Klopp proves himself as pick of new generation

BERLIN - Jurgen Klopp's success in guiding a young and unheralded Borussia Dortmund team to the Bundesliga title establishes him as the leader of a new generation of German coaches who revel in doing things differently.

The 43-year-old Klopp, whose team clinched the title on Saturday with a 2-0 victory over Nuremberg, is in every sense a player's coach.

His team come first, before club bosses and sponsors, and while he is relaxed, direct and witty away from the pitch, he is an intensely emotional presence on the touchline.

Dortmund's seventh German league title, and first under Klopp, is a remarkable triumph for the former Mainz 05 striker.

The coach's decision to field a bunch of young and largely untested players was questioned before and early on in the season but any doubts were dispelled by late October as they racked up seven straight wins to take control of the league.

Their season was all the more exciting given that Klopp fielded a team that - apart from goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller - had an average age of 22.

Klopp had pointed the way in his first season in charge, in 2008, when he brought in then 19-year-olds Neven Subotic and Mats Hummels as the youngest pair of central defenders in the league.

Four other starting players were under 22 years in that first season.

Since then he has introduced several more, many from Dortmund's own youth academy.


Alongside Hummels, defender Marcel Schmelzer, teenage sensation Mario Goetze, midfielder Kevin Grosskreutz and Sven Bender all graduated this season as full Germany internationals with his 4-2-3-1 system a joy to watch.

Even when experienced captain Sebastian Kehl was injured early in the season and defender Patrick Owomoyela also ruled out for most of it, Klopp's team never buckled under pressure.

Japanese Shinji Kagawa, snapped up from Japan's second division for 350,000 euros, was stunning until a broken foot at the Asian Cup ended his season while Paraguay's Lucas Barrios has also been a hugely successful purchase, having scored 14 times.

"None of my teams have played chess on grass," Klopp says of his team's scintillating style of play that has seen them score 64 goals in 32 games while conceding just 19.

Klopp's Dortmund managed to outsmart, outrun and outscore all other teams in the league.

Standing on the sidelines, the bespectacled Klopp shuns suits and ties. His tracksuit and hooded sweater in his team's colours are his clothes of choice during the game.

It would be wrong to think of him as only a great motivator, in the mould of Christoph Daum, or just a shrewd tactician like Jupp Heynckes.

He seems to have struck the right balance, blending uninhibited enthusiasm with tactical savvy.

It could not be a better fit for a club that has a spectacular fan support with more than 80,000 pouring into the Westfalen stadium for every game, come rain or shine in a part of Germany that knows and loves the game.

"The passion for football that is boiling in me is very similar to what the people here in Dortmund feel," Klopp says. With his contract running to 2014 and the core of his players having also extended their deals for a few more years, few would bet against Klopp and Dortmund having more success in the coming seasons.