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LIVERPOOL, England – The decision to leave Liverpool after a highly successful but demanding eight and a half years brought manager Juergen Klopp relief, he said, and that in itself confirmed it was the right thing to do.
The 56-year-old German sent shock waves through global football with his announcement on Friday, January 26, that he would leave at season’s end, and in a lengthy press conference reiterated that his energy for the job was waning.
“Relief was there when I made a decision for myself, to be honest, that was another thing I realized, I didn’t know that that would be the case,” Klopp said.
“Today (feelings are) mixed. But I’m not as emotional as I will be when it comes to an end finally.”
Klopp led Liverpool to the League Cup final on Wednesday and has put the Premier League leaders in contention to win four trophies this season.
But excellence demands near-limitless energy, even for the best managers, and Klopp is statistically the most successful the club has ever had in terms of win percentage.
“With all the responsibility you have in this job, you have to be top of your game,” Klopp said. “I am, but I’ve been doing this 24 years now.
“I realized my resources are not endless and I prefer to pack everything into this season and then have a break or stop or whatever. We’re not young rabbits any more and we don’t jump as high as we did.”
Klopp, whose high-octane goal celebrations are beloved by fans, has a candor that is appreciated by the media. He answered reporters’ questions for close to 40 minutes on Friday, prompting laughter with his off-the-cuff replies.
“I’ve had six press conferences a week since it feels like nine years pretty much. I have no problem with you – but I can’t wait until I don’t have to do that any more,” he said.
“There are so many things in this job and you have to be the best version of yourself,” he added. “And especially for a club like Liverpool, because it’s so important for so many people. I cannot do it on three wheels. It is not allowed. And I never wanted to be a passenger in all that.”
Klopp has won the Champions League, Premier League, Club World Cup, FA Cup, League Cup, and Super Cup, as well as the Community Shield during his time in charge. But asked for his fondest memories on the touch line he said the best were yet to come and that he had no regrets.
Former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson announced in 2001 he planned to retire, but had a change of heart six months later. A reporter made that point to Klopp, but was just a few words into his question when the German interrupted.
“No, no, nothing (could change his mind),” he added. “If we won everything this season it wouldn’t change my mind. And if we don’t win anything, it wouldn’t change my mind.”
Liverpool’s CEO Billy Hogan said he was surprised and saddened by Klopp’s decision, but understood it.
“It’s hard to put into words how significant it is,” Hogan said. “When Juergen joined in 2015 he spoke about leaving the club in a better place to how he found it. If you look at where we are today there is no doubt he’s done that.”
Hogan would not give a timeline for finding a replacement, saying however long a thorough search takes.
Klopp said the fact Liverpool’s foundation is solid means he will step away without reservations about the team’s future and he won’t be offering his two cents on the way out.
“So many people work here with only one idea: to find a perfect solution for Liverpool FC. Pretty sure that will happen,” he said.
“And the last thing they need is advice from the old man walking out telling them, ‘By the way, make sure you bring him in,’ or whatever. I will definitely not do that.”
Saying he was keen to lead a normal life, Klopp was asked what that might entail.
“I don’t know what a normal life is, so I have to figure it out,” he said.