German soccer team Borussia Dortmand’s poor performance on the pitch—it spent half the season at the bottom of the table and sometimes played soccer so bad that its own coach branded it “pointless“—has been a drag on the club’s listed shares for months. The stock fell another 1.5% yesterday (April 15) on news that the coach, Jurgen Klopp, is cutting his contract short and leaving as manager of the Bundesliga club at the end of the season.
Though his team is 37 points behind its arch-rival, Bayern Munich, Klopp’s exit is not a classic case of a bad manager getting fired to make way for a better one. Rather, Klopp is considered one of the best young coaches in Europe—he led Dortmund to two Bundesliga titles and almost beat Munich in the 2013 Champion’s League final—and it was he who wanted to move on.
At the press conference announcing his departure, a sad Klopp—who clearly loves Dortmund but was frustrated as it kept selling its best players—said: “I’ve not had contact with another club but don’t plan to take a sabbatical.” Cue the sounds of the owners of other European soccer clubs picking up the phone.
In managerial terms, the past year has been relatively quiet by European soccer standards. The mercurial Jose Mourinho, loyal to no one, has been back at Chelsea now for almost two years. Louis Van Gaal is settling in at Manchester United. The brilliant Pep Guardiola has been at Munich since 2013, about as long as Carlo Ancelotti has been at Real Madrid.
These are the sort of managers who can quit and the clubs come calling, in search of a superstar to win the league for the first time in five years or to win a 10th European Cup. Klopp is now bidding to join this elite.
Will anyone take him up on it? The timing is good. Take Manchester City; the English team has performed terribly in Europe and may not even make it back next year if the streak continues, putting manager Manuel Pellegrini’s tenure on shaky ground. City is one of a few places that might decide now is the time to invest in Klopp and his philosophies.
Klopp’s departure has set the cat among the pigeons—and makes the jobs of managers at top European clubs just a little less secure.