Opinion: Jürgen Klopp′s Premier League win with Liverpool a haunting reminder for Borussia Dortmund | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 25.06.2020
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Opinion: Jürgen Klopp's Premier League win with Liverpool a haunting reminder for Borussia Dortmund

Liverpool are now Premier League champions, and Jürgen Klopp has played a vital role in the victory. His success leaves Borussia Dortmund with a bittersweet reminder of what they're missing, says DW's Jonathan Harding.

Now that Jürgen Klopp has won the Premier League with Liverpool, there are whispers that it won't be long before a statue of the German appears in the city. The success ends a 30-year league title drought for the club and seals Klopp's connection with yet another community.

The embers of his connection with Dortmund still burn in the city. There is no statue or mural of Klopp there, but his aura has never stopped impacting the club's identity. Restoring passion to the stands, joy to the field and new life into the community is what Klopp is doing at Liverpool because it's what he has done his whole career; first at Mainz and then at Borussia Dortmund. It's why, in the end, when he wins titles the emotional release is seismic.

It's also why he is so hard to move on from once he's gone. Klopp is charismatic, genuine and shows his passion visibly. This makes him easy to like, and when that is combined with sporting success it is hard to imagine anything better.

Who doesn't want to be like Jürgen? At Mainz, he learned the job by doing everything. He took that small club to a place they never thought they'd reach. When he left, he burst into tears after telling fans: "Everything I am, everything I can do is because you let me."

At Dortmund, his fist pumps, leaps into the air and regular exchanges with the Yellow Wall lit the touch paper for a city unaware of what was about to happen. When he left, with the team's sporting success fading somewhat, his relationship with the club and the community remained. It's how the modern identity of Borussia Dortmund became tied to Klopp, in the same way Liverpool's is now.

Five years on from Klopp's departure from Dortmund, the fond memory of him has become more like a ghost for the club. In an attempt to free themselves of everything Klopp, the club decided to go in completely the opposite direction. Thomas Tuchel had Dortmund playing slick football and they won the German Cup, but the visible display of emotion was missing. Peter Bosz was the wrong man at the wrong time and Peter Stöger was just there to clean up his mess. Under Lucien Favre, Dortmund are competitors again, but his repetitive analysis of opponents during press conferences and general shyness have left the feeling that the fit isn't perfect.

The club's decision to appoint head coaches who have been distinctly different to Klopp provide evidence that Dortmund are unable to fully move on. There is nothing wrong with appointing coaches who are not what Klopp is, but only if you don't measure those coaches against Klopp or your CEO doesn't spend every opportunity talking about him.

Doing things the way they have looks like denial, which means they might have been better off realizing that who they are in 2020 is what Klopp made them. A team that under Tuchel and Favre had all the football components to thrill the crowd, but not the words to win them over.

That is what Klopp does. He builds relationships in a way that reminds us that the essence of great leadership is not to know the gameplan, but to understand people. He wants to know his squad but he also wants to know his community. This opens up space to do more, to be more.

And that is what is missing when he leaves. German football hasn't been the same since he left. Borussia Dortmund have struggled to admit that, and Liverpool should remember it when the time comes for Klopp to leave them. For now though, even without the presence of fans, Klopp's title celebrations are intrinsically tying him to the club even more. When he leaves, it will hurt.

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