They were two different arrivals. The first to land in England was Jürgen Klopp, in the middle of the season. An improvised signing by one band, a tremendously planned one by the other. Several of the trusted men with whom Guardiola had previously worked in Barcelona were already in Manchester. Nobody was able to predict the impact that Klopp and Guardiola would have on the Premier League in the following seasons. That Antonio Conte won the league in his debut on the Chelsea bench did not help to see the dominance that Liverpool and Manchester City would impose coming.
Guardiola inherited a dressing room with important figures such as Pablo Zabaleta, Vincent Kompany or Yaya Touré. Historic East Manchester. But footballers, after all, in the twilight of their careers. In his debut Pep achieved a third place in the league. 2016-17 was the first blank campaign of his career. His possession game, his systems and his vision would not work in the Premier League. At first there was doubt about the Catalan’s ability to continue reaping success, this time in England. Maybe Joe Hart’s departure wouldn’t help. The former captain of Manchester City ran out of space in the cityzen squad overnight and had a much less celebrated exit than that of other footballers of his generation (see the goodbyes to Zabaleta or, more recently, that of Sergio Agüero).
“I have signed for three years and I want to be here three years, and the one that comes will play better”. Pep Guardiola had the last word. And he responded the following campaign after checkout. In the summer, Kyle Walker, Bernardo Silva and Ederson arrived, among others. Aymeric Laporte did it in winter, and in spring they conquered the Premier League with figures as showy as the game they showed on the pitch: 100 points (19 ahead of second-placed Manchester United), 106 goals scored and 27 in against, 32 wins and only two losses. Guardiola’s first award in England was the League Cup, a title he won for the first time in 2017-18and which he successfully defended for the next three seasons.
Happy with what they obtained, Manchester City hardly changed their squad. He only incorporated Riyad Mahrez, for 67 million euros. The sky blue improved the results of the previous campaign, with the philosophy and style of Pep Guardiola fully internalized. They won the Premier League and the League Cup again, and the Catalan manager also added the first FA Cup to his record. Liverpool garnered 97 points in the league that year. He was one away from the title. To a point or eleven millimeters. That was the distance that was missing for the ball to cross the line in a direct duel between red and light blue at the Etihad Stadium. January 2019. Liverpool was seven points ahead of the light blue after playing 20 games without losing. They did that day. John Stones went all out to deflect a shot from Sadio Mané. He arrived with a margin of, you know, eleven millimeters. City won that match and 16 of the remaining 17 to retain the Premier League title. No team had been able to do so since Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United were champions three times in a row, between 2006-07 and 2008-09.
Jürgen Klopp’s team fell short in the league, but beat Tottenham 2-0 in Madrid to conquer Europe. As at the Etihad, but with a slightly smaller budget, at Anfield they were also regenerating a team that also assimilated the personality and character of their coach. In the summer of 2016 Mané arrived from Southampton for 41 million euros, Georginio Wijnaldum did the same for a relegated Newcastle United by 27 and a half, and Joel Matip landed with the letter of freedom after ending his contract with Schalke 04. A season later, in 2017-18, two key pieces arrived: Mohamed Salah and Virgil
It was the birth of the Mané-Firmino-Salah trident and the end of a Klopp headache. The defense was not up to the attack, but the Dutch central defender arrived and resolved the situation. His work and his presence allowed the full-backs to have more freedom, and Trent Alexander-Arnold had just joined a team that had also brought in Andrew Robertson from Hull City. After a disappointing Champions League final in kyiv against Real Madrid, Alisson arrived in Liverpool. He is the icing on the cake.
After winning the Champions League, Jürgen Klopp led the banks of the River Mersey to celebrate a league title 30 years later. Although the party was not such. The outbreak of COVID-19 interrupted the campaign for a few months and prevented the scouser fans from savoring that success on the streets of their city. Jordan Henderson lifted the Premier League trophy surrounded by his teammates, but alone in front of The Kop, Anfield’s liveliest stand, completely empty.
Liverpool and Manchester City finished liquidating the Big Six and turned the English league into a duopoly. With teams as memorable as Wenger’s Arsenal or Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United. Generating an impact on football in the islands. England refused to believe in Jürgen Klopp’s advanced pressure and Pep Guardiola’s use of the ball, but ended up giving in to both. Just like the two coaches did, that added rival features to their own system without losing its idiosyncrasies. Klopp’s game is no longer as direct as in his first years at Anfield, and he even has a former disciple of Pep Guardiola orchestrating the midfield: Thiago Alcántara. City now tries to get to the area earlier, pressing with an advanced defense and printing a faster pace.
Despite the success, and thanks to the pressure that Liverpool exerts on City and vice versa, neither manager has rested on their laurels. Neither of these projects seems to be reaching the end of the title, and fans of both teams have reason to be optimistic about the future. Both Jürgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola have been renewing their squads as they did when they arrived in the Premier League. Ibrahima Konaté, Luis Díaz and Diogo Jota are the present and future of Liverpool’s defense and attack. Phil Foden plays David Silva, Rodri plays Fernandinho and Rúben Dias plays Vincent Kompany. The dominance of both coaches in England is indisputable.
The ‘coconuts’ of Guardiola and Klopp
Both coaches are debating who is the best like a couple of teenagers do to see who hangs up. What does not admit discussion is that Pep Guardiola and Jürgen Klopp are two references at the world level. Titles are distributed, and although City’s has enjoyed more success at the national level (it has won four leagues and eight cups), while Liverpool’s has had it in Europe, conquering it in 2019.
The margins are very thin. In 2018-19, John Stones went all out to deflect a shot from Sadio Mané. The center-back arrived when the ball lacked eleven millimeters to cross the goal line. At the end of the day, City won that game and that league despite the fact that it was Liverpool’s only defeat that season. The rivalry between the two coaches has pushed them to continue looking for ways to surpass the other, to continue improving, and to leave the rest of the coaches and teams at a safe distance.
In fact, No one has beaten Pep Guardiola more than Jürgen Klopp. Nine. The same ones that have beaten the former Barcelona and Bayern to the former Borussia Dortmund. One is the ‘bogeyman’ of the other, and vice versa. Klopp won the first round, the German Super Cup of the 2013-14 season. That course they met three more times, with two separate 0-3 visitors in the league and a victory for Bayern in the cup final. They met eight times in two seasons in Germany, with four wins each.
In England who rules is Pep. The Catalan has won five times, winning three leagues and five cups (two League Cups and one FA Cup). With Klopp on the bench, Liverpool won the first Premier League in their history and the first league title in 30 years. And a drink. Under the tutelage of the German, success has come in the international arena, in turn the unfinished business of Guardiola. Jürgen Klopp has won the Champions League, a European Super Cup and a Club World Cup with Anfield.