Tom Werner says Fenway Sports Group owe a huge debt of gratitude to Jurgen Klopp and warned Liverpool’s rivals their manager is ready to create an Anfield dynasty.
With the League Cup and FA Cup already safely stored in the trophy cabinet, the Reds head to Paris for the Champions League final against Real Madrid later this week for their 63rd and final game of a season that saw them finish with 92 points in the Premier League.
The third highest points tally of all time at Anfield was not enough to bring about a 20th league title, however, as they were pipped to the championship by Manchester City’s return of 93. Despite that last-day heartbreak on Sunday, Liverpool head to the French capital in buoyant mood following an exceptional domestic year.
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Liverpool chairman Werner was at Anfield on Sunday alongside fellow FSG members Mike Gordon and John W Henry and the trio will all be at the Stade de France on Saturday when Klopp’s treble-hunters meet the 13-time champions of Europe in a repeat of the 2018 final.
Klopp, who leads his team out in a third European Cup showpiece on Saturday night, signed a new contract last month to remain on Merseyside until 2026 and Werner paid tribute to the manager before thanking his German’s wife, Ulla, for her help in convincing her husband to stay beyond the previous terms that ended in 2024.
Despite seeing Klopp lift every top-flight trophy available to him since 2019, Werner also sounded a note that the club are just getting warmed up under their inspirational manager.
In an exclusive and wide-ranging chat with the ECHO, Mr Werner said: “You know I am a history buff by hobby and I am certainly aware of the great managers that have preceded Jurgen.
“From Bill Shankly to Bob Paisley, Sir Kenny Dalglish, Gerard Houllier and all the others, but just to get the opportunity that we have had to see Jurgen and work with him up close, seeing what he brings to the club, I don ‘ t think there’s a better manager in world football.
“I was with the CEO of Siemens, the technology company, recently, and I said that Jurgen would be an extraordinary chief executive in any enterprise because he is such a thoughtful, humble, strategic and caring leader with an extraordinary sense of humor.
“So we all owe a great deal of appreciation to Jurgen and to his spouse, Ulla, who I think was very helpful in encouraging Jurgen to stay at Liverpool. We’re very grateful for her wisdom.
“He has certainly matched our wildest dreams. I was at that first press conference [in October 2015] and he handled it all with such grace and sense of humor. And we have achieved so much in his tenure. One of the things I admire about him is that football is obviously critically important to everyone associated with Liverpool, but he has a wonderful perspective about it.
“When we drew with Tottenham and he said it was like a funeral atmosphere, he had the perspective about it to carry into the next match and I think he handles all of the challenges so gracefully and so perfectly. He is so relatable and human and down to earth. We still think that this is all a work in progress. ”
Despite playing for a potential quadruple right up until the final few days of May, the topic of potential summer incomings is never too far away from the conversation where supporters are concerned. Liverpool moved to bring in Luis Diaz from Porto six months earlier than initially planned at the end of January and have taken a close look at Monaco midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni among others for the summer.
Werner says the final say on transfers will always be down to Klopp and revealed that the manager will be given every opportunity by FSG to compete once more as they look to wrestle away the crown from Pep Guardiola’s City again next season.
“So much of this is down to creating a culture of winning,” Werner added. “We’ve said it before and we mean it, we want to win more trophies for our supporters. We want to be like the great teams in England and Europe.
“You can only do that by doing it brick by brick. The signing of Luis Diaz, for a long time people were asking why Liverpool weren’t being more aggressive in the transfer market, but the fact is we had such an excellent team that it was important that if we signed someone they would play a significant amount.
“So we’re not going to be active every window, but obviously Diaz has had an immediate and an enormous impact. I think that obviously it’s very important that Jurgen has the key vote on these matters.
“There is no point signing a player that Jurgen isn’t excited about because he has to work with the squad every week. So his enthusiasm for Luis Diaz was the most important vote.”
Arguably the biggest challenge of Liverpool’s Boston-based custodians is keeping the team competitive at the cutting edge of football against other models of ownership where funds are more readily available.
FSG have always maintained their belief in the self-sustainable strategy at Anfield and while it can make it tough to overcome the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea, whose owners are some of richest in football, Newcastle United’s new-found wealth under the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia is only likely to inflate the Premier League market further down the line.
Werner says FSG are more than aware of the difficulties of keeping Liverpool in the lofty position they currently find themselves, however, and stated the club will always champion the Financial Fair Play directives that have become somewhat more relaxed since the summer 2020.
“This has been an extraordinary season but I also feel like we continue to keep our head down and fight every day to improve,” says Mr Werner over a Zoom call. “We’re fighting to strengthen the Financial Fair Play rules. Our CEO Billy Hogan is on the Premier League strategic advisory committee, I sit on the broadcast advisory committee and I am very pleased to see the Premier League’s international media rights are going to increase by 30% in this next cycle.
“So for the first time, the international media outstrips the domestic value and we are doing a lot of work behind the scenes to make sure that the Premier League continues on this journey. It’s clearly the most watched football league in the world and I know that the performance of Liverpool is critical to that success.
“I can not tell you the number of times I hear about people in Indonesia who are Liverpool fans or from Senegal or anywhere all around the world, so it is very important to me that we continue on this journey.”
Whatever happens in Paris, it’s been a memorable few months for the club. Their League Cup and FA Cup double made them just the fifth team to have won both in the same season and Liverpool have already confirmed a huge parade celebrating those trophies is set for Sunday afternoon, regardless of the result against Carlo Ancelotti’s side in Paris.
With the club unable to mark their 2020 Premier League title with fans, as well as the fact Liverpool Women are commemorating a return to the WSL, there is plenty to celebrate as a long season comes to a triumphant end on the city streets on May 29 .
“I agree that this season has been a remarkable one for both Men’s and Women’s and everyone associated with the club and the LFC Foundation. We set our sights on growing every year and progress and I think this year has been one we can all be proud of. “
* Part 2 of the ECHO’s exclusive chat with Tom Werner focuses on the outgoing Michael Edwards, the Anfield Road development and FSG’s agreement with RedBird Capital