Jurgen Klopp’s message to fans and media upon taking the reins at Liverpool was “cocky”, admits Ray Houghton, but the German has gone on to deliver “a phenomenal four-and-a-half seasons.”
The charismatic German coach was asked to fill the post at Anfield in October 2015. Klopp accepted the challenge and made it clear from his first day in the job that the ambition of all of those working under him was to deliver major silverware – including the Premier League title.
Many scoffed at that suggestion, but a 30-year wait for top-flight glory has come to a close on Merseyside.
Houghton is among those to have hailed Klopp for taking the Reds this far, with the former Borussia Dortmund boss succeeding where many before him have failed.
“It’s been a phenomenal four-and-a-half seasons under Jurgen,” former Liverpool midfielder Houghton, who won two league titles in his playing days, told talkSPORT.
“There were plenty of managers before him that I’m sure came with the ambition to win the league, and it didn’t quite work out for them, but they weren’t as bold as him. You look at one of the first team talks that he gave to the press and he turned around and said: ‘I’m going to win the league’.
“Everyone looked at him and thought ‘you’re a bit cocky aren’t you, you haven’t won it for 26 years’, but he was true to his word. He believed in this team, he believed in the Liverpool supporters, he knew what they wanted and he delivered.
“Of course you take losses along the way. They lost the League Cup, they lost the Europa League, they lost the Champions League to Real Madrid.
“When you keep getting whacked you need to get yourself off the canvas and come back – and that’s what they have done. Won the Champions League and now this season are Premier League champions.
“It’s been a phenomenal rise in the last four-and-a-half years consistency-wise, the will to win and the players that he has assembled.
“Recruitment is one of the precious things to get right in football and tell me a player that he has brought in who hasn’t really done it? [Naby] Keita, if you’re being really picky. Everyone else who has come in has done a job and they have worked as a unit.
“You have got [Mohamed] Salah, you’ve got [Sadio] Mane, you’ve got [Roberto] Firmino - they are the ones that are the game changers and match winners - but there is so much in midfield and defence that they do so well, and that’s the reason why they have been so consistent.”