Despite being adored by fans and players alike, Jurgen Klopp has sold some top-class players over the years.
We’re not sure why anyone would ever voluntarily trade his coaching for someone else, but a fair number of players in the past have forced moves away from the German and massively regretted their decisions. Now he’s leaving Liverpool, begging the question of how they’ll fare when he’s gone.
We’ve listed 12 players who were fantastic under the tutelage of the 56-year-old at Borussia Dortmund and Liverpool who then struggled to replicate that form after leaving.
Henderson and Steven Gerrard aren’t the only Liverpool old boys who struggled out in Saudi Arabia.
Firmino made a fine start for Al-Ahli, scoring on his debut, but he’s since gone on a 19-match goal drought – which is especially poor when you consider his supporting cast includes the likes of Riyad Mahrez and Allan Saint-Maximin.
With all the attention on whether Mohamed Salah would renew his contract, Liverpool’s other world-class forward made the shock decision at the end of their quadruple-chasing 2021-22 campaign.
Mane was approaching the last year of his deal at Anfield and left for a cut-price £27million fee. It was hoped he’d be a transformative signing for Bayern, and while he wasn’t a like-for-like replacement for Robert Lewandowski, there were expectations that he’d have the same kind of impact in their forward line.
Things didn’t quite work out that way. Mane struggled to fit in under both Julian Nagelsmann and Thomas Tuchel and scored just one goal since the World Cup as Bayern uncharacteristically only limped over the line to retain their Bundesliga crown.
After a year he was sold on to the Saudi Pro League. The fact that by far his most memorable moment in Bavaria was scrapping with team-mate Leroy Sane tells you everything about his stint there went.
Gotze looked a generational talent when he broke through at Borussia Dortmund under Klopp, but the then 20-year-old committed an act of treason by agreeing a £35million move to Bayern Munich during the 2012-13 season.
Dortmund would go on to lose to Bayern in the Champions League final, with Gotze conveniently ‘injured’, but his time in Munich was ultimately a disappointment.
Despite scoring the winner in the World Cup final a year after his move, Gotze never truly found his form away from Dortmund, and returned to the club three years later with his tail between his legs.
Now doing okay at Eintracht Frankfurt, the 31-year-old is a case of unfulfilled potential and his career could have panned out so differently had he not abandoned Klopp’s team of young superstars at Dortmund.
One of Klopp’s biggest masterstrokes was selling Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona for around £140million.
While the Brazilian was a star at Liverpool, they used his transfer fee to sign Virgil Van Dijk and Alisson and the rest is history.
“Stay here and they will end up building a statue in your honour,” Klopp told Coutinho in 2017.
Coutinho remains one of Barcelona’s worst-ever buys, and now finds himself playing out in Qatar. He must regret his decision to leave every single day.
There was considerable surprise when Dutch midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum chose not to sign a new contract at Liverpool and he looked set to join Barcelona on a free transfer in the summer of 2021.
However, big-spending PSG swooped in at the last minute offering double the salary and Wijnaldum headed to Paris.
PSG love a big-name transfer but they’re often disappointing, and Wijnaldum did nothing of note to appease the PSG fanbase since joining while also receiving heavy criticism for his performances. He subsequently suffered a horror injury and failed to kickstart his career while out on loan at Jose Mourinho’s Roma.
Wijnaldum hit his best form under Klopp at Liverpool where he became loved by the fans, but he’ll never reach those heights again. He’s currently captain of Steven Gerrard’s Al-Ettifaq.
Gini Wijnaldum LOVES a big goal!
He always comes up trumps when Liverpool need him 🔴 pic.twitter.com/aGcWm8DIre
— Football on TNT Sports (@footballontnt) March 11, 2020
The Swiss winger has one of the most bizarre career paths in football having played for Bayern Munich and Inter Milan before joining Stoke City, and Liverpool swooped in to snap him up when the potters were relegated in 2018.
Mainly used as a super-sub, Shaqiri became a useful player in his three seasons at Liverpool but joined Lyon in 2021 in search of first-team football.
However, the 30-year-old was disappointing in Ligue 1, and joined Chicago Fire in the MLS after just six months at the club.
“Every player wants to play, that’s pretty normal,” Shaqiri stated in 2018.
“Every player is unhappy when he’s on the bench, that’s pretty normal too. But it’s football, only 11 players can start and the coach has his game-plan for each game.”
Degen was a solid right-back at Borussia Dortmund but departed the club shortly after Klopp’s arrival after an injury-hit campaign in 2008.
The Swiss international joined Liverpool but made just 13 appearances for the club before having his contract terminated in 2011.
Injuries continued to plague him, but he did show some true quality in his three seasons at Dortmund.
Not many players have ever had a bad word to say about Klopp, but Felipe Santana was one of them.
A solid rotational centre-back at Dortmund who made over 100 appearances under Klopp, the Brazilian threw a tantrum and tried to force his way out of the club, demanding more playing time.
Santana requested to leave multiple times, before eventually joining arch-rivals Schalke in 2013, and has been heavily critical of his old boss since leaving and blamed him for losing the Champions League final.
“Our coach [Klopp] was stupid. Mario [Gotze] felt a knock in the game against Real Madrid and was then taken to a Munich hospital,” Santana stated shortly after his departure.
“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].”
The Japanese playmaker was sensational at Borussia Dortmund but could not resist a move to Manchester United in 2012 when Sir Alex Ferguson came knocking on his door.
Kagawa was popular, but ultimately disappointing at Old Trafford, and lasted just two seasons before returning to Dortmund.
Like Gotze, Kagawa’s second spell at the club wasn’t as impressive as his first, and while he won a Premier League title at United, those two years hampered the progress he was making in Germany.
However, he did once score an iconic hat-trick.
Sahin was so good at Dortmund that he was coveted by every top club in Europe, and he departed Klopp’s side for Real Madrid in 2011.
This was a mistake.
The Turkish midfielder played just 10 games for Los Blancos before a disastrous loan move to Liverpool saw his stock plummet.
Like others on this list, he returned to Dortmund and never found his best form again.
“I think people are maybe bored of me talking about him!” Sahin stated about Klopp in 2021.
“But he had such a big influence on me, as he does on all his players.
“Ask any of the guys at Dortmund, at Mainz, at Liverpool now, they’ll tell you the same.”
The German international was a reliable and versatile player at Liverpool but ran down his contract and joined Juventus on a free transfer in 2018.
Can thought he was upgrading, but Liverpool would go on to win the Champions League in the season after he left, whilst he was a disaster in Turin.
Upon Maurizio Sarri’s arrival in 2019, Can was even omitted from the Champions League squad and he furiously demanded a transfer.
Can then moved to Dortmund, where he has fared better than at Juventus, but admitted that his decision to leave did not go down well with his former boss.
“He [Klopp] was disappointed. He wanted me to stay in Liverpool, but accepted my decision,” Can stated in 2019.
“He also knew that it was not a decision against him or against Liverpool, but for a new challenge at Juventus.
“I had a wonderful and memorable time in Liverpool and will always be grateful to all the people who have supported me there. I am still in touch with Jurgen Klopp.”