When Brendan Rodgers was last inside Anfield, the club he managed this afternoon were in the ascendancy, mounting a Premier League title challenge-Rodgers’ Liverpool were the opposite, locked in 10th place and looking like a mid-table team.
Just one week later, October 4, 2015, the Northern Irishman was sacked by Liverpool owners, Fenway Sports Group.
Jürgen Klopp was officially announced four days later, but the deal to bring the German into the Merseyside club was brokered well before. Rodgers’ new club-Leicester City, went on to win the Premier League, champions of the 2015/16 season.
Claudio Ranieri steered the Foxes to the world’s biggest league trophy, a 5000-1 betting shot at the start of their winning season.
Leicester, at that time, had a squad value of $553 million (£369 million) but overcame their nearest rivals Arsenal by 10 points. The London club finished a distant second despite their group value being almost double that of the newly crowned champions.
It was the man at the helm, Ranieri, who proved to be the driving force behind his tightly knitted, and highly motivated squad. It was still to this day, one of the biggest shocks in English football-Leicester’s trophy lift may never be equalled again by a club on the same level, outside of the traditional top six.
Four years later and Klopp has built his own tight-knit squad that will seemingly run through brick walls for the German. Rodgers saw his Leicester side edged out in dramatic game with Liverpool taking all three points in added time.
James Milner’s penalty in the 94th minute allowed the Reds to maintain their 100 percent start to the new Premier League campaign, their eighth straight win of the league season and their 17th consecutive Premier League victory.
The ex-Borussia Dortmund coach has had to build his European champions from the ground up. Over 20 players that started Rodgers’ last game as a Liverpool coach have gone.
Names such as Simon Mignolet, Mamadou Sakho, Alberto Moreno and Christian Benteke have been replaced by Alisson Becker, Virgil Van Dijk, Andrew Robertson and Mohamed Salah.
It has come at a price for the Reds though, Alisson and Van Dijk cost a combined $173 million (£141 million) but it has provided Klopp with one of the best backlines in world football.
Saturday’s visit of Leicester may have resulted in a narrow victory, but their goalscorer-and the player brought down to win an added time penalty-was Sadio Mané.
The Senegalese star is arguably on the same level as fellow forwards Salah and Roberto Firmino-if not sometimes vastly underrated.
Brought in at the start of the 2016/17 season from Southampton, Mané cost a modest (by today’s standards) $45.6 million (£37 million).
Liverpool were made to pay almost double his market value at the time, but Klopp had chased the player before in Germany, knowing his style was perfect for the high energy ‘Gegenpressing’ football that the Liverpool boss oversees.
In his first season, the forward hit 13 goals across 28 games-12 months later that return almost doubled with UEFA Champions League appearances, and in May of 2019, Mané picked up the Premier League’s Golden Boot-tied at 22 goals with fellow league top scorers Salah and Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
The Senegal captain has hit the 2019/20 season running, he is Liverpool’s top scorer in the Premier League with five goals in eight games. Already at 122 minutes per goal he is showing why he is fast becoming one of Klopp’s most trusted men – Saturday’s strike also sees him hit 50 Premier League goals in just 100 league appearances for the club.
As Liverpool’s victory sees the Merseyside club go eight points clear at the top of the Premier League table, it is through clever purchases (like Mane at modest fees) that shows just how the tables have turned in four years under Klopp, as the Reds strive for a first top-flight title in almost 30 years.