LIVERPOOL, June 26: Jurgen Klopp was two months into his tenure as Liverpool manager when he strode onto the Anfield turf, cajoled his players into lining up with him at the edge of the penalty area, and made them thanks fans in The Kop with an arm-swinging salute.
The team had just scored in the fifth minute of stoppage time to rescue a 2-2 draw against lowly West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League. It was hardly a result worthy of such a reaction, and was invariably the subject of widespread ridicule.
Yet it was typical of Klopp: maverick, unconventional, passionate, but also calculated.
Liiiiverpool, Liiiiverpool, the Kopites chanted back, a bond seemingly already forged with a bespectacled, cap-wearing, bearded German manager who was about to make them dream again.
Four-and-a-half years later, Klopp has attained legendary status in the port city in northwest England as the man who returned Liverpool to the top of English game after a 30-year wait for a 19th league title.
A man whose name will be slotted alongside those of other managerial greats at Anfield Bill Shankly, Bob Paisley and Kenny Dalglish. Chelsea�s 2-1 win over Manchester City saw Liverpool clinch its first championship since 1990, ending one of the most unforeseen droughts in British sports.
European champion, world club champion, and now English champion. All in the space of 13 months and all under the watchful eye of an eccentric who has turned Liverpool from a thrilling yet brittle team into a cold-blooded, trophy-winning juggernaut.
More than that, Klopp has managed to achieve the nearly impossible in this era of increasing soccer tribalism: he is almost universally liked. Ask fans of Manchester United and Manchester City what they think about the man who has relegated their teams to Premier League also-rans this season and they�ll most likely speak of their respect and admiration for him. It is easy to see why and not just because of his infectious energy and passion on the touchline and his clear man-management skills. � AP