• Ninam Bantawa

Liverpool FC leadership

Updated: Feb 13

Introduction


In this post, I have decided to pick a sport of football to illustrate the efficacy of a good leadership when instilled properly. Obviously I have chosen Liverpool FC as the template here because I support the team and also because they are the best team in the world. No biases here 😉


I will specifically use the ongoing spell of the current club Manager, Jurgen Klopp. This is to establish Klopp as the focal point who instilled the leadership that pushed Liverpool FC to be back amongst the top tier football clubs on the planet.


Although Liverpool’s upper management board was responsible for hiring Klopp and the players were responsible to do their part on the pitch, I believe without Klopp none of this would have happened.

Anfield, Liverpool FC's stadium
Anfield, Liverpool FC's stadium

Before I go into further details, people reading this post who do not have knowledge on the importance or prestige of trophies in football that Liverpool could get hold of are listed below:

  1. Champions League (CL)

  2. English Premier League (EPL)

  3. UEFA Europa League (UEL)

  4. Club World Cup (CWC)

  5. FA Cup

  6. League Cup

  7. UEFA Super Cup

The ranking above could be open to discussions however the main point is to highlight what Klopp did to make sure that the team had an everlasting impression in these tournaments.


When Klopp took over the club in October 2015, Liverpool FC wasn’t exactly a force in the Premier League, never mind in Europe and the rest of the world.


Stats don’t lie” - Some person


Although statistics don’t incorporate several other success variables like teamwork and a sense of belonging, I do agree that the numbers are the by-products of how efficient and effective a team can be; at least if gauged in a longer period.



List of Liverpool FC achievements under Klopp


2015/16 season:

UEFA Europa league - Runners up

League Cup - Runners up

EPL position - 8th


2016/17 season:

EPL position - 4th


2017/18 season:

UEFA Champions League - Runners up

EPL position - 4th


2018/19 season:

UEFA Champions League - Winner

EPL position - 2nd


2019/20 season:

EPL - Winner with club’s record breaking 99 points

Club World Cup - Winner

UEFA Super Cup - Winner




As illustrated by the images and the list above, there is no doubt that LFC has made subsequent strides in English, European and world football as a whole.


How did Klopp do it?


To understand how LFC are where they are now, one must understand the leadership traits Klopp possesses. Below I will try to explain his key traits I believe has resulted in overall success of LFC.


Personal and team identity


First and foremost, he has that incredible charisma that attracts anyone to be interested in him. His interviews are witty and funny. He is the kind of manager who likes to embrace his players despite dishing out commanding orders during times when they’re needed.


This physical affection provides a sense of a family environment that ultimately enhances transparency amongst the team. This leads to a bigger clarity in the objective that has been set out; a bigger drive than other teams, an edge that is required to gain that objective, i.e. win games.


The term ‘Mentality Monsters’ was initiated by Klopp to best emphasize that the team was extremely strong on a mental level. Klopp is a passionate individual and this reflects in how Liverpool play their football on the pitch.


In 2015, Klopp opted for a team celebration, a salute in essence, in front of the LFC fans after a 2-2 result against West Brom at Anfield, their home stadium. This was criticised by the rivals and the media at that time; noting it a bit cringeworthy. Instead, Klopp was trying to solidify the relationship between the players and the fans more than before.


He wanted to make sure that it's not just the players on the pitch but the whole stadium is part of a group that is involved in the outcome of football matches. More than before, this has further provided a stronger identity for the fans to make them feel what it is like to support the club.


Clear vision


When he arrived at Liverpool in 2015, he stated that LFC will win ‘something’ in 4 years or so. The disappointment of reaching 3 cup finals before winning the UCL in 2019 was a testament to the difficulty envisioned by Klopp. When he first arrived, he stated LFC had to beat stronger opponents by bringing them down to LFC’s level.


He also urged LFC fans to start believing, stating, “We must turn from doubters to believers”. The 2020 EPL win epitomises this; Liverpool’s league title triumph since 1990, a barren period for the long awaited domestic trophy win that lasted for 30 years was coming to an end.


Motivation


Klopp sincerely believes in the team that they can do whatever they want on the pitch no matter what. The best example of this would be the second leg match against Barcelona FC. Needless to say it was a monumental task.


The odds were heavily stacked against LFC would be an understatement.

Key obstacles:

  • LFC was 3-0 down in the first leg and a 4-0 win was needed to go through

  • Barcelona FC had Lionel Messi who is arguably the best football player of all time

  • Key LFC players Mo Salah and Roberto Firmino were absent for the game

During his pre-match talk Klopp told the players, “The world outside is saying it is not possible. And let’s be honest, it’s probably impossible. But because it’s you? Because it’s you, we have a chance.


Now, I don’t know about you but if someone says that to me I will run through a brick wall and give my all to the common cause we are working towards as a team.


Words are powerful, and Klopp not only uttered those words but I believe he believed it. That belief transcended through to the players that motivated them to the bone. If you haven’t watched the match, I suggest you watch it to best understand how the whole situation unfolded.


There have been numerous other matches where LFC under Klopp has shown maximum grit, desire and determination against competitors who, one could argue are no match with their individual brilliance.


Henderson, Trent, Robertson, Origi, Wijnaldum, Firmino etc. were not your household names in world football. However, every player works together as a team so effectively that the output is something that matches what top teams do, further proving the precedence of us/ours over me/mine.


Other notable matches include:

  • Comeback win against Borussia Dortmund

  • Comeback win against Norwich

  • Comeback win against Aston Villa


Distributed leadership


One important fact that gets swept under the rug is that there have been numerous players during Klopp’s era who have captained teams in the present or in the past for their respective National teams or clubs:

  • Jordan Henderson: LFC and England

  • Virgil Van Dijk: LFC and Netherlands

  • Naby Keita: Guinea

  • Andrew Robertson: Scotland

  • James Milner: LFC and England

  • Joe Gomez: England(Under-21s)

  • Sadio Mane: Senegal

  • Thiago: Spain(Under-21s)

  • Solanke: England(Under-21s)

  • Ragnar Klavan: Estonia

  • Wijnaldum: Holland and PSV

  • Alison: AS Roma

  • Joel Matip: Schalke 04 FC

When you have multiple leaders in the team, it’s easier to motivate as they themselves understand what leadership encompasses. Being able to lead means being the better version of oneself. The more you have leading characters in a team, the better the chances of attaining the mission. Klopp seems to understand this; as it is evident in his signings who have an active or a previous captaincy experience.


Leading by example


I believe this is his best attribute that sets him apart.


There is a Japanese proverb that goes "Nana korobi ya oki" which translates to "Fall down seven times, get up eight."


Throughout his managerial career, he has lost 6 cup finals; which included 2 Champions League finals. This is a devastating blow for an individual whose job relies on winning trophies. Yet he has come back and won.


In the interviews, you have to read between the lines when he speaks. He believes losing is a part of life and the best you can do after a loss is to come back stronger. It’s not hard to conclude that this attitude cascades down to the team extremely well. This is manifested in LFC’s multiple comeback triumphs notably the UCL final win and the recent EPL title clinch.


Summary


Hopefully this post has made you aware or reminded you of what a good leader can bring into the team and the organisation as a whole.


You may say, “Well, this is football; it is different in other areas of life”.


I cannot disagree with the above statement more.


We have to understand that the idea of having an intrinsic motivation and purpose to everything we do are the triggers for success. This transcends all facets of life.


A good leader provides just that.


Liverpool FC still look like they're on course to win more trophies. I wouldn’t be surprised if they win the EPL or the UCL this year. The effective leadership shown by Klopp keeps getting better and better.


Long may it continue.

For Manchester United fans, this might not be very good news.🙂



Do you recognise Klopp’s contributions to LFC and football in general?


What makes him different from other managers?


Does patience prevail?


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