Don't expect instant miracles from Klopp, says Neil Humphreys
Calm Klopp only one not falling for insane hype
TOTTENHAM v LIVERPOOL
(Tonight, 7.45pm, Singtel TV Ch 102 & StarHub TV Ch 227)
A smart man knows his limitations.
And Juergen Klopp is a very smart man.
In a week when sensible voices got swallowed by the English Premier League's hysterical machine, the only voice that mattered almost got lost.
Klopp was witty but truthful in his blunt character assessment.
I am the normal one.
His comment was off the cuff, but typically German in its delivery: objective, rational and brutally honest.
For decades now, the Germans have left the farcical hyperbole to the English and focused on the business of winning.
Tonight at Anfield, those worlds collide. The German realist finds himself trapped in a bubble of frenzied hype not of his making.
The EPL is not the world's best league. By his own admission, Klopp is not the world's best manager. As it stands, Liverpool are not even the best team in Liverpool.
But facts never get in the way of a good EPL story.
Klopp's appointment has been buried in a haze of grandiose predictions and the usual Biblical imagery involving Second Comings and resurrections.
Klopp's resume is certainly impressive, but it's not filled with instant miracles.
His Borussia Dortmund side finished sixth in his first season. He managed fifth in the next campaign, requiring two full seasons to bed down his intense, industrious philosophy.
The EPL grants new managers immediate global fame, a salary to make the greediest man blush and the promise of blank cheques in transfer windows.
What elite English football doesn't grant is time.
Time deflates the hype. Time slows the Blitzkrieg advance across up-tapped TV territories in Asia and the Middle East. Time bursts bubbles and the self-proclaimed World's Greatest League cannot tolerate burst bubbles.
Klopp knows all of this. He's spent a week locked away with his coaches, studying videos to confirm what was blindingly obvious to the Anfield observer.
On the pendulum of mediocrity, Liverpool swing between average and awful. Whether it was Brendan Rodgers or the infamous transfer committee, the money wasted on substandard talent now seems almost criminal.
It's hard for the most skilled seamstress to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, let alone half a dozen.
Klopp was aware of Liverpool's limitations before his squad lost two of their more enterprising stars in Danny Ings and Joe Gomez for the rest of the season.
At a conservative estimate, the line-up that laboured to a 1-1 draw in a drab Merseyside Derby a fortnight ago needs decent competition for Simon Mignolet; another centre back; a left-sided midfielder; an additional midfield anchor to support Jordan Henderson or James Milner and possibly a pair of strikers to fill in for the absent Ings and the often AWOL Daniel Sturridge.
But Klopp's hands are tied until January. Liverpool are already 10th and tiptoeing towards five banana skins in Tottenham, Southampton, Chelsea, Crystal Palace and Manchester City.
Even allowing for the inevitable injection of confidence that comes with a fresh face sweeping into the dressing room with a new broom, five hazardous obstacles remain nonetheless.
By the time they are cleared, hopes of Champions League qualification might already be dashed.
Klopp will suddenly be presented as the man he claimed to be all along. The normal one. But no one was listening.
In some ways, the German's reasoned voice proved to be the least influential, his appeal for both calm and time swept aside in the Anfield hoopla.
The most telling insight of course came from the man with a unique perspective on Liverpool. Jamie Carragher compared his club to their opponents tonight.
In terms of pedigree, potential and performance, Liverpool should be ranked with Tottenham, he said, and Spurs do offer a cautionary tale.
In 2007, Juande Ramos was the golden coach on the continent. He had engineered a metamorphosis at Sevilla, turning the middling La Liga club into Uefa Cup and Copa del Rey winners and Champions League competitors.
So the switch seemed a natural one. Swap Sevilla for Tottenham, or Borussia Dortmund for Liverpool for that matter. What's the difference?
The obvious answer is scale. England's also-rans occasionally tap on the door, but rarely gain entrance to the ball. Russian oligarchs, UAE rulers and NFL autocrats still gorge at the top table.
Even without the shackles of moneyball, Liverpool are not in the same financial league as their rivals. Klopp is a more charismatic manager than Ramos, but he's working with similar resources.
And yet, to borrow from another Biblical analogy, he's already being hailed as an enigmatic leader who can turn water into red wine.
But he's not the Messiah.
He's a normal boss in charge of some very ordinary players.
"It’s for everyone to see how impressive he was during his time in Germany. His quality was one of the biggest strengths of the Bundesliga. I’m sure he’s going to be a really good fit for the Premier League."
- Everton’s Spanish boss Roberto Martinez