On Wednesday, Borussia Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp announced that he is leaving at the end of the season after seven years at the helm of Germany’s second-biggest club. In a press conference, BVB CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke confirmed the news before Klopp himself admitted that the time had come for a change, despite having said less than two years ago: “I'm not the type who wonders whether the grass is greener elsewhere," after signing a five-year contract extension with the club.
It’s OK, Jurgen. This is soccer. No one is going to hold you to that.
“I am sure that the decision is absolutely right,” the 47-year-old said Wednesday. “This team deserves to have the absolutely 100 percent right coach. I believe that Borussia Dortmund actually needs a change. A major problem certainly is: As long as I'm here, we are always considering the successes of the past.”
Dortmund has certainly enjoyed success under Klopp; his back-to-back Bundesliga titles, including a domestic league and cup double in 2011-12, as well as that memorable run to the UEFA Champions League final in 2012-13 are not to be sniffed at. His six trophies in seven seasons is currently unsurpassed in the Bundesliga by any of his contemporaries (although Bayern Munich’s Pep Guardiola could surpass him this year). He also scooped up two German Coach of the Year awards (2011 and 2012), and was runner-up for FIFA’s World Coach of the Year award in 2013.
However, perhaps the most remarkable thing about Klopp’s success is that it was achieved just four short years after Bayern had bailed the otherwise-bankrupt BVB out with a 2-million euro ($2.12 million) emergency loan. Despite taking the reins of a (relatively speaking) financially strapped club, Klopp went on to win six trophies during a time when rival Bayern was growing to an historical peak.
He did it by blooding new talent. Many of his one-time youngsters have gone on to become global superstars, including 2014 World Cup winners Mario Gotze and Mats Hummels and, more recently, 2014 Bundesliga Player of the Year, Marco Reus. However, like Atletico Madrid in Spain, Dortmund has been forced into being a selling club to the bigger names, hence the departures during Klopp’s tenure of Nuri Sahin to Real Madrid, Shinji Kagawa to Manchester United (Note: both players have since returned), and Gotze and Robert Lewandowski to Bayern Munich.
The German’s next destination will most certainly be England. As recently as last fall, he said: "I think it's the only country I think where I should work, next to Germany because it's the only country I know the language a little bit and I need the language for my work. If somebody will call me, then we will talk about it."
Well, somebody most certainly will call, but the question is which club. Following the dismal end to its Premier League title challenge, Manchester City has emerged as the bookies’ early favorite, followed by Arsenal and Liverpool.
However, despite the loud campaigning of American and British TV personality Piers Morgan, and the unhappiness of its CEO, Arsenal is reportedly not (yet) interested in replacing longtime coach Arsene Wenger. After all, the second-place Gunners may yet win a second FA Cup title in two seasons, and regardless of any mind games, the Premier League title race still is not over.
As for Liverpool, depending, perhaps, on its success in the FA Cup, the Reds might be willing to part ways with Brendan Rodgers, who spent a boatload of Luis Suarez money last summer and will have very little to show for it at the end of the season.
Thanks to its poor title defense and trophy-less season, City is still the favorite to land Klopp despite the fact that the Qatar-backed club’s claim to the contrary. Manuel Pellegrini is almost certainly not going to survive the chop this summer, and at the moment, the German has the best resume of any top coach that is or will become available. Moreover, City would give him the kind of platform he needs to win trophies without the perennial problem of losing his best players. In fact, don’t be surprised if the highly-sought-after BVB trio of Hummels, Ilkay Gundogan and Reus follows Klopp wherever he goes. That would be exactly the tonic required to repair City’s aging spine.
Meanwhile, somewhat flying under the radar in the wake of Klopp’s decision is the fact that he leaves Dortmund with a massive rebuilding project. Let’s not forget that by the standard of prior Klopp-lead seasons, 2014/15 has been close to a disaster. Currently 10th in the Bundesliga table after being in the relegation zone at the beginning of the year, the BVB still an outside chance of making it into the Europa League. The only silver lining this season is the fact that Klopp & co is still alive in the DFB-Pokal (German Cup), where it next faces Treble-chasing Bayern in the semifinals on April 28.
You could imagine that following such a poor season, and faced with the likely exits of yet more of its top stars, that Watzke and sporting director Michael Zorc aren’t exactly thrilled with -- or ready for, for that matter -- the club’s prospects, beginning July 1.