It was the news we’ve all always dreaded and yet somehow none of us felt remotely prepared for it.
If I’m honest, there’s been a Jurgen Klopp-shaped ticking time bomb in the back of my brain for a little while now, but that was always geared towards 2026.
It has tended to tick louder when things are going well, serving as an unwanted reminder that these days can’t last forever and that it might genuinely never be this good again, it certainly hasn’t been in my lifetime.
But now we’re here and it feels all too real, life without our generation’s Bill Shankly is a matter of months away and we’ve got to somehow go about finding a Bob Paisley.
Giddy with expectation
I remember the day he joined like it was yesterday.
I was a university student at the time, I skipped a lecture and took a laptop into the library to watch his first press conference on my headphones.
There was so much excitement, we had no idea what the next few years held for us but parallels were already being drawn between our situation and Borussia Dortmund’s seven years earlier.
As has been the case ever since, he surpassed expectations that day. He gave us soundbites that are still quoted to this day and left us feeling like we could conquer the world.
The promise of a title in four years, the suggestion that we needed to turn from doubters to believers, the insistence that reputation is more important when you leave. It felt bold for a new manager arriving in England but it all happened and then some.
He took us to places we never thought we’d go in this generation, and maybe even the next.
Just hearing a manager even discuss the prospect of a league title in his first interview felt surreal, there was a small part of me that wondered whether he may have underestimated the scale of the task.
Even in failure, he gained credit in the bank. His response to defeat in the Europa League final has always stuck with me: “If we can party when we win, we can party when we f*****g lose!”
That was when I knew he was made for Liverpool and Liverpool was made for him. Even if we kept losing finals – and there was still heartache to come – you already knew that there wasn’t a man on the planet better placed to get us where we needed to be.
Making winning a habit
A Champions League final in his second full season was preposterous, when we won it 12 months later we were there on merit but in 2017/18 we were just grateful to be there and enjoying the ride.
I travelled on a bus to that final and managed to have one of the best weeks of my life despite Loris Karius throwing it into his own net twice.
That is because the culture the manager has built at the club is contagious. The journey is as important as the destination, particularly when you’re coming up against a financially doped superpower up the M62.
Klopp admitted that lifting the European Cup in Madrid might have been the best night of his life, and somehow he was only just getting started.
We went on to lift the Super Cup and become champions of the world for the first time in the club’s history. A man who was once mocked for losing cup finals was making them look routine.
Then there was the 19th league title he promised, the one we thought would never come and the one he and his players had pushed so hard for with 97 points in the season prior.
Bouncing back from setbacks such as that takes a certain type of person. It’s being able to shake off the disappointment, rather than feel sorry for yourself, and say: “Well, we’re just going to have to win every game then!”
For 18 months we were the greatest team on the planet and nobody could argue.
Football isn’t a sport built for long-term domination, but being able to reach those heights with a fraction of your rival’s budget is nothing short of miraculous.
Staying in the moment
Managers are held in higher regard at Anfield than most clubs. There has always been a connection difficult to explain and it is why the turnover in that position is lower than any other top-flight club.
Surviving in modern management for 24 years without being sacked is itself a remarkable achievement.
In his press conference after the announcement, he talked about the “trust” that meant he essentially had to call time on his stay at the club eventually because his employers were simply never going to take that decision out of his hands.
The reality is the trust comes from the knowledge that there isn’t a soul who could truly replace him, which is what makes these next steps so scary.
Even having lost six consecutive home games during the COVID-hit 2020/21 campaign, and the struggles of last season, there was never as much as a murmur about his future being remotely in doubt.
He’s delivered us everything we could have ever dreamt of and, perhaps just as importantly, he’s done it by carrying himself in precisely the way we would want a Liverpool manager to carry themselves.
I’d go as far as saying I have made friends in these last eight years who I’d never have met if it hadn’t been for Klopp, which feels obscene to even think about.
For now, we could still have as many as 30 games of this era of the football club to enjoy, the time for the bereavement we all felt after his announcement can wait until the summer.
When the boss talks about squeezing “everything” out of his final season, you can guarantee he means for us as much as he does for him and his squad.
The players will feel ready to run through brick walls for their manager in the coming months, it’s about time Anfield did the same.
We’ve got four trophies to win here, and as the great man himself said: “The best memories are still to come.”