Jürgen Klopp stunner: Liverpool manager will leave at end of season

Liverpool's manager Jurgen Klopp is seen before the English League Cup semi final second leg soccer match between Fulham and Liverpool, at Craven Cottage stadium in London, England, Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2024. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
Liverpool's manager Jurgen Klopp is seen before the English League Cup semifinal second leg soccer match between Fulham and Liverpool on Jan. 24, 2024. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp dropped a bombshell Friday morning, announcing in a video message that he will leave the club at the end of the 2023-24 season.

"I can understand that it's a shock for a lot of people in this moment," Klopp, scruffy and seemingly pained, said in an extended interview with Liverpool's in-house media team. But he went on to explain that he is "running out of energy."

Klopp arrived at Liverpool in 2015 and quickly rejuvenated a historic club that had, for much of the Premier League era (since 1992), fallen behind its rivals. He lifted it back into the top four in his first full season, to a Champions League title in 2019, and to the club's first Premier League title in 2020.

In 2021-22, he again pushed Pep Guardiola's Manchester City to the final day, and again reached the Champions League final for the third time in five seasons. In 2023-24, this season, he once again has Liverpool at the top of the league and contending for all four available trophies.

Which is part of what made his Friday announcement so stunning.

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Klopp, 56, also endeared himself to fans with his passion and quirky charm, and with his "heavy-metal football." He built a legitimate bond with those fans, a bond that is increasingly rare in modern sport but necessary at Liverpool. He inspired them and they inspired his team.

"I love absolutely everything about this club," Klopp said in his announcement. "I love everything about this city. I love everything about our supporters. I love the team. I love the staff. I love everything."

Their unique relationship, coupled with Liverpool's chaotic, raging on-field success, made the Reds the feel-good story of the EPL's last decade. They have been the perfect antidote to Man City's calculated, petro-fueled dominance. Their duels, and Klopp's respectful rivalry with Guardiola, have defined British soccer's modern era. They will likely define one last season, with Liverpool currently atop the table, five points ahead of second-place City, which has a game in hand.

And then, either with a second Premier League trophy in hand or a valiant fight lost, Klopp will depart. He said he'll step away from coaching for at least a year altogether. He said he'll never return to England to manage any club other than Liverpool.

"If you ask me now if I will ever manage again, I would say no," he added. "But you don't know, obviously."

He said he had known for a while that he'd "have to announce [his departure] at one point. I'm absolutely fine now. But I know that I cannot do the job again, and again, and again, and again."

He clarified that he is "healthy — as much as you can [be] in my age." But the job, he explained, is draining. It's games and daily training sessions, but also meetings and constant planning. And at the start of this 2023-24 season, when he and club officials began planning for next season — for potential signings, for preseason camp, and so on — the thought popped into Klopp's head: "I'm not sure I'm here anymore."

It initially surprised him. But then he stewed on it, and felt the timing was right. "If you have to make a decision like that, it's better you do it slightly early than slightly too late," Klopp said.

And his current team's success wasn't a deterrent; it was actually a blessing. He didn't want to leave amid a tumultuous season, with the club careening into the future off the rails. Once he realized that this year's group was "a really good team, with massive potential ... I could start thinking about myself again," Klopp said.

He said he told the club in November. He felt the need to go public now, rather than at the end of the season, to allow the club to openly plan for a future without him.

Liverpool also announced Friday that sporting director Jorg Schmadtke will leave his post at the end of the January transfer window, meaning the scope of its 2024 transition will be even wider.

The immediate favorite to succeed Klopp will be former Liverpool player and current Bayer Leverkusen head coach Xavi Alonso.