiola to Klopp to Allegri, all are excellent tacticians in their own right. They have their own ways of playing, some quite peculiar while some not quite. But in terms of the influence of the footballing philosophies on the game, Guardiola, Klopp and Mourinho lead the way.
The Portuguese emerged as football’s ultimate pantomime villain. Using a philosophy based on defensive organisation and pragmatic approach, Mourinho put forward a winning formula that wasn’t beautiful but extremely effective.
For a good part of a decade, the Portuguese was the man with the Midas touch. Many managers tried to ape him, but few succeeded.
Mourinho’s relative decline coincided with the rise of Guardiola, a man who many feel has changed world football. A student of the great Johan Cryuff, Guardiola’s footballing philosophy was an evolved version of the Dutchman. Adding method and discipline to Cryuff’s brand of football, the Spaniard has created a near-perfect footballing system: entertaining, beautiful and most importantly, successful.
Such was the impact of Guardiola that every team in the world wanted to play like his team. Once again, few succeeded.
His greatest success as a coach has been his tactical evolution. Managers have found a way to negate his tactics on a few occasions in the past leading to many feeling it was the end of his time at the top, but he kept reinventing his philosophy to remain on the top.
Klopp can be credited for having a similar impact with his philosophy. Gegenpressing, a system popularised by the German, is now quite common in English and German football. It’s often employed by teams who aren’t blessed with the best of talent but can run an opponent out of the game. It’s what Klopp calls full-throttle football.
“Gegenpressing lets you win back the ball nearer to the goal. It’s only one pass away from a really good opportunity. No playmaker in the world can be as good as a good gegenpressing situation, and that’s why it’s so important,” Klopp said explaining his system.
Conte, on the other hand, has had huge success using his three-man defensive system. It was Conte who kickstarted Juventus’ run of eight straight Serie A titles after a period of mediocrity for the club.
His impact in England was significant as well. It is not limited to helping Chelsea go from a tenth-place finish to winning the Premier League title and a FA Cup a year later. It was Conte who dared to stick with his three-man defence system in English football and reap rewards.
After the Italian’s reign, that system has become quite common in the Premier League. A few managers had tried to use that system before Conte had arrived, but few could implement it successfully.
Allegri and Zidane may not be known for having a larger impact with their systems, but are two of the most tactically flexible managers in the modern game. The latter’s tactical genius was evident in Real Madrid’s La Liga title this season.
Connect with the fans
Owing to their level of success, all these managers share a great relationship with their respective fans.
Klopp and Guardiola are more likeable figures for neutral fans, also thanks to the brand of football they play. The German is warm and expresses much more than the Spaniard. He wears his heart on his sleeve, is very honest in his communication and is a darling of the fans as it can be seen at Anfield. His charming personality perhaps makes him the neutral’s favourite too.
With Mourinho, it’s always his club versus the world. So, he is adored with great zest by fans of his club but equally disliked by other fans. He has been a polarising figure who has fed of this siege mentality. However, when things don’t go his way on the pitch, Mourinho can be bitter and has in the past damaged relationships with his own fans. The Portuguese shuttles between being the most loved or the most hated figure. There’s nothing in between.
Zidane and Allegri come about as relatively calm figures.
Not known for playing the most attractive brand of football, the former comes with plenty of goodwill for being a truly phenomenal player. Having retained his golden touch of winning even in management, Zidane has more admirers than haters.
Conte, a bit like Mourinho, can swing between the extremes. His on-pitch energy is what the fans love, but it can get quite annoying for opponents at times, as seen during his time at Chelsea. Compared to Mourinho, the Italian is fairly honest during his press conferences, sometimes too honest and blunt in his assessments that lead to trouble with the boards. At both Juventus and Chelsea, Conte did not leave on good terms despite delivering success on the field.
In conclusion, Klopp may be a long way behind the likes of Guardiola, Mourinho, Zidane and Allegri in terms of trophies won, but the impact of his footballing philosophy has been massive. His organic way of building teams leaves the clubs in fine shape for long-term success. Unlike Conte, Mourinho and Guardiola, he may not be the man for instant success but certainly one for sustained progress. He’s also a man fans feel is among their own.
In Liverpool though, these comparisons won’t matter. For the Reds, Klopp is the best manager in the world. For Klopp too, perhaps, that would suffice.