Sadio Mane, beware: 9 players that flopped after leaving Jurgen Klopp

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Jurgen Klopp hugs Philippe Coutinho during Liverpool's match against Manchester United, Anfield, October 2017.

Jurgen Klopp is one of the best managers in the world and recently signed a new deal to keep him at Liverpool until 2026 but, despite being adored by fans and players alike, he 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.

Sadio Mane should take note: the grass is not always greener, and those playing at a high level in Klopp’s gegenpressing machine have often struggled elsewhere.

We’ve listed nine players who were fantastic under the tutelage of the 54-year-old at Borussia Dortmund and Liverpool who then struggled to replicate that form after leaving.

Mario Gotze

Gotze was arguably 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 at PSV Eindhoven, the 29-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.

Philippe Coutinho

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.

Coutinho remains one of Barcelona’s worst ever buys, and now finds himself on loan at Aston Villa, whilst Liverpool and Klopp compete for the biggest honours.

“Stay here and they will end up building a statue in your honour,” Klopp told Coutinho in 2017.

“Go somewhere else, to Barcelona, to Bayern Munich, to Real Madrid, and you will be just another player. Here you can be something more.”

He must regret his decision to leave every single day.

Georginio Wijnaldum

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 has done nothing of note to appease the PSG fanbase since joining while also receiving heavy criticism for his performances.

The 31-year-old hit his best form under Klopp at Liverpool where he became loved by the fans, but will likely never reach those heights again.

He did have some huge moments in his five years at Anfield…

Xherdan Shaqiri

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.”

Philipp Degen

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.

Felipe Santana

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].”

Bit bitter.

Shinji Kagawa

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 hattrick.

Manchester United's Shinji Kagawa celebrates scoring his hat-trick during the Barclays Premier League match at Old Trafford, Manchester, 02 March 2013

READ: An ode to Shinji Kagawa at Man Utd and the calmest hat-trick ever

Nuri Sahin

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.”

Emre Can

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.

The 28-year-old 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.”


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