Jürgen Klopp is to step down as Borussia Dortmund coach in the summer, with the 47-year-old announcing his decision at an emotional press conference today.
"I have always said that the moment I feel I am no longer the perfect coach for this extraordinary club, I would say so," said Klopp, whose contract was due to expire in summer 2018. "In the past days and weeks, I was not sure whether I was not the perfect coach anymore, but I couldn't say that I was either, so I saw it as my duty to inform [sporting director] Michael [Zorc] and 'Aki' [Dortmund chief executive Hans-Joachim Watzke].
"Something is ending now, which I, as a human, never wanted to end," he added. "But I absolutely have the feeling that I am doing the right thing. I have had no contact with other clubs, I have nothing up my sleeve, but I also do not intend to take a sabbatical."
Visibly moved, Watzke said : "We have together taken the decision, that our way, which has brought us seven years of incredible success, will be ending at the end of this season." Zorc added: "In the past seven years, we have written a modern football fairy-tale with you, Jürgen, as the main actor. You have given this club so much energy and enthusiasm."
Born in Stuttgart, Klopp came to Dortmund in summer of 2008 following a seven-year spell at 1. FSV Mainz 05, where he had spent his entire playing career. Together with Watzke and Zorc, he built a new team at Dortmund, winning two Bundesliga titles and a German Cup, and reached the 2013 UEFA Champions League final, losing to FC Bayern München.
Under Klopp, Dortmund put faith in emerging talents like Mario Götze and Mats Hummels and did great work in the transfer market, the likes of Shinji Kagawa and Robert Lewandowski exemplifying a knack for spotting diamonds in the rough. Klopp's Dortmund were immensely energetic, pressing relentlessly and breaking at speed – a style which perhaps reached its peak in the 2012 German Cup final, when Dortmund overwhelmed Bayern 5-2 in Berlin. "Klopp was my best transfer as general manager," Zorc once said.
After Dortmund won a second successive Bundesliga title in 2012, Klopp said: "What is happening here is just crazy. If there was ever a side that deserved to be champions, then that's us. We have not lost for 26 games in a row – that's insane." National team boss Joachim Löw agreed. "Klopp has done outstanding work at BVB," he said.
However, things came unstuck a little this season, with Klopp's decision to stand down mirroring his experience at Mainz, where he quit after failing to win promotion back to the Bundesliga in 2007/08. "I am a better coach than I was in 2012," Klopp said in December, when his team was bottom of the league. "Unfortunately, this is not being reflected in the table."
Whoever employs Klopp next – and he will have no shortage of offers – will hope that his irrepressible enthusiasm will get more tangible reward in the years to come. In the meantime, he is hoping for a last hurrah at Dortmund, hinting that celebrating winning the German Cup one last time would be a superb send-off. "I have one last dream: to reach the best possible place in the Bundesliga and finally to be able to be driven around the Borsigplatz one last time."
Dortmund meet Bayern in the semi-finals on 28 April, and plenty of fans will be hoping that Klopp's Dortmund story has a happy ending.
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