It sometimes requires ducking outside of the language to properly describe a thing. Most people do this by enlisting a word or phrase from another language, such as schadenfreude. There’s no word in English that really describes “taking joy in another’s misfortune”, but there is in German, so we use that one. This is something that George Orwell used to rail against as a Proper English Writer (similar to the Proper Football Man); suggesting that English was being devalued by the inclusion of all of those foreign entrants and that simple language was better than including things that might have nuance that the user didn’t properly understand. Some languages are more responsive. In the case of the Navajo, if they come across something that doesn’t have a proper word in their language, they’ll just make a word for it, rather than borrow one from elsewhere.

The proper term for what Jürgen Klopp has done with this squad and this club as a whole in the four years since he arrived is a difficult one to estimate. One could say “transformation” and not be too far off the mark. But that implies that this team looks anything like what it did when he arrived. Caterpillars transform into butterflies or moths, but they often share markings that let you identify them in either form. The word that feels more appropriate is “transmogrification”, derived from the device from Calvin & Hobbes, where the former would use it to transform himself, Hobbes, or others into whatever he could imagine; often wholly different from what they started as. This, then, is what Klopp has accomplished. This is still a football club and still a football team, but both are wholly different from what they were when he arrived: demoralized, less talented, unfocused, doubters instead of believers. This is highlighted best in this tweet from The Anfield Wrap:

  • Four players are still with the club: Milner, a regular starter; Origi, a regular substitute and occasional starter; Lallana, an occasional sub; and Clyne, on loan to Bournemouth.
  • Eleven are regulars elsewhere: Mignolet for Club Brugge; Skrtel for Istanbul Basaksehir; Sakho for Crystal Palace; Moreno for Villareal; Lucas for Lazio; Coutinho for Bayern; Can for Juventus; Randall for Bulgarian club Arda Kardzhali; Allen for Stoke City; Teixeira for Vitoria de Guimaraes; Ibe for Bournemouth; and Sinclair for VVV-Venlo in the Eredivisie.
  • Two are no longer playing: Bogdan since his release in 2018 and Touré is now an assistant for Brendan Rodgers at Leicester.

Of the eleven playing elsewhere, the only two that can be seen as in a spot comparable to where they could be now are Coutinho and Can. Even then, those are two who left the club looking for better things and didn’t quite find it; on the one hand, because circumstances just didn’t pan out for them (so far); OTOH, because there simply aren’t many better places than Anfield right now.

In four years, we’ve gone from perennial also-rans who, as ManU fans liked to taunt “lived in the past”, to European champions for the sixth time; one of two sides considered to be actual contenders for the Premier League title; have set multiple league and club records for points and wins; have three Golden Boot winners; and are one of the most profitable clubs in the game.

Doubters to believers. He was right.

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