Klopp rejected suggestions he is too loyal last month – but a vital summer for Liverpool will prove it one way or another.
For someone whose boast about ignoring what is written about him is a proud one, Jurgen Klopp is aware of the accusation that he is too loyal.
The Liverpool boss was asked last month, as his team continued to lurch their way through a difficult season, if he was in fact missing the kind of ruthless side that is often needed for elite-level managers at the cutting edge of football.
“Yes, of course I have heard it,” Klopp said. “I heard that before and I am not. I am not. I am not too loyal. I am loyal. I think everybody should be loyal, but I am not too loyal.
“The problem is too complex. You have a good player who did a lot of good things in the past, that is what we are talking about, and then in your mind [you think] maybe that’s it for him. If you can then go out and bring in another player to replace that makes sense. Both sides, good idea, it was a great time, see you later. If you cannot bring anybody in you cannot bring anybody out.
“That is the situation. It is an intelligent question. The only problem with it is what you all make with the answer. That is the only problem with that. But I am not too loyal.”
Clearly the inference is one that lingered with Klopp as he referenced the loyalty issue the following week, unprompted, in a response to a question about James Milner’s long-term plans for his career.
Klopp said: “There might be more fancy players out there [than Milner] but no one with a similar mindset and that makes him incredibly valuable for us. And it is not because I am too loyal. It is just a fact.”
If Klopp is indeed not too loyal to those who have served him well over the years, there is unlikely to be a more opportune time to prove that decisively than this summer as Liverpool are dragged kicking and screaming towards a rebuild that will now be undertaken out of necessity rather than prudence.
For all his virtues as a manager, Alex Ferguson’s biggest skill to maintain his longevity at the top with Manchester United was his ability to offload high-profile names at key junctures and continuing to thrive in their absence.
Questions were asked when Ferguson sold the likes of Jaap Stam, David Beckham, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Cristiano Ronaldo during his time at Old Trafford but the Scot was, more often than not, proven to be correct, even if the decision to sell the latter to Real Madrid was a reluctant one in 2009.
Ferguson’s United would win two more Premier League crowns and a League Cup without Ronaldo before he eventually stepped away in 2013. Those same questions were no doubt thrown at Arsene Wenger when Marc Overmars and Emmanuel Petit joined Barcelona in the summer of 2000. The Gunners were celebrating a league and cup double less than two years later.
It is maybe something Klopp will have to wrestle with between now and the summer months as a clear-out of sorts looks to be on the horizon. Quite how far reaching that goes only the Reds boss knows at this point, but one way or another, Klopp will surely have to back up the assertion that he is not too loyal.