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Jürgen Klopp is leaving Borussia Dortmund

By The Rainbow
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Jürgen Klopp, known for his occasional lunacy on the sideline, became a cult figure in European soccer. Photo: European Pressphoto Agency

By Joshua Robinson
Jürgen Klopp, who has spent the past seven years with Borussia Dortmund BVB -1.14 % in the German Bundesliga, will leave the club this summer after asking to be released from his contract.

“I believe that Borussia Dortmund needs a change,” he said during an emotional, abruptly called news conference. “There will be new influences on the team and that will do it good.”

Known for his ability to build a team on a shoestring budget and still play vibrant, entertaining soccer, Klopp regularly went toe-to-toe with the juggernaut that is Bayern Munich. He led Dortmund to league titles in 2011 and 2012. Klopp's charismatic side also made a Cinderella run to the final of the 2013 Champions League, the world's most prestigious club competition, only to fall in the final minutes. The opponent was Bayern, of course, a side he compared to a James Bond villain.

Wednesday. Photo: Reuters
“We have written in the past seven years, a modern football fairy tale, with Jürgen Klopp as the main actor,” Dortmund sporting director Michael Zorc said.

By then, Klopp's hipster glasses, brutal honesty and occasional lunacy on the sideline had turned him into a cult figure of European soccer. That he has never achieved anything outside of the relatively shallow pool of Germany hardly dented his reputation. The list of players who developed at Dortmund on his watch speaks for itself—Mats Hummels, Sven Bender and Mario Götze, for instance, are all key pieces of the German national team.

But this season was Klopp's most challenging. For the second off-season in a row, he lost one of his most important players to a direct rival. In 2013, it was the midfield starlet Götze leaving for Bayern. Last summer, striker Robert Lewandowski followed him there.

Klopp's job became even more complicated when his squad was decimated by injury early the campaign. As a result, Dortmund has spent most of the year fighting to stay away from relegation rather than challenging Bayern for the title. The club currently sits in 10th in the standings.

Dortmund didn't immediately announce a replacement. But Thomas Tuchel, who followed Klopp in his previous post at Mainz, is considered among the front-runners in Germany.

'I believe that Borussia Dortmund needs a change…There will be new influences on the team and that will do it good.'

—Jürgen Klopp, speaking at a news conference on Wednesday.

Klopp's next destination isn't known, but there are already plenty of educated guesses surrounding possible vacancies. Manchester City's meek title defense in the English Premier League, combined with a disappointing European campaign, hasn't lived up to the club's lofty expectations and could soon cost Manuel Pellegrini his job.

At Barcelona, meanwhile, manager Luis Enrique is believed to be unpopular enough among the players that even winning La Liga might not save him this summer. And at Real Madrid, no manager is ever safe, not even Carlo Ancelotti, should he fail to win La Liga or the Champions League.

“I'm not tired and I haven't had any contact with other clubs,” Klopp said. “It's not the plan to take a year off, but it could happen of course.”

Whether Klopp can work his magic at a financial giant in England or Spain remains to be seen. But he has already guaranteed that he will be one of this summer's most closely watched transfers.

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