Ranking Jurgen Klopp’s 14 weirdest signings: Immobile, Boateng, Matip…

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Dortmund's head coach Juergen Klopp, Ciro Immobile and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang after Borussia Dortmund v SC Paderborn in Dortmund, Germany, 18 April 2015

Jurgen Klopp is one of the leading managers of his generation, revitalising proud clubs like Borussia Dortmund and Liverpool – but that hasn’t stopped him from making some questionable signings in his time.

Klopp has never managed an oil-rich juggernaut, meaning some of his signings have been on the more speculative side. This means that, for every Mohamed Salah, there’s been a Kevin-Prince Boateng in Klopp’s closet.

We’ve ranked the 14 weirdest signings Klopp has made during his managerial career.

14. Alex Manninger

Nineteen years after joining Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal, perennial backup goalie Manninger joined Klopp’s Liverpool. He spent one season at Anfield, never made an appearance – of course – and then retired.

One of those moves that would be easy to forget ever actually happened.

13. Ranisav Jovanovic

An early one from Klopp’s Mainz days.

We don’t know anything about this guy but he sounds like the Pro Evo version of Branislav Ivanovic. We like to imagine some kind of admin error ended up with Klopp getting the wrong man.

12. Mohamed Zidan

Mo Salah is not the first Egyptian attacker to thrive under Klopp. Back in 2008, the German coach signed Mohamed Zidan for Dortmund, having already signed him once at Mainz.

Zidan, a two-time AFCON champion, won back-to-back Bundesliga titles under Klopp. We dispute his “could’ve been better than Salah” claim, though.

“Klopp told me that I was better than Salah 100 hundred times but I needed to be more professional,” Zidane told ON Sport in January 2020.

“Klopp said to me that I have a great talent and skills but I need to concentrate more. If I did this I could be one of the best players in the world.”

Right.

11. Felipe Santana

Few players fall out with Klopp, but Brazilian centre-back Santana – who joined Klopp’s Dortmund alongside Zidan in 2008 but went on to fall behind Mats Hummels and Neven Subotic in the pecking order – is one of them. In fact, the defender blames the coach for losing the 2013 Champions League final.

“Our coach was stupid. Mario felt a knock in the game against Real Madrid and was then taken to a Munich hospital,” Santana later recalled in an interview with ESPN Brasil.

“When he returned, the coach let him train on the Tuesday. He should not have done so because there was an important game on Saturday [the Champions League final].”

10. Andy Robertson

Despite winding up his opponents as a world-class shithouse, we can’t help but really like Robertson. He’d be near the top of the list of players we’d most like to go for a pint with.

It’ll always be difficult to believe just how good a left-back Robertson is, though; arguably one of the very best in the world.

He was decent enough at Hull and it seemed like a sensible punt when Liverpool signed him after the Tigers’ relegation in 2017, but few backed him to become an undisputed starter.

His rise from penniless teenager to European champion has been wonderful to witness.

9. Robert Lewandowski

Save for being way too old for messing about on Tik Tok and eating his dessert before his dinner, Lewandowski seems like a pretty sound and disarmingly normal bloke.

This is one to be filed alongside Robertson where the weirdness aspect comes from just how good he became under Klopp – undoubtedly one of the greatest goalscorers in history, and up there with Gerd Muller as a lethal Bundesliga legend.

He’d scored 41 goals in 82 games for Lech Poznan and was the Polish Ekstraklasa’s record sale at the time, but few could have predicted the player he’d be today when he rocked up at Dortmund for just €4million in 2010.

“Jurgen was not only a father figure to me,” wrote Lewandowski in The Players Tribune, crediting Klopp’s role in his development.

“As a coach, he was like the ‘bad’ teacher, the one who was strict with you. The one who put pressure on you and did everything to get the best out of you.

“He was not content to let you be a B student, you know? Jurgen wanted A+ students. He didn’t want it for him. He wanted it for you.”

The feeling was mutual, with Klopp citing Lewandowski as the player he saw the most improvement in… until Nat Phillips came along.

How different things might have been if the Icelandic volcano didn’t stop Lewandowski from joining Big Sam’s Blackburn.

8. Joel Matip

“Look, I cannot help people who don’t see the quality of Joel Matip,” said Klopp earlier this season.

“That’s true, he was a bit unlucky in the past with an injury here and there – maybe not always the most difficult things but he is a big boy, a big player, tall and it can look from time to time a bit edgy or whatever.

“But he is an incredible player, he was always an incredible player since he joined us at least. So that’s really good.”

We totally agree. A quality defender, and really under-rated. But also – crucially – one of the weirdest and most unnatural-looking footballers we’ve ever seen step onto the pitch. We love him for it.

READ: 21 times Liverpool’s Joel Matip was the funniest player in the world

7. Xherdan Shaqiri

File alongside Matip in the “just look at him” category: Shaqiri, if nothing else, certainly ate his greens as a youngster.

Signed from relegated Stoke as backup to the Salah-Firmino-Mane trio, the Switzerland international did what he’s always seemed to do – disappear for months, turn in the odd match-winning performance, score a wonder goal and return to the shadows.

Still, Shaqiri won the Premier League and Champions League at Liverpool so he clearly did something right.

6. Andy Lonergan

It wasn’t quite Scott Carson to Manchester City but Lonergan is still the archetypal ‘quota-filling’ signing.

The veteran goalkeeper joined Liverpool on their 2019 pre-season tour of the US to provide backup due to a shortage of goalkeepers but was signed on a short-term contract after an injury to Alisson.

He was named on the bench in the UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup matches but never made it onto the pitch.

Lonergan is now performing the same role across Stanley Park at Everton.

5. Ciro Immobile

Immobile has been absolutely ridiculous since he returned to Lazio; 172 goals in 246 appearances, at the time of writing, makes him one of Europe’s most lethal goalscorers.

The Italian managed just three Bundesliga goals in his one season for Klopp’s Dortmund. One of the few players the German has struggled to get the best out of.

4. Ozan Kabak

After their defence was decimated by injuries, partly due to Jordan Pickford necking too much Sunny Delight before the Derby, Klopp was forced to sign Kabak on a six-month deal in January 2021.

In theory, this was a smart move. Kabak was regarded as a promising young defender and Liverpool fans were satisfied with their business.

This lasted until a calamitous debut for the Reds where he collided with Alisson and gifted Jamie Vardy the easiest goal he’ll ever score.

He recovered from that rocky start and made another 12 appearances, helping Liverpool finish third in the Premier League and reach the quarter-finals of the Champions League, but Klopp decided against a permanent deal.

3. Ben Davies

Davies signed for Liverpool in February 2021 but has yet to make an appearance for the club and is currently on loan at Sheffield United.

We may be wrong about this, but we’d be willing to bet our favourite vintage garm that the 26-year-old centre-back isn’t the next Virgil van Dijk.

2. Kevin-Prince Boateng

Boateng was a good player, even if his appearance and demeanour leave the more unenlightened of society feeling ill-disposed towards him.

But it was weird when he rocked up at Dortmund in 2009. Less surprising was his absence from the final matches of the season for a ‘no-nonsense flying kick’ on an opponent.

1. Steven Caulker

Caulker would be nearing the top of this list anyway, but the fact that Klopp used him as an auxiliary striker means that he’s the only possible choice for No.1.

Liverpool have come a long, long way in Klopp’s reign as coach.


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