February 2020 saw Jurgen Klopp complete nineteen years in management. It was February 2001 when he took up the reins at 1.FSV Mainz 05, a club where he had spent over a decade as a player. Working with a small squad and a meagre budget, the German guided the club to promotion to Bundesliga in 2003-04 and helped maintain their top-flight status for three seasons before they were relegated in 2006-07.
Klopp was unable to guide Mainz back to top tier football next season, but his work at the club hadn’t gone unnoticed as Borussia Dortmund signed him on. The 52-year-old spent seven seasons at Signal Iduna Park, helping the Black and Yellows challenge and even dislodge Bayern Munich from their perch in German football along the way.
Having arrived at Liverpool in October 2015, Klopp has built a formidable team, bringing back the glory days to Anfield.
In his career, Klopp has won two Bundesliga titles with Dortmund, the UEFA Champions League, the UEFA Super Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup with Liverpool, while also being named the World’s Best Coach for the 2018-19 season.
In a career that has lasted almost two decades, Klopp has worked with some amazing players along the way. But who makes it to the best XI of players that were coached by the affable German?
GK: Roman Weidenfeller (Borussia Dortmund)
Alisson Becker was a strong, strong contender after his exploits at Liverpool in the past couple of seasons, but the goalkeeping spot has to go to Roman Weidenfeller, who remains the most frequently used player in the German tactician’s career. The former Dortmund goalkeeper made 279 appearances under Klopp, and was the captain of the side in a majority of these matches.
He may not be regarded as one of the best, but with his leadership and commitment, Weidenfeller played an integral role in Dortmund’s rise to prominence under Klopp.
RB: Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool)
Lukasz Piszczek was a permanent fixture at right-back for Dortmund under Klopp, but the way Trent Alexander-Arnold has flourished under the German’s tutelage at Liverpool sees him get the nod. At just 21, the Englishman has grown into one of the best, if not the best, right-backs in the game.
The youngster played an integral role in the Reds’ Champions League triumph last term and has once again been key to their Premier League title charge this season. In 125 appearances under Klopp, Alexander-Arnold has netted six goals and assisted 34 more.
CB: Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool)
Neven Subotic worked with Klopp at Mainz and Dortmund and was a key member of both the teams. But how can one keep Virgil van Dijk out of a Jurgen Klopp Best XI? The Dutchman arrived at Liverpool in January 2018 and immediately turned the team into a rock-solid defensive unit.
In many ways, van Dijk was the missing link in Klopp’s Liverpool, the leader that was needed to marshal the defence. And that is exactly what the former Southampton man has done since arriving, while also chipping in with some important goals at the other end. There is absolutely no denying that the Netherlands international has been pivotal to Klopp’s success at Anfield.
CB: Mats Hummels (Borussia Dortmund)
The third-most frequently used player by Klopp in his career, it would be fair to say that Hummels was to Dortmund under the German tactician what van Dijk is to Liverpool now. The German international played 242 times for Dortmund under Klopp, scoring 22 goals and setting up 12 more. Forming a fearsome defensive partnership alongside Subotic, Hummels helped the Black and Yellows to back-to-back league titles and the Champions League final in the 2012-13 season.
LB: Andy Robertson (Liverpool)
Honourable mention for Marcel Schmelzer who was a first-team regular at Dortmund under Klopp. But Andrew Robertson is the obvious pick at left-back, given the way he has transformed under the German’s tutelage and the role he has played in Liverpool’s rise to the top.
Signed for a nominal fee of £8m, few would’ve thought that the Scotsman would become such a key cog in the Liverpool setup. But his lung-bursting runs on the left-side, backed up with top quality end product has turned him into a bit of a cult hero at Anfield. During his time with Klopp, Robertson has made 119 appearances for Liverpool, scoring thrice and registering 25 assists.
CM: Jordan Henderson (Liverpool)
The Liverpool skipper has grown leaps and bounds since Klopp took over the reins at Anfield. Someone who was derided by the Reds’ fans when he signed from Sunderland, Henderson has turned into one of the best central midfielders in England and has led Klopp’s Liverpool from the front with great gusto.
Henderson has featured in 171 of Klopp’s 254 matches in charge at the club, scoring eight goals and assisting 18 more. Be it in the defensive midfield, box-to-box or even right-wing, the Englishman has excelled at any role he has been thrust into, showing his dedication and commitment to the team. Having won the Champions League last season, he could go on to become the first Liverpool captain to lift the Premier League title this term.
CM: Nuri Sahin (Borussia Dortmund)
A difficult one, given that the likes of Seb Kehl, Ilkay Gundogan from Klopp’s time at Dortmund and Gini Wijnaldum, James Milner at Liverpool have all been key players for the German. However, it is Nuri Sahin who gets picked alongside Henderson in midfield. A product of the Dortmund youth academy, Sahin was thrust into the first-team in Klopp’s first season at the club, from which point he grew into one of the most sought-after central midfielders in early last decade.
Sahin is the most frequently used midfielder in Klopp’s career, having amassed 178 appearances in just three seasons with the German tactician. The fact that Real Madrid, managed by Jose Mourinho at the time, swooped him away in 2011 is an indicator of how brilliant he was at Dortmund, although his career failed to take off since that move.
RW: Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)
Jakub Blaszczykowski deserves a mention here for his contributions at Dortmund, but Mohamed Salah is the undisputed choice for the right-wing slot. The Egyptian, arriving at Anfield in 2017, after a failed stint in England with Chelsea, has become one of the most lethal attackers in the game.
91 goals and 40 assists in 144 appearances under Klopp at Liverpool, two Premier League Golden Boots, one UEFA Champions League winners’ medal speak for themselves.
CAM: Mario Gotze (Borussia Dortmund)
A position where we are spoilt for choices. Philippe Coutinho enjoyed a fine spell at Liverpool under Klopp, while Shinji Kagawa remains one of the most underrated heroes of the German’s Bundesliga-winning Dortmund side, while Marco Reus was prolific under Klopp. However, Mario Gotze gets the nod in the No. 10 role in Klopp’s Best XI.
The German was just a teenager when Klopp thrust him into the spotlight and Gotze repaid the faith in full, playing a key hand in Dortmund’s title triumphs under the manager. Such were his performances that he was regarded as a generational talent and even drew comparisons with Lionel Messi. The Klopp-Gotze partnership would come to an end in 2013 though, as the attacking midfielder chose to jump ship to rivals Bayern Munich.
Gotze’s career has been on a downward spiral for a number of years now. But those years under Klopp, during which he scored 31 and set up 45 in 116 games for Dortmund, were truly memorable.
LW: Sadio Mane (Liverpool)
Another key component of Klopp’s all-conquering Liverpool outfit, the Senegalese speedster has turned into one of the most threatening forwards across Europe under the guidance of his manager at Liverpool. Mane has made 161 appearances for Liverpool during his time with Klopp, banging in 77 goals and creating 34 more for his teammates. The Senegalese international finished as the joint Premier League Golden Boot winner last season and has been in scintillating form this time out as well.
ST: Robert Lewandowski (Borussia Dortmund)
The toughest one of the lot. Roberto Firmino may not score a glut of goals, but he is so very important for Klopp’s Gegenpressing system to work effectively. The Brazilian makes everyone around him better with his link-up play and has proven to be a gem of a signing for Liverpool, especially since Klopp took over.
However, it is Robert Lewandowski who gets the pick as the centre-forward in this lineup. The striker was toughing it out in Poland when Klopp decided to pluck him in 2010 and turned him into one of the most potent marksmen in Europe. Lewandowski was central to the success that Dortmund enjoyed under Klopp, scoring 102 goals and assisting 42 more in 186 appearances during the pair’s time together.