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.
Let me pause here and say you’ll notice I have not said much about the practical nature of the book. That’s because it is what you expect from a book by Raphael Honigstein – it’s marvelous. His ability to get key people to speak on the record and honestly about a subject is top notch, and the same things that make Das Reboot beloved are present here. When you finish this book, you will feel like you know the essence of Jurgen Klopp, almost as if you were a long-time friend. If nothing else, you’ll find it hard not to call him “Kloppo” when you watch a Liverpool match.
The man himself, though, if judged on his record is good but not spectacular. He did bring Mainz to the Bundesliga but also watched them go down – and fail to be promoted a few times it seems they should. He brought glory back to Borussia Dortmund after a tough financial spell but he also went through losing streaks that reminded me of the waning days of Peter Bosz. What makes Klopp different and special though is his combination of man-managing and embracing a trend before it became a fad. As the book details, Klopp learned much about tactics from Wolfgang Frank but he took it to another level with his players. Tactics without buy-in are just academic, and Klopp has an ability to convince players to work harder than they ever have and for fans to embrace a club no matter what. His charisma and knowledge of how to interact with people to win their affection, when combined with managerial prowess, makes him a great manager. This book details that process in a non-linear way that is easy to read and downright enjoyable at times.
This is why I said earlier that even if he is sacked at Liverpool for finishing fifth every season, Klopp is a genius. If Liverpool finish fifth, he will have found a way to have the players to buy into a physically demanding, actively pressing system that many of them will not have player before or will play after. A manager’s ability to convince players to do the seemingly impossible, and then go a few steps more, is underrated in the game and is often obscured by things like standings or records which often are influenced by outside events. Yes, Jurgen Klopp’s career will be judged by the number of trophies he wins, but that will not take away from his brilliance. This book hits on that point in a way any soccer fan will enjoy reading.
Bring the Noise: The Jürgen Klopp Story is available via Amazon and all fine booksellers. In the United States, the book is scheduled for release on February 6.
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