Dortmund - Unlike his colleagues - sporting director Michael Zorc and club CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke - Borussia Dortmund’s outgoing coach Jürgen Klopp largely kept emotion out of the equation when confirming the news that he would be stepping down as head coach of the club at the end of the season.
From his opening words - “No-one needs to be grateful to me.” - to a typically jovial closing statement - “It’s not like I’ll be on another planet - I’ve already reserved myself three season tickets!” - Klopp displayed a sense of calm that was almost the polar opposite of the exuberance and showmanship that he exhibits on the touchline.
Seventh season syndrome
Yet the sight of perhaps German football’s most likeable personality leaping into the air in celebration or giving hilarious and memorable interviews has become rarer and rarer this season, no doubt the most trying of his seven seasons at the club’s helm to date. He became the first coach to lead Dortmund to a league and cup double in 2011/12, and took Borussia to the final of the UEFA Champions League in 2013, enthralling Europe with not just his own charisma but also his team’s breathlessly entertaining style of play.
In the ensuing seasons, FC Bayern München have re-established their dominance of German football, winning the treble in 2013 and the domestic double in 2014. Borussia began this season with high hopes of being, once again, the side that would provide the stiffest competition to title favourites Bayern, but the first half of the campaign was an unmitigated disaster, complete with ten defeats and a joint-bottom position in the table by the winter break.
A man of his word
Four league wins from six games to start the new year brought some hope of a revival, but a heavy Champions League exit to Juventus and a chastening 3-1 loss to Borussia Mönchengladbach at the weekend has left Dortmund languishing in tenth place in the standings and unlikely to qualify for Europe next season.
Their cause was by no means aided by injuries to the likes of Ilkay Gündogan, Mats Hummels and Marco Reus, but Klopp is now unwavering in his belief that he is no longer the right man to coach Borussia Dortmund, and that departing was his deliverance of a promise that he had made on numerous occasions this season: “I always said that in that moment when I think I’m not the perfect coach for this extraordinary club anymore, I would say so. I really think the decision is the right one. This club deserves to be coached by someone who is 100 per cent the right coach.“
By his own admission and despite his notable achievements, the time has come for Dortmund to replace him as coach, but what a job his successor in repeating Klopp’s success, let alone competing with the reputation he enjoys and the legacy he has left on BVB and the league at large.
Tactically astute, a motivator of men and above a source of pure entertainment, Klopp, almost single-handedly won Dortmund a legion of fans worldwide in leading them to the Champions League final and is a major component of not only Dortmund’s revival from brink of financial ruin less than a decade ago, but also their enduring appeal to football romantics the world over.
No regrets, no repeats
Perhaps the best reminder of Klopp’s legacy however, will be the indirect influence he has had on German football, domestic and international, at large. In 2015, German football stands for youth, technique, energy and emotion, principles that Klopp’s sides have constantly exhibited down the years.
As he himself said on Wednesday, “for a story to last seven years in modern football is very rare.” Those seven years were time enough for him to write his name into history as one of football’s originals and one of the Bundesliga’s modern legends.