Jürgen Klopp had just climbed football’s Olympus in Europe when a familiar voice surprised him. The Liverpool coach made his interviews after beating Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 in the 2019 Champions League final in Madrid when physiotherapist Lee Nobes handed him a mobile phone. Nobes had worked at Manchester City for 11 years and still had excellent contacts at the club. Klopp picked up the phone and heard Pep Guardiola at the other end of the line. The Spaniard congratulated his German colleague and then they went back to the fight. Or, as Klopp put it: “We promised each other that next season we would kick each other in the ass again.”
They have been doing this for a long time. The beginning of the duel is in the time when Guardiola looked after FC Bayern and Klopp Borussia Dortmund. The coaches have dominated the Premier League with Manchester City and Liverpool for about five years. This Sunday there is another showdown on the last match day (17.00, live at cloud ticket see [Anzeige]). Manchester City are at the top of the table and a home win over Aston Villa would secure their fourth championship under Guardiola. Liverpool need to beat Wolverhampton Wanderers at home and hope their rivals lose points. The coach of Manchester City’s opponent Aston Villa is, by the way, Liverpool icon Steven Gerrard. He could help his heart club to the second championship in the Klopp era after 2020.
It’s the culmination of a season in which a real title race was actually already canceled. Manchester City, meanwhile, had a 14-point lead and were almost certain to be champions at the turn of the year. However, the table was a distorted picture because Klopp’s team still had several matches to catch up. Guardiola always warned against writing off the competitor. A “pain in the ass” is Liverpool, a persistent, annoying pursuer. The Spaniard knew what he was talking about. Liverpool have consistently stood in the way of their goals in England and Europe in recent years.
In 2018, Guardiola became champions with Manchester City for the first time, with a record of 100 points. In the Champions League, however, the club failed in the quarter-finals in Liverpool. A year later, the clubs fought a title race for eternity. Liverpool lost just one match and still finished only in second place, but won the Champions League as a consolation prize, which Guardiola congratulated him on on his mobile phone. In 2020, Klopp’s club won their first championship in 30 years. Guardiola’s side repeated the throne last season. Liverpool, plagued by injuries, have not been able to keep up. Unlike the current season. The club could even create something unique, namely “Quadruple” by winning four titles.
England’s football audience is convinced that Guardiola’s Manchester City and Klopp’s Liverpool are among the best teams ever. It is also proven that the opponents have only reached their level because of each other. “We’ve pushed each other to incredible levels over the last couple of years,” Klopp said. He regularly mentions Guardiola as the best coach in the world who returns the compliments. The relationship between the coaches is characterized by respect and cordiality. This is new for observers in England, who are used to the harsh climate at the summit. Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsène Wenger, who fought for dominance in the Premier League with Manchester United and Arsenal at the turn of the millennium, shared a deep reluctance.
With all due respect, poison arrows occasionally fly between Guardiola and Klopp. Over the last few years, Klopp has repeatedly criticized Manchester City’s lavish transfer costs, which has created astonishment among the competitor. Guardiola recently showed with thin-skinned comments how much the nerve-wracking title race affects him. “The whole country” would breach the Liverpool Championship, he lamented. He probably referred to the fact that old Liverpool heroes like Jamie Carragher or Steve McManaman are powerful voices in the world of TV experts and newspapers’ columnists.
The epic duel between the coaches was to shape the Premier League for a long time to come. Klopp has just extended his contract until 2026. There are growing signs that Guardiola will remain in England after the expiry date of his current contract next year. He has yet to fulfill his mission of winning the Champions League with Manchester City. Klopp could do that with Liverpool for the second time after 2019 these days. Next week on Saturday we meet Real Madrid in the final in Paris. If successful, Guardiola would probably be among the first to wish well again.