“It’ll never get better than this.”

It’s a thought that most sports fans try to shoo away whenever it pops up in their heads. It always invades our minds at some point, but if following a team is as good as it will ever get in one particular moment, then it will jade everything that comes after. No matter how glorious the now is, there’s always hope that something equal or even better is waiting out there.

Maybe some of us had that “never better” thought when he was initially hired. Finally, Liverpool had a manager worthy of the name, so we were told, because, to Liverpool supporters of this generation and the ones after it, LIVERPOOL FC was only an idea and not really anything we’d ever seen. The stories and names of league titles and European cups of the past were yellowing and green with mold. We’d only ever had glimpses. We’d been passed by Manchester United long ago, Chelsea, Arsenal, City, even Spurs were getting uppity at the time. There were flashes from Gerard Houllier or Rafa Benitez, trophies even, even a fifth European Cup won in the most miraculous fashion, but they were mostly fleeting and most of their teams were DMV boring. We lived through overmatched up-and-comers (Brendan Rodgers), or old legends who really weren’t up for it anymore (Kenny Dalglish) or just old farts who were never up for it (Roy Hodgson). But here was Klopp, the hottest property in management since he left Dortmund, the madman inventor of Heavy Metal Football that turned Dortmund into the noisiest, most chaotic apparatus in Europe. And he thought Liverpool was the perfect landing spot? Even at that moment, anything seemed possible.

Maybe it was throughout that first hilariously rocky season when Liverpool flashed what might come that we supporters knew Valhalla was approaching. Be it the first time we pushed Jose Mourinho to get fired (this time at Chelsea) or a win at City where even Martin Skrtel was banging home half-volleys or that 5-4 against Norwich that had Klopp charging down the touchline or the craziness of the second-leg comeback against Dortmund in the UEFA Cup. There were equally bad losses, but something was clearly growing.

Or maybe it was the following season, Klopp’s first full one in charge, when Sadio Mane and Gini Wijnaldum arrived and the plan became more obvious, when they made Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal side look so last decade twice (was in the Anfield Road end for the second one) or when Mane stole the derby in injury time or qualifying for the Champions League on the last day.

Maybe it was after Mo Salah arrived, and Liverpool blew away Man City twice at Anfield in both the league and Champions League, or put five past Roma in the first half of the semifinal, or when Virgil van Dijk arrived in the middle of the season.

Maybe it could have been the title challenges to come after that, the Champions League victory in 2019 (quite possibly when Jurgen was so gassed up he nearly fell off the parade bus), or probably that comeback against Barcelona. I don’t know the name of the man who jumped into my arms when Wijnaldum tied it and when Origi won it, but I’ll remember his expression of shock and delight, and the fear of how strong both of those were on his face forever.

It would not only be easy, but in most ways proper, as a sports fan to focus on what was missed in these years. That UEFA Cup final dumped after taking the lead. What might have happened had Sergio Ramos not performed a judo takedown of Salah and ruined his shoulder in the Champions League Final of 2018. Which draw or which loss that might have made the difference in 2019 or 2022 to make up the one point we lost out on the title to City by. Or maybe if Thibault Courtois hadn’t had the game of his life in another loss to Madrid. Any sports fan fixates on what might have been no matter how good it was. It goes hand in hand with always believing there’s something better on the other side. The next time, you will get that one goal, you’ll salvage that one draw or win, the other team will have a break go against them.

But to focus on simply the trophies or wins of the Klopp era is to miss the point. Klopp took that idea that most of us had never experienced and made it real. Under him, Liverpool weren’t just something you were a fan of. It was something you felt, even in a pub thousands of miles away from Anfield. It sounds ridiculous, I know, but it’s true. You felt it when that press would turn other teams’ defenders’ legs into jelly. When they would put together gorgeous move after gorgeous move that no Liverpool team in the previous two decades could manage. When they rescued wins in the dying minutes simply because they wanted to. We shook within, and a lot of times on the outside, too.

You felt it when Anfield roared through the screen, causing Peter Drury to always yell, “Feel the place!” Or when you saw traveling fan sections bouncing. When the pub here stateside became a raucous mess. Jurgen gave us that, no matter what the final trophy haul ends up being. He took the idea of Liverpool FC and made it real, fist pump by fist pump. A defiance, a joy, and a knowing smirk all rolled into one force. What he created on the field fed our frenzy and vice versa, Klopp orchestrating all of it.

Maybe some future manager might get even more trophies. Maybe even Xabi Alonso can if he’s next (and the confluence of my favorite ever player becoming manager almost certainly guarantees something will go totally balls up). But it’s highly unlikely, maybe even impossible, that anyone else will make us feel our club in quite the same way. It won’t be like this again and to remember how it felt then and now is what being a fan really is about.


Leave A Reply