On Saturday Jürgen Klopp will be in charge of Borussia Dortmund at the Signal Iduna Park one last time. The legendary head coach can secure BVB a Europa League place, before the German Cup final on May 30.
Seven years ago, wearing a suit, his face clean-shaven and hair long, Jürgen Klopp walked through the doors of the Westfalenstadion without knowing how the near decade to come would transform Borussia Dortmund and himself as a head coach, to powerhouses of German and European football.
The season before Klopp arrived (2007/08), Dortmund finished 13th – the first time they had ended a campaign outside of the Bundesliga's top half since the turn of the millennium, and the last up to the present day. Since winning the title in 2002, the club had been on a well documented downward spiral both on and off the pitch. First turned to third, then sixth and continued until the 2008 finish. The club was on its knees and needed a savior.
Along came Kloppo
Klopp arrived and put faith in emerging talents like Mario Götze and Mats Hummels when no-one else thought to and stunned the transfer market, securing diamonds in the rough like Shinji Kagawa and Robert Lewandowski. In his own words, Dortmund were like heavy metal, pressing relentlessly and breaking at speed – a style that shook the world of football under a philosophy that will live long in Dortmund for years to come.
"Klopp was my best transfer as general manager," Sporting Director Michael Zorc once said. When the now club legend's departure was announced, Zorc said: "In the past seven years, we have written a modern football fairy-tale with you, Jürgen, as the main actor. You have given this club so much energy and enthusiasm."
“Of course I will miss being in the stadium. But I think it's my job to not get too nostalgic,” Klopp said at his pre-match press conference on Thursday, in a leather jacket, rather than a suit, whilst sporting his now infamous beard. However, the bittersweet longing to have his reign end with success is what has kept him so calm in front of the cameras. He won't even bid farewell to fans on Saturday, that's saved until the job is done.
Throughout this season Klopp's role in Dortmund's story has become more subdued. The struggles the club went through in ending the first half of the season at the bottom of the Bundesliga led most to believe the time had come to move on. Despite the issues, Klopp only looked forward, just as he had done when he first arrived at the yellow and black club.
One final duty
“Getting into the Europa League means everything to me,” Klopp said. As the season's final game looms, the turnaround to end with a smile is almost complete. Avoid defeat against Werder Bremen on Saturday and Borussia Dortmund will have clinched what was in January, an unlikely Europa League spot.
“In my first season we ended in sixth. This time round we could end in sixth too - depending on what happens elsewhere. That would be nice,” Klopp added. And although this will be Dortmund's lowest points tally under Klopp, the club's fight-back – 28 points has been collected in the second half of the season - has embodied BVB's never-say-die attitude that has been adopted under the loveable coach.
Before departing the pre-match press conference for the last time with BVB, Klopp said, “I'm here with all my heart and soul. Some find that good, others not so, but I think it's completely right."