Liverpool’s 20 best players under Jurgen Klopp as manager departs Anfield after eight trophies

Some of the Liverpool players who starred under Jurgen Klopp (Getty Images/The Independent)
Some of the Liverpool players who starred under Jurgen Klopp (Getty Images/The Independent)

Jurgen Klopp has one final Liverpool match left to oversee and then the manager will depart, following over eight and a half years at Anfield which included close to 500 matches in charge, over 1000 goals scored and eight trophies won.

He restored the Reds from also-rans to regular European contenders, ended three decades of waiting for a league championship title and constructed at least one of the finest teams not just Merseyside, but the Premier League, has seen - and picking out the very best of the players he coached is no easy task.

That’s the approach here, however: the 20 best players of Klopp’s tenure, factoring in not just quality they showed under the German manager but their tactical importance, transfer fee where applicable, consistency, timeframe in the side, honours won, Klopp’s own selection of them and more.

In reverse order and with several minds consulted over who to include and, with more difficulty, who to exclude, here are the 20 best of Klopp’s time with Liverpool, from 2015 to 2024.

Honourable mentions:Too many to list all of them, but to point out the difficulty - we’ve not included the excellent but injury-prone Thiago Alcantara, who has played just shy of 100 games and shone in 21/22 to the extent that the Reds almost won the quadruple. We’ve omitted Ibrahima Konate, a defensive rock whose combination of the technical and physical allowed the most recent tactical tweak to cover both right- and centre-back areas of the team simultaneously. And nor in the list are double cup-winning goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher, Europa League final goalscorer Daniel Sturridge or early driving midfield force Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, crucial to goals and counterpressing before a devastating knee injury. There are more, many more who might have made it, but we dive straight in to the chosen score.

20. Xherdan Shaqiri

The final position came down to a straight vote including Thiago, Kelleher and Dejan Lovren among others - but Shaqiri’s first-season impact, including massive moments against Barcelona and Manchester United, swung the pendulum his way.

19. Emre Can

One of the early foundations of Klopp’s first team, the German had two and a half seasons as a mainstay when fit, mostly in central midfield and often looking a perfect fit in a chaotic, but counterpressing, side. Left on a free before the big prizes were won, but played an important step to get there.

18. Adam Lallana

Another in the original Klopp club was Adam Lallana. His influence waned rather quicker than Milner’s, due to injuries and declining mobility, but in the first year and a half he was one of the manager’s golden guys. A regular scorer in those days, too.

17. Joe Gomez

The one member of the squad both at the club before Klopp’s arrival and outlasting his departure. Gomez has had injury issues but was first-choice centre-back for a large portion of the 19/20 campaign when Liverpool finally ended their long wait for a league title triumph. Re-reinvented himself this year as full-back once more and even holding midfielder on occasion, surpassing 50 appearances in a season for the first time.

Coutinho was an early star under Klopp - and one of the first big names sold (Getty Images)
Coutinho was an early star under Klopp - and one of the first big names sold (Getty Images)

16. Philippe Coutinho

Majestic, free-scoring and one of the most enigmatic players as Klopp’s first side took shape. Loved a goal against Manchester City but also netted in memorable Europa matches against Man United and Borussia Dortmund. That said, plenty of supporters still feel his biggest contribution was being sold for around £140m - enabling vastly more important signings to be made from a team perspective.

15. Divock Origi

The Belgian striker’s Liverpool career can be neatly summed up as: improbable, incredible, indelible. Scored some of the most iconic goals in modern Anfield history, including a bizarre late winner against Everton and that goal off a corner against Barcelona. Netted a European Cup final goal for added gloss; Origi’s status as an Anfield icon has long since been sealed despite never really being a first-choice starter.

14. Luis Diaz

A first of the more recent parts of the team, Diaz added real depth and quality to Liverpool’s attack after arriving in early 2022 and has been a mainstay since, a ferocious and driven winger who adds tempo, chaos and a one-in-four strike rate to the latest, and last, iteration of Klopp’s Reds.

Milner spent eight years at Anfield (Getty Images)
Milner spent eight years at Anfield (Getty Images)

13. James Milner

It’s hard to overstate the contribution of one of Liverpool’s most understated players. Joined mere months before Klopp, was a guaranteed starter in that first version of midfield, then a first-choice left-back, then several more seasons as a fix-all option across almost any position. Spent eight years as vice captain, frequent penalty taker, coach’s aide on the pitch and at-times aggressor. Never featured fewer than 36 times in a season, albeit many as sub. Klopp loved him.

12. Diogo Jota

The Portuguese forward marked a new period in Klopp’s tenure when Liverpool moved from basically having a starting front three, to choosing three from four. That he eventually usurped one was testament to his improvement and he has regularly been a plunderer of important goals - 56 in 145 and counting since signing.

11. Joel Matip

One of Jurgen Klopp’s first requested additions, Joel Matip came on a free, leaves on a free and won everything in between. Injuries certainly derailed a few of his impressive runs in the team, not least of all this term, but he was the starter as the Reds won the Champions League and has played more than 200 times with Liverpool being at or near Europe’s top of table for most of them.

10. Jordan Henderson

Nearly 500 appearances in total for Liverpool, though the first four and a half years pre-dated Klopp’s arrival. He might have been past his peak at that time but still played a vital and regular role, as captain, as starting midfielder and trophy-lifter-in-chief, tap-dancing feet included. Despite a much-waned influence in his final campaigns, he was the manager’s lieutenant and the face of the club through some difficult results.

Wijnaldum scored twice off the bench against Barcelona in the semi-final second leg (Getty Images)
Wijnaldum scored twice off the bench against Barcelona in the semi-final second leg (Getty Images)

9. Gini Wijnaldum

From signing in Klopp’s first summer, a previously attacking midfielder became a kingpin of the middle, offering the Reds tactical balance, control, work rate and power along with his already obvious technical traits. Scored the goal which secured a return to the Champions League, another two memorable semi-final goals against Barcelona and was one of the most consistent performers across the back-to-back European and title-winning seasons. Not always viewed as a star of the team perhaps, but it’s not a stretch to suggest the Reds would not have won what they did without him.

8. Fabinho

Was a surprise signing immediately after the Reds lost the 2018 Champions League final; one year later was a huge part of the reason they were back in the same game - and won. A key component of subsequent title fights, both won and lost, the Brazilian defensive midfielder was the piece missing in the team since Javier Mascherano’s departure and allowed a vastly attack-minded rest of the team to flourish.

7. Andy Robertson

If the very first Klopp team was about chaos-inducing pressing and the third more about control and dominance, the second one was about the electric front three serviced by two elite attacking full-backs. This was the one which won the major prizes. And on the left, Andy Robertson was, without question, a critical component and one of the team’s most consistent performers. Constant raids down the wing, accurate deliveries, clever crossing and endless stamina to get back into position made him a perfect outlet and counterbalance. He’s almost 300 games in at Anfield, has won everything, become national team captain and has claimed over 50 Premier League assists from defence.

6. Trent Alexander-Arnold

If the left side of defence has been expertly marshalled, the right side has been transformed. Alexander-Arnold’s growth from academy prospect to one of the best right-backs in world football was astonishing to witness across the first three years or so, winning everything in his sight with outrageous technique, passing range and determination. The latter may have faded over the last two years as he moved towards mid-career age and middle-of-pitch responsibilities, but he remains one of the team’s best weapons to unlock defences and supply the front line. The debate over which position he belongs in has been an irksome one for some time and will likely reignite post-Klopp, but the Scouser is a face of the club and one of the most talented individuals in the league. One shy each of 20 goals and 80 assists for the Reds, from just over 300 matches - an incredible production rate for a defender, by whatever definition.

Sadio Mane starred at Anfield under Klopp as one of his first major signings (Getty Images)
Sadio Mane starred at Anfield under Klopp as one of his first major signings (Getty Images)

5. Sadio Mane

If Klopp’s first months shaped the side and the approach, Sadio Mane was perhaps the first signing who made supporters realise just how dangerous, how effective, the overall plan could be. From his debut goal against Arsenal to hitting 20 or more in three straight years, Mane was the perfect blend of physicality, technical quality and relentless mentality for a team which wanted to defend from the front and attack every time they had possesssion. The Senegal star scored 120 in 269, but that only tells part of the story: from late winners to selfless moments, he was one-third of an all-star cast and during his time at Anfield was a starter right the way across the line: right wing first season, left wing for most years and centre-forward before ultimately departing in 2022. Mane was committed, consistent and absolute class.

4. Alisson Becker

Among the legions of outfield players to have impressed and dominated the lineup under Klopp, one of the most important signings to have made the biggest difference came in goal. Alisson has been one of the world’s finest since signing from Roma in 2018, months after the Reds put seven past him across two legs en route to the Champions League final. He’s another who made the team transition from challengers to winners in that regard, but it’s his sheer consistency as well as perfectly suited style for the tactics of Klopp which has made him invaluable. All too often left exposed by a high line, an unfamiliar defence or simply poor form of those ahead, Alisson time and time again rescued the Reds with his one-on-one brilliance, his anticipation...and even, on one memorable occasion, his capacity to score at the other end.

Firmino, Alisson and Fabinho with the Premier League trophy (2020 Pool)
Firmino, Alisson and Fabinho with the Premier League trophy (2020 Pool)

3. Roberto Firmino

Maybe the most important player of all in the very earliest days, Klopp’s arrival freed Roberto Firmino, elevated him...and then was rewarded by him. The most selfless and industrious of all, the Brazilian nonetheless mixed incredible vision, tenacity and quality with his inbuilt willingness to do whatever the team required. So whether it was backheeled assists or 40-yard back-tracking runs to defend counter-attacks, Firmino was inevitably the one who allowed the rest of the team - free-scoring wide men, attacking full-backs, high line - to be constructed as it was. Sometimes his presence seemed to puzzle those outside Anfield; within it, though, his contribution was never doubted. Scored 111 times for the club, precisely ten per cent of which came against Arsenal. Netted no-look tap-ins with the same joy as he did 30-yard half-volleys and ridiculous solo goals.

Van Dijk celebrates a cup win (The FA via Getty Images)
Van Dijk celebrates a cup win (The FA via Getty Images)

2. Virgil van Dijk

For many the most crucial signing of all, and certainly the most transformational one - Virgil van Dijk comes in at No.2 for Klopp’s best players at Anfield, though many may have him in top spot and there’s little reason to argue. He has been a magnificent performer, the world’s best defender across a lengthy period, an enormous part of the reason for so many of Klopp’s trophies and now the club captain. It’s not just enough to point out his own insanely consistent showings though; Van Dijk makes other players around him considerably better. Each of Gomez and Matip were better with him than without, so too Dejan Lovren, or the full-backs beside him, even the midfielders ahead. Possessed of a brilliant range of passing, a towering presence who has pace and strength to spare, he’s near-impossible to beat at his best - and that best has been on show a remarkably large portion of the time.

Mohamed Salah has played almost 350 games under Klopp (Getty Images)
Mohamed Salah has played almost 350 games under Klopp (Getty Images)

1. Mohamed Salah

Even as good as Van Dijk is, it’s still hard to argue against anything or anyone other than Mohamed Salah as the defining player of the Jurgen Klopp tenure, after 348 games, 211 goals, four campaigns which broke the 30-a-season barrier, three golden boot awards and two player of the year awards - all for what has proven to be an absolute bargain of around a £35m fee. Salah is the forward of this Liverpool era, the biggest star, the most frequent scorer, the man to make the difference against both the stubborn defence and the elite rival, plunderer of tap-ins, individual brilliance and nerveless moments which matter alike. Salah’s contribution in front of goal has included 25 goals against the two Manchester clubs, but he’s also approaching 90 assists for the club - his creativity, his quality as an outlet and his sheer ability to make teams double up on him, making space elsewhere, are all indelible parts of his game which have made Liverpool better just by his mere presence. Whenever he leaves, the club will lose a modern icon; he’s been the best player under the guidance of another one, his departing manager, Jurgen Klopp.