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Sunday, June 16, 2024

Could Klopp’s next move be the Germany or U.S. men’s national team jobs?

With Jurgen Klopp set to leave Liverpool, all eyes will be on his next job.

He wants some time out before deciding where he goes next and many top clubs will no doubt be trying to persuade him to head their way. 

Two other jobs discussed are the national team positions for Germany and the United States.

But is either job realistic? Raphael Honigstein and Alexander Abnos explain.

Germany: The whole nation wants him

Since Joachim Low oversaw a disastrous World Cup group exit in Russia in 2018, Klopp has been serving as shadow national team coach, the man destined to take over Germany whenever the stars were to align above Liverpool and Frankfurt, where the German Football Association (DFB) is based.

His irascible touchline demeanour at Borussia Dortmund wasn’t to everyone’s liking. But the outpour of love that a more mature Klopp has encountered during his transformative spell on Merseyside has seen the last remaining doubters in his native country turn into admirers. If 83million Germans were to elect the next ‘Bundestrainer’, he’d poll North Korea-type figures in the high 90s. There’s no one more popular, even beyond football.

Klopp has mellowed since his Dortmund days (Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images)

Klopp has repeatedly declared himself interested in the Germany job in principle and did so again in a podium debate with one of his marketing partners last July. “It would be a great honour to be the national team coach, without a doubt,” said Klopp, 56. “The problem is my loyalty. I can’t just leave Liverpool and say, ‘I’ll take over Germany for a bit’. That wouldn’t work. And there hasn’t been an approach either.”

That’s not entirely true. Powerbrokers first reached out to Klopp’s inner circle towards the end of Low’s tenure. The manager was going through a tough spell after winning the Premier League title and DFB bosses thought he might appreciate a slower pace of life as national team manager after the 2022 World Cup.

Low’s post-European Championship resignation — announced in March 2021, a few months before the tournament — changed the association’s timeline, however. They needed an urgent replacement and opted for Hansi Flick. The former Bayern Munich manager didn’t last beyond September 2023 after a poor show in Qatar but, by then, a new season with a refreshed Liverpool was underway for Klopp. The DFB saw no realistic chance of signing him and settled on Julian Nagelsmann, whose contract runs until the end of Euro 2024.

Read more on Klopp’s exit

At the aforementioned sponsor event last summer, Klopp explained the importance of timing with the Germany job. “If I am to do this one day,” he said, “I need to be available. I’m not at the moment. I have a responsibility towards the club.”

By informing Liverpool’s owners of his decision to step down six months in advance, Klopp has discharged that responsibility and he also ensured that his availability will, at last, coincide with that of the national job. The fact he is building a house in Wiesbaden, near Frankfurt, and his wish to spend more time with his first grandchild, offer clues to his personal and professional futures.

Having cited a lack of energy for his departure from England, he is unlikely to jump back in for the Nations League in September. However, a nine-month break until the start of the World Cup 2026 qualifiers in March 2025 would offer ample time to recharge his batteries. After coaching three very emotional clubs in Mainz, Dortmund and Liverpool, stirring the passions of an entire nation, albeit with much more downtime, should prove appealing.

If Klopp does indeed say “ja” to the 2025 scenario, the DFB will be forced to scramble another stop-gap solution, by either extending Nagelsmann’s deal or finding another caretaker manager to tide them over. But they would consider that a small price to pay for securing the man the whole nation wants at the helm.

The U.S.

There are plenty of USMNT fans, desperate for the team to level up, who see Klopp’s resignation as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to bring a manager on board with a unique combination of charisma and a world-class track record.  

The U.S. men’s team is among the youngest and most moldable in the world, full of players with the pace and aggression that Klopp likes. Off the field, Klopp’s effervescent personality and sense of humour would be right at home in the U.S. sports landscape, and his profile would build legitimacy for the USMNT. It would continue the shift in attitude toward soccer in a country where other sports’ star power often obscures it. 

But barring an unforeseen and reality-shifting change at the U.S. Soccer Federation, it’s not happening.

Berhalter is backed by the players and is on a lot less money than Klopp (Alex Bierens de Haan/USSF/Getty Images for USSF)

For one thing, the U.S. re-hired Gregg Berhalter as head coach under a year ago. His 2022 World Cup team may not have vastly exceeded expectations with a last-16 finish, but key players publicly supported his return. The fact that U.S. Soccer re-hired Berhalter at all after a prolonged and very public controversy involving the Reyna family should show how committed the federation is to making it work. In all likelihood, it would take a disastrous showing at the U.S.-hosted 2024 Copa America for U.S. Soccer to consider a change.

Even if that happens, financial reality indicates Klopp would struggle to be a realistic candidate. On its most recent public financial disclosures for the fiscal year ending in March of 2022, the U.S. federation reported a loss of around $22million (£17.3m). That loss is offset to a great degree by assets and the federation’s media rights deal enacted in 2023 may change the picture as well. But it is unlikely the federation is sitting on a gigantic pile of cash it can afford to throw at Klopp or any other coach in his tax bracket.

Berhalter’s previous contract paid about $1.6million per year, and reporting around Emma Hayes’ deal to become USWNT coach indicated that she and Berhalter both would be paid around $2million per year going forward. Most reports peg Klopp’s base salary at Liverpool to be around $19million. Germany may not be able to offer exactly that much, but they can almost certainly afford to get closer than the U.S. federation can.

(Top photo: Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images)

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