It is no longer a major story that Liverpool manager, Jurgen Klopp would be stepping down at the end of the season.
The announcement came as a major shock to the entire football world. It felt like a gut punch to all Liverpool fans far and wide, especially considering that they’re currently on a very good streak and just recently reached the Carabao Cup Final. The German reveals he is ‘running out of energy.’
After 9 years and 7 trophies secured (so far), their beloved manager is leaving Anfield.
Upon hearing the news of Klopp’s departure, one person who indeed had mixed feelings was Manchester City manager, Pep Guardiola. After his side’s FA Cup win over Tottenham, the Spaniard disclosed, “He’s been my biggest rival, so he will be missed.”
Manchester City and Liverpool have been the two main title contenders since 2018, although the Cityzens have won it way more times than Liverpool (only once) over this period. Guardiola’s side are currently on a 3peat and are looking to make it 4 in a row. Although Klopp’s side has won it only once during this period, they have pushed Manchester City on numerous occasions, especially in 2019 and 2021, and thus are indeed worthy to be referred to as the main rivals of Manchester City.
It would be hard to make a valid argument as to why Klopp is not on par with Guardiola in terms of their tactical brilliance. In recent years, fixtures between Liverpool and Manchester City are one of the most anticipated in the world of football.
Therefore, it begs the question of why the Spaniard has significantly outachieved his rival despite spending less time as a manager in the Premier League.
On February 1, 2016, it was announced that Guardiola would be joining Manchester City after a trophy-laden spell at German giants, Bayern Munich. Upon hearing this news, many football analysts and pundits alike were confident the Spaniard would fail in England.
Why was this so?
They believed that the former Barcelona coach’s rigid tactics and limited unadaptability were not suited to the Premier League and would be his undoing. Also, the English League is regarded as the most competitive in the world, and Guardiola can only thrive in a league with very limited competition i.e. a farmers league.
In his first year in charge at the Etihad, the Spaniard seemed to be proving his doubters wrong. After spending £177 million in the summer transfer window before his first season began and recruiting the likes of Leroy Sane, Ilkay Gündogan, and John Stones, Manchester City finished the season in a very underwhelming 4th position and were nowhere close to winning any trophy.
This type of result is very far from the standards for a club as ambitious as Manchester City.
What Guardiola did next shows why he has achieved more success than his rival, Klopp. He unleashed his ruthlessness at the Etihad.
In the 2017/18 season, the former Bayern Munich manager figured out that he couldn’t effectively implement his strategy into the Manchester City team with the current full-backs (Aleksandar Kolarov, Bacary Sagna, Gael Clichy and Pablo Zabaleta) available at his disposal.
What did he do next?
He ensured all these players were released from the club and brought in new full-backs (Kyle Walker, Benjamin Mendy, Danilo, and Oleksandr Zinchenko. Guardiola also recruited goalkeeper Ederson Moraes whose distribution skills effectively complimented his style of play. Overall, the Spaniard spent over £200 million just to rebuild his defense.
How did this transformation turn out for Manchester City?
In the 2017/18 season, the Cityzens won the Premier League title with an astonishing 100 points while breaking numerous records along the way.
Guardiola’s drive to make very hard decisions when necessary and quickly has served Manchester City well over the years. A testament to this is the fact that except for the 2019/20 season, they have been the English champions since 2017/18 and are very strong favorites to win it again this season. Should they do so, they would have won the EPL four years in a row.
In the summer transfer window before the 2022/23 season kicked off, many were stunned that Guardiola allowed forwards Gabriel Jesus and Raheem Sterling to leave the club considering their performances over the years. He then brought in Erling Haaland and Julian Alvarez as replacements. The end result of this rather daring decision was that Manchester City won the much coveted Champions League trophy that year and to sweeten the deal, they also won the treble.
The ruthlessness in decision-making is what really separates Guardiola from Klopp.
By every means, the German has had a very prosperous tenure as Liverpool’s manager. However, when using Guardiola’s tenure as a yardstick for measuring his success, Klopp is significantly behind.
This however should not be the case. Klopp’s decisions and indecisions have cost his side dearly over the years.
For example, in the 2018/19 season, Liverpool should have easily won the Premier League title but the manager’s decision not to make substitutions on time in a series of matches which they ended up drawing cost them. The Reds had 97 points that season but this was not enough to best the Cityzens who had 98 points.
Also, in the 2022/23 season, the Reds were having serious midfield problems and it took Klopp until the second half of the season to implement the changes that would remedy this error. As a result of this, Liverpool just missed out on Champions League qualification and had to settle for the Europa League.
By all means, Klopp was a very successful manager at Liverpool but you can’t help but imagine how successful he would have been should he have been more relentless and agile in his decision-making like his rival, Guardiola.
This article was updated 3 weeks ago