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red respect Mutual trust means Reds bosses FSG are fully behind Klopp despite slump


Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp (left), the club’s co-owner John Henry and his wife Linda Pizzuti Henry. Photo: AFP via Getty Images

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp (left), the club’s co-owner John Henry and his wife Linda Pizzuti Henry. Photo: AFP via Getty Images

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp (left), the club’s co-owner John Henry and his wife Linda Pizzuti Henry. Photo: AFP via Getty Images

A couple of years into Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool tenure, he was given a choice by owners Fenway Sports Group, who told him there was £50million available if he wanted to move from Melwood to a new training facility.

Klopp, who was still trying to lead the club back into the Champions League, suggested merging the first team and academy and FSG backed him and plans were formulated, even though the cost meant sacrificing funds which could have been ploughed into the squad.

Few managers at elite Premier League clubs would have embraced a capital project over squad strengthening. If £50m is available, most coaches would want more players, but Klopp was already empowered to think and act differently to his peers.

On the day Liverpool confirmed the training ground scheme, on February 21, 2017, they were not playing in European competition and to the outside world - especially impatient supporters - it was thought they had more pressing priorities.

What the process underlined early in Klopp's tenure, however, was the mutual trust between the manager and the board.

Today, despite a troubling run of just two wins in eight Premier League matches, there is no sign or likelihood of that trust dissipating.

"I was lucky with the clubs I had," Klopp reiterated yesterday. "The owners and presidents and sporting directors knew it takes time."

He has also earned more power than he could have imagined, granted due deference on decisions ranging from construction of the training HQ to who is responsible for the canteen's salad bar.

For over five years, FSG has openly given the impression it is in awe of Klopp. If he called principal owner John W Henry tonight and requested another four-year deal, he would be asked, "Are you sure you do not want to make it five?"

Having delivered the Champions League and Premier League, it is hard to conceive a situation in which Klopp's position will ever be questioned, and that's before we consider his relationship with Liverpool's supporters, which is now at a level comparable to Bill Shankly.

Even if Liverpool continue to struggle - given the demanding run of games, starting at Tottenham tonight - there is no likelihood that the Anfield board would take drastic action.

There is zero prospect of FSG echoing Chelsea when they tired of Antonio Conte or Jose Mourinho's blame games after poor title defences, or Leicester City, who jettisoned Claudio Ranieri, while Manchester City were willing to offload Roberto Mancini and Manuel Pellegrini when they could not build on their title successes.

Liverpool have sought to be the antithesis of the dysfunction they see in others. Klopp and FSG president Michael Gordon talk daily about how to solve any problems.

Despite growing calls for reinforcements, Klopp and the Liverpool hierarchy stick steadfastly to their self-sustaining model.

Klopp knows well that clubs do not want to sell quality players in January and it is a valid question as to whether Liverpool should be looking for players who are good enough to stay in the side once Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez are fit, or simply a more experienced, short-term alternative to teenager Rhys Williams, Nat Phillips or midfielder Jordan Henderson in the centre of defence.

The management philosophy at Liverpool means that while Klopp has been secure from day one, he has had no cause to envy Frank Lampard's spending last summer, and might look with incredulity at Thomas Tuchel getting only an 18-month deal at Chelsea.

"Mr Abramovich gives you some chances with money for players, but is not the most patient person," Klopp said. The contrast with FSG could not be starker.

Klopp's recent remarks are a reflection of the broader situation and the multitude of reasons behind the dip in form - the most critical of which are external, such as the pandemic, lack of supporters and the knock-on effect of the injury to a world-class defender.

Liverpool's players moved into their new accommodation in November and, as much as he would like to give a guided tour to a new centre-back, there will not be a moment during which Klopp walks around the site and considers the £50m should have been invested in his team.

(© Telegraph Media Group Limited, 2021)

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