A Combined XI of players managed by Jurgen Klopp
Say the name Jurgen Klopp to any football fan, and instantly, images crop up of a middle-aged man, dressed in a tracksuit, bombing down the touchline, fists pumping, long hair streaming behind him, a mouth wide open and a face wearing an expression tantamount to one screaming bloody murder.
There is no doubting that Klopp is one of the most entertaining coaches to watch in European football. His passion for the game, which leads to scenes like these, is what makes so many around the world fall in love with the current Liverpool manager.
Jurgen Klopp was born in Stuttgart, Germany, and grew up in the Black Forest village of Glatten with 2 older sisters. He held aspirations of becoming a doctor as a youngster, but by his admission, he felt that he "was not smart enough" to become one, recalling a conversation with his headmaster who said, "I hope it works out with football, otherwise it's not looking too good for you."
Indeed, it did work out with football for Klopp, who played 325 times in the 2.Bundesliga, Germany's second tier, for Mainz, scoring 52 goals. He also obtained a degree in sports science in 1995, while representing the club, and went on to manage them from 2001 to 2008.
Klopp helped Mainz achieve promotion back to the Bundesliga, and although they were relegated in his penultimate season in charge of the club, he is widely regarded as one of the club's best-ever coaches. He took charge of Borussia Dortmund in 2008, managing the club for 7 years, winning 2 league titles, one domestic cup, and reaching one Champions League final, where the Yellow and Blacks suffered a heartbreaking defeat to domestic rivals Bayern Munich.
He then took over at Liverpool after the sacking of Brendan Rodgers in October 2015 and has enjoyed tremendous success since, transforming the club into a behemoth of domestic and continental football, which culminated in his side lifting the Champions League in 2019. A first league title in 30 years is still on the to-do list for Klopp and if his side can continue their stupendous form, that could well be achieved in 2020.
So, without further ado, here is the best XI of players managed by Jurgen Klopp.
Goalkeeper: Roman Weidenfeller
Now retired, Roman Weidenfeller spent nearly his entire playing career at Borussia Dortmund, signing for the Gelsenkirchen club on a free transfer from Kaiserslautern in 2002. Though the latter part of his career was blighted by injury, he still made 453 appearances in 16 years for the club, including 349 league games and 69 Europea appearances.
Also a respected member in the dressing room of Die Mannschaft, the German national team, Weidenfeller commanded immense respect from his more junior teammates and saw his playing time severely cut down thanks to the emergence of Manuel Neuer, who was undoubtedly a generational talent. Indeed, Weidenfeller only played 5 times for Germany but has fond memories with the team, as he was part of the World Cup-winning squad in 2014.
Right Back: Trent Alexander-Arnold
It is perhaps a mark of how far Trent Alexander-Arnold has progressed as a footballer, that he has been included in this team despite him only making his first-ever senior football appearance in 2016, just 3 years ago.
Still only 20, Alexander-Arnold has proven to be indispensable to Liverpool and Klopp, during what is arguably the club's most successful period since the 1980s.
His excellent technical attributes, coupled with an exceptional drive and attacking flair have made him a key cog in Klopp's winning machine. Indeed, his only real competition for the crown of best right-back in world football is probably Bayern Munich's Joshua Kimmich, who is extremely similar to Alexander-Arnold.
Despite all the achievements the Liverpool lad could well go on to win, he will most likely be remembered for his quick corner kick in last season's Champions League semi-final, which caught Barcelona napping and helped Liverpool complete one of the most stunning comebacks in the competition's history.
Centre Back: Virgil van Dijk
It may seem as though Virgil van Dijk has just burst onto the scene, given the hype that has built around the Dutchman over the last 18 months or so. Though he hasn't always got his due, it is easy to see that van Dijk is an exceptionally gifted player, and he came to worldwide attention when Liverpool spent 75 million pounds to bring him to Anfield in January 2018.
What has been unique about van Dijk ever since his days at Celtic, and indeed, FC Groningen before that, has been his quality on the ball. He is a supremely accurate passer, as evidenced by his 87.3% pass accuracy over his 4 seasons in the Premier League.
His range is also excellent, as he completes over 60% of his 7.7 attempted long balls per game. His abilities as an out-and-out defender, though, cannot be questioned either, as he was not dribbled past for the entirety of the 2018/19 season.
If Liverpool are to win their first title in 31 years, this could well be the season that they need van Dijk to take his game to the next level.
Centre Back: Mats Hummels
Ever since anyone can remember, Mats Hummels has been in the discussion for the tag of the best centre-back in the world, consistently putting in excellent performances for Germany, Borussia Dortmund, and also for Bayern Munich during his short spell in Bavaria.
Hummels joined Dortmund at the same time as Klopp, in 2008, initially on loan, before joining on a permanent basis in 2009 and going on to become Klopp's go-to man in central defence, as he constantly made appearances in the starting XI, playing 250 games in 8 years in Gelsenkirchen.
He was in his element in Dortmund's victorious 2011/12 season, making 5.7 ball recoveries and 5.2 clearances a game. Hummels carried his good form into the World Cup two years later, where he was integral to Germany's eventual success.
Left Back: Andy Robertson
It may be almost impossible to include Trent Alexander-Arnold in our team without also putting in his counterpart in the left side of Liverpool's defence, Scotland international, Andy Robertson. The two of them are like a package deal, and when they get going, there is effectively no stopping them.
Robertson joined Liverpool in 2017 for a measly £8 million, after impressing for Hull City in the Premier League before they were relegated. Robertson is the epitome of a Scottish hard worker, a grafter, as his exemplary work rate shows.
His delivery from wide areas with that gem of a left foot that he possesses can be devilish for opposition defenders to deal with and as a result, Robertson can rack up assists like nobody's business.
In addition, he can also pose a goal threat with his late, unpredictable runs into dangerous areas.
Defensive Midfielder: Fabinho
Between Nuri Sahin and Fabinho, we are spoilt for choice in terms of quality players to perform a screening duty in front of the backline, and to start attacks from deep inside their own half.
However, despite Sahin's longevity under Klopp, we have plumped for Fabinho in this team for his increased importance to this Liverpool team, as well as the marked improvement in his game from last season to this.
The Brazilian's role in the current Liverpool side cannot be overstated. Playing in front of a secure defensive unit and behind a lethal front three, Fabinho contributes enormously both defensively and offensively, breaking up opposition attacks using his exceptional reading of the game and initiating attacks by way of his superb distribution.
Central Midfielder: Ilkay Gundogan
Currently playing for Liverpool's title rivals and defending champions of the Premier League, Manchester City, Ilkay Gundogan is part of a small list of players who have had the privilege of playing for both Klopp and Pep Guardiola, arguably the two best managers in the world at present.
Klopp brought Gundogan, who is a Gelsenkirchen native, to Dortmund in 2011 from FC Nuremberg, just after the Yellow and Blacks won their first title under Klopp. He would help fire them to a second consecutive league title, with his non-stop dynamism often helping the Ruhr Valley club overrun opponents in midfield, as well as often initiating the counter-press, something Klopp's teams heavily rely on to win back possession of the ball as soon as they lose it, thus enabling them to mount another attack on their opponent's goal.
Central Midfielder: Mario Gotze
Now 3 years into his second spell at Dortmund, Mario Gotze initially joined the club's youth academy as an 8-year old in 2001, eventually making his first-team debut under Klopp at the age of 17 as an 88th-minute substitute in November 2009.
Between then and his departure for Bayern Munich in 2013, Gotze formed an integral part of Klopp's successful sides in those 4 years.
With two hard-working, functional, midfielders behind him, Gotze was the creative force from a slightly deeper position, often allowed to drift into space between the lines, from where he could cause havoc with his pinpoint passing, often picking out runners through the middle or on the wing to put his team firmly on the front foot.
Right Winger: Mohamed Salah
One of the most lethal forwards in world football at the moment, Egyptian international Mohamed Salah caught the headlines in England when he moved to Liverpool from Roma in 2017, given his previous experience in the Premier League with Chelsea, which did not work out well for him under Jose Mourinho.
However, since moving to Merseyside to work with Klopp, Salah has been a man transformed. Using his frightening pace to devastating effect, his role for the Reds has been quite simple-sprint.
Often making incisive runs to the inside from the wing, Salah is extremely difficult to pick up and the improvement in his finishing has led to him bagging goal after goal in the Premier League and Champions League, even scoring in the 2019 final as Liverpool lifted the prestigious trophy.
Left Winger: Sadio Mane
Sadio Mane caught the eye of the majority of European football fans when he was bought by Southampton from Red Bull Salzburg in 2014, earning the chance to develop his game in England after his good form in Austria and France with FC Metz before that.
Like our full-backs, it would be remiss to include Salah without Mane. Indeed, the pair feed off each other, as they both perform similar functions on opposite flanks on Merseyside.
Mane also relies heavily on his pace to make runs in behind, but where he differs from his Egyptian teammate is his physical ability, as he can bully defenders and leave them trailing in his wake.
Mane has often played second fiddle to Salah over the last two campaigns but has started to get his fair share of the plaudits this season, as he has taken up more responsibility as one of the senior players in the side.
Striker: Robert Lewandowski
Robert Lewandowski played for Borussia Dortmund between 2010 and 2014 and was another player brought to the club by Klopp, after tearing up the Polish first division in the colours of Lech Poznan.
He won the league under the German in each of his first seasons in Germany, scoring goals for fun, something almost impossible for him not to do given the quality behind him.
However, to his credit, Lewandowski is one of the most clinical strikers in the world and is regularly in the discussion to be considered the best pure number 9 in Europe, and he has an excellent case.
Across his club career, he has played in 594 games, scoring 399 goals, averaging 0.67 goals per game, a figure most players can only dream of.
So far in this season, the Pole has already scored 34 goals for club and country in just 32 games. At the age of 31, one would expect him to slow down, but he seems to be getting better and better with age, which is frightening news for defences across Europe.