Like any homecoming, Jurgen Klopp's return to the Signal Iduna Park on Thursday night to face his old club, Borussia Dortmund, with his new club, Liverpool, is bound to present a tannic cocktail of emotions he's never tasted before. There may very well be tears. And maybe a few meditations on why he left in the first place.
He'll probably hark back to a misty night in February of last year, which proved to be a watershed moment in his final season at the club.
Seven years and two titles (including a domestic double in 2011) on, Klopp had grown to love Dortmund -- probably more than he thought he would after 19 years with Mainz as a player and coach -- and Dortmund loved him in kind. He'd renewed and reinvigorated Dortmund's on-field play, and, thanks to his general quirkiness and his refusal to shave had boosted the club's international profile to heights supporters couldn't have possibly fathomed when Dortmund declared bankruptcy in 2005. But 19 games into the 2014-15 season, the ship had essentially run aground.
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The whistle had just blown on an embarrassing 1-0 loss to 10-man Augsburg, and Mats Hummels and Roman Weidenfeller had approached the gates to smooth things over with Dortmund's understandably incensed fans.
It was the first loss to Augsburg in Die Schwarzgelben's 106-season history, and what's more, Dortmund were now sitting at the bottom of the table. If watching from nearly 20 points back as rivals Bayern Munich won the Bundesliga in record time the year before was a considerable low, then this was surely the crawlspace beneath it.
With it being the club's worst-ever start to a domestic campaign, then-gaffer Jurgen Klopp's head was naturally being called for. But instead of hiding himself from the criticism and heaping the blame on his players or the circumstances, Klopp planted his feet and shouldered it all.
via Sky Sports:
After Klopp "offered" to resign, Dortmund went on a seven-game unbeaten streak, ultimately finishing their 2014-15 effort in a Europe-eligible seventh place. He left at the end of the season to join also-Europe-eligible Liverpool, which set the two clubs on course for Thursday night's collision.
Despite his weird exit, Klopp will almost certainly get a hero's welcome on his return, but it's clear he still has a soft spot for Dortmund -- and vice versa. Liverpool usually only open their pre-match training sessions for 15 minutes. On Wednesday, at Klopp's request, the entire session was opened to Dortmund fans.
However, when cleats cross the touchline, it'll be all business. On Wednesday, The Guardian asked the Liverpool coach if he'd celebrate, should they score. "Of course I will celebrate," Klopp said.