Liverpool is exhausted. But Klopp’s legacy is set

There will be no grand goodbye for Jürgen Klopp. Saturday’s 2-2 draw with West Ham, plus Manchester City and Arsenal wins, eliminates any chance of a second Premier League crown. Klopp and his players are fatigued, and the League Cup final and its aftermath euphoria has subsided.

There will be issues about his timing in announcing his departure. Alex Ferguson’s 2001 decision to leave Manchester United has made this true in English soccer.

Do that even if you’re as feared as Ferguson, and authority may erode. Emma Hayes, who will leave Chelsea Women in the summer after a successful 12-year run to lead the USWNT, appears to have a similar situation.

If Mohamed Salah had known Klopp will be his manager next season, would Saturday’s touchline spat have happened? Salah, who has a year left on his deal, may possibly leave in the summer.

Liverpool hasn’t performed terribly in recent weeks, oddly. Klopp noted that they had chances to overcome West Ham, Manchester United in the league and FA Cup, Crystal Palace, and Atalanta. They all come off when the wheels fall off. The team lost chances, made defensive mistakes, and slowly became exhausted and anxious.

Injury hasn’t helped. With midfield changes, this was always going to be a transitional season. Fabinho and Jordan Henderson were expected to stay, while Wataru Endo was only ever meant to be a stopgap.

One may question if Darwin Núñez or Luis Díaz possess the precision to excel as top forwards. Since injuring his hamstring at the Africa Cup of Nations, Salah has struggled since starting the season well.

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Liverpool performed well to stay in the title chase. However, these past few weeks have meant Klopp has completed his Liverpool career with a typical season.

With Mainz, Borussia Dortmund, and Liverpool, he constantly fought against the odds. At least one better-resourced opponent has always challenged him, but he has often narrowly missed the prize.

With Liverpool, he won the Champions League but lost three European finals. He ended the league title drought and finished second twice; this season may be his second third.

He won and finished second in the Bundesliga twice with Dortmund. Once a Pokal winner, he lost the final and the Champions League final.

Prior to promotion, Mainz had two close calls: they took two points from their final three games in 2001-02 and were defeated by a three-goal goal-difference swing in the final 10 minutes of the following year.

In many of those circumstances, the achievement is getting into the position, so being too critical is ludicrous. Klopp’s many late losses to Eintracht Frankfurt, Wolfsburg, and Sevilla are telling flaws. Bayern, Real Madrid, and City are different.

His one Champions League and one Premier League record may seem meager, but context is key. He did so against City, a wealthier club with a legendary coach. Liverpool finished second twice with 97 and 92 points, which would have won the title 15 years ago.

Put another way. Who are the five greatest Premier League managers? Would anyone not include Klopp among Ferguson, Wenger, Mourinho, and Guardiola?

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He rebuilt Liverpool from faded titans into serious contenders. He revived, repackaged, and sold an English soccer style from 40 years ago. He has created a team that excites neutrals.

This did not go as Klopp or Liverpool wanted. Fatigue has won and reality has arrived. Another season of enthusiasm and partially realized greatness. Nothing is more Klopp-like.

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