Monday, July 4, 2022

Jurgen Klopp contract: Liverpool agree to new deal that will give manager chance to build next great team

It is the sort of revelation that would surely have rung around the rest of the Premier League like the knell of doom. Liverpool have reached an agreement to extend Jurgen Klopp’s spell beyond 2024. The club announced a contract extension with the German manager — as well as assistants Peter Krawietz and Pep Lijnders — that will run through 2026 on Thursday. Is there no end to the current duopoly at the top of the table, the rest of the competition must wonder?

Manchester City’s sheer financial muscle means that they could weather the storm that comes when Pep Guardiola eventually decides to head for new climes. Meanwhile at Anfield on Wednesday night it was notable that the latest man to fall in Liverpool’s quest for the quadruple saw a team moulded in the image of their manager. “Their characteristics as a team are in Jurgen Klopp’s face: smile, energy, power,” Villarreal head coach Unai Emery told CBS Sports after the Reds won the first leg of their Champions League semifinal.

It is reductive to credit all of Liverpool’s excellence over recent years to Klopp. He does not run the scouting department that spotted world-beating potential in Mohamed Salah, Virgil van Dijk or Diogo Jota nor is he responsible for the club’s commercial acumen. Equally it is undeniable that his sheer magnetism has transformed the club since he arrived in October 2015.

Little wonder Liverpool are working to strike whilst the iron is hot. Last month Klopp said that he would sign a new deal “if I have the energy levels for it.” At the time he was “full of energy.” A few weeks later his agent Marc Kosicke was at Anfield along with Mike Gordon, president of owner’s Fenway Sport’s Group. CBS Sports understands that talks became an immediate priority for Liverpool after what are believed to be signs of encouragement from the Klopp camp.

An extension could bring Klopp up to a decade in charge of Liverpool. It would also appear to signal a readiness to set the process in motion for building the next great juggernaut in Red.

Not that anyone should be in a hurry to dispense with the players that have achieved so much, it is just that eventually time will tell on this great side. Eight of the 11 that brushed aside Villarreal on Wednesday night are 28 or older now. Four are in their 30s. By the time Klopp’s current deal expires 12 of his current squad will be 30 or older.

The likes of Robert Lewandowski and Cristiano Ronaldo prove on a consistent basis that one’s fourth decade need not necessarily spell the end of an elite level footballing career. It was only a few weeks ago Klopp was predicting the same for Salah, adding: “There is no peak mid-20s. The massive advantage of early 30s, mid-30s is the player can see things in the right way having learned in his career.” That may certainly prove to be true for the Egyptian, a supreme athlete who has shown an ever-expanding array of weapons with which to test defenses since returning to England nearly five years ago.

It would be an ambitious manager who trusted that the same would be true for all his squad, that none of yesterday’s starting midfield trio of Thiago, Jordan Henderson and Fabinho began to creek as they moved deeper into their 30s.

Few managers in the Premier League have achieved the sort of transcendent greatness that Liverpool have under Klopp. Arguably only one has ever done it with two separate teams, dependent on how different you believe Arsene Wenger’s Invincibles are from the Arsenal side that did the double six years earlier. It is only really Sir Alex Ferguson who has reached the highest peaks with more than one entirely different team.

That might yet be the great carrot Liverpool can dangle in front of Klopp, the opportunity to forge once more but this time with the foundations he and his front office colleagues have laid. The building blocks are there, quietly assembled across the years. In a matter of months Luis Diaz, 25, has flown up the pecking order and looked every inch the future and present of this great attack against Villarreal. Further back, Ibrahima Konate dealt with what little his opponents had to offer with a surety that belied his 22 years.

In midfield Curtis Jones has more than 70 games to his name at just 21 years of age and looks to be the archetypal Liverpool midfielder: intelligent in the press, reliable in possession and with a venomous shot from range that even Thiago would not sniff at. Harvey Elliott has already looked to be a shrewd pick up from Fulham’s youth setup, and this summer Fabio Carvalho will make the same journey with great expectations on his shoulders.

Then there is the small matter of the best years yet to come from Trent Alexander-Arnold, a player who at 23 is on course to redefine our ideas of what might be possible from a full back. Not only do Liverpool have their title-winning core well established for now, they are not too far off having a squad that can compete into the back end of this decade.

Given all that why wouldn’t Klopp be tempted to stay a little while longer?

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