During his time at Liverpool, manager Jurgen Klopp has become one of the leading characters on the English soccer stage. Beyond his work on the training ground — it’s impossible to argue that the German didn’t transform the Merseyside club — he’s also proven more than capable of showing emotion and giving an eye-catching quote. Take one of his answers after beating Ajax in the Champions League as a perfect example of that.
On Tuesday, word broke that Chelsea owner Todd Boehly had publicly wondered if the Premier League could take a page from American sports and have an all-star game. Klopp, who has consistently spoken out about challenges presented by a busy schedule, was unsurprisingly unimpressed.
Jurgen Klopp isn’t interested in a potential Premier League All-Star game
At this point in time, most soccer fans know that Jurgen Klopp tends to wear his heart on his sleeve. That leads to some emotional sideline celebrations and, on occasion, a candid post-match quote. On Tuesday, we got the latter.
As mentioned above, Todd Boehley, who was speaking at SALT New York, said that the “Premier League can take a bit of a lesson from American sports” (h/t The Athletic) and floated a North-South All-Star game to raise money for the rest of the football pyramid. When asked about what the other owners think of the idea, he noted that “everyone likes the idea of more revenue for the league” and suggested that “there’s a real cultural aspect, I think evolution will come.”
While the word evolution admittedly suggests a change over time, Klopp shows what the owner’s idea is up against.
“He doesn’t wait long,” the Liverpool manager said after defeating Ajax. “Great. When he finds a date for that, he can call me. He forgets in the big sports in America, these players have four-month breaks, so they are quite happy they can do a little bit of sport in these breaks. It’s completely different in football.”
The German, however, wasn’t done there.
“Does he want to bring the Harlem Globetrotters as well,” Klopp asked the assembled media. “I’m surprised by the question, so please don’t judge my answers too much, but maybe he can explain it to me at one point and find a proper date. I’m not sure people want to see that. Imagine that, [Manchester] United players, Liverpool players, Everton players, all together on one team. It’s not the national team. … Interesting game. All the London guys together. Arsenal, Tottenham. Great. Did he really say it? Interesting.”
While Klopp raises some valid (and consistent) concerns, we shouldn’t pretend that the Premier League is a pure bastion of sport
In fairness to Klopp, he is being fairly consistent. He’s frequently taken issue with the busy football schedule and how television deals can force teams to play on the minimum amount of rest possible. Through that lens, it’s completely reasonable that the manager would wonder when a hypothetical all-star game would fit.
With all of that being said, though, let’s not be naive and suggest that the Premier League is a pure sporting paradise where an American-style commercial idea would never catch on.
“I suppose the first thing to say is that the Premier League as a concept was almost entirely taken from US sports,” Andrew Mangan wrote on Arseblog. “David Dein, one of the co-founders of the league, has spoken before about how he based much of the idea to break away on his experiences in America, at NFL and the like. The bright lights, the razzmatazz, improving in-stadium facilities like food and drink, and even in terms of the TV coverage. Where do people think ‘Monday night football’ comes from?”
As he wrote a bit further down in the piece, the genie is out of the bottle now. The Premier League already dominates Europe, at least from a financial perspective. The fixture list is already being compressed due to a winter World Cup. Supporters are already at the mercy of TV deals.
Through that lens, is an all-star game really that unbelievable of an idea? (I’d also argue that concerns about rival players suiting up for an exhibition together are overblown and shouldn’t really factor into this debate, but that’s a completely different conversation.)
In conclusion, I’ll once again defer to Mangan’s words:
Here’s the thing: I think we should be open to any good ideas that improve the sport and, pardon the phrase, the ‘product’ that is the Premier League – but this is not that. This is another idea that’s all about money, and nothing else. Then again, I suppose you could say that fits entirely into what the Premier League is and has become, so who knows?Andrew Mangan, Arseblog
At this point, only time will tell how things play out. While it’s pretty clear where the public sentiment lies, it remains to be seen if that really matters.