The career of a successful manager is filled with disappointments, failures, and firings. For every Sir Alex Ferguson, who always seemed to succeed, there is an Antonio Conte, who undoubtedly has a sterling resume but seemingly is about to walk away from a second managerial job in his career rather than be sacked. The reality is international soccer is cruel because there are few opportunities to truly be successful. In European leagues, there are two to three chances to win a trophy and those trophies are won over six to eight months, not a few weeks as in an American sport playoff. Even clubs who have a goal of avoiding relegation or finishing in certain position meet a goal, but the manager’s security lasts only as long that position is maintained. Rarely can such a goal be maintained for long.
I use this to frame Raphael Honigstein’s new biography of Jurgen Klopp, entitled Bring the Noise, because the biography is unconventional. Similar to his book on the renaissance of the German soccer system, Honigstein jumps around Klopp’s chronology and is not wedded to the traditional formula of, “he was born in x, he did y next, and then z happened.” In fact, the first three chapters detail Klopp’s sisters’ early lives, his first managerial appointment for Mainz 05, and his hiring by Dortmund. As the book continues, it jumps in time or more accurately it jumps to different points in the career of Jurgen Klopp. To the casual reader it may seem random or confusing, but to someone who knows the sport at least a little, a rhythm and method emerges that makes sense. This rhythm in the story is brilliant in how it portrays the modern genius manager.
We tend to judge our managers in the moment as the sport itself is reliant on current results. A manager is only as good or as bad as how the club is doing in the standings and its related tournaments. When you pull back, though, and look at a manager’s CV, you see a more complete and clear picture. Jurgen Klopp could ultimately fail at Liverpool; they could finish fifth this season and seasons to come and never win a major trophy. Yet what this book does is show Klopp’s career in its entirety (well, until 2017 at least) without covering up the poor results, and the picture is one of brilliance.