Joey Barton has backtracked on his previous comments about Jurgen Klopp being a ‘giant German cheerleader’, instead likening the Liverpool manager to legendary Anfield boss Bill Shankly.
The Fleetwood Town manager was an outspoken critic of Klopp early into his tenure in the north-west, criticising the style of play he implemented and claiming the club were ‘regressing’ under the 52-year-old’s tenure.
Liverpool finished eighth in the Premier League during Klopp’s first season in charge, since succeeding Brendan Rodgers in October of 2015, before back-to-back fourth place finishes followed as the German began to mould his side into the footballing juggernaut they are today. Last season the club missed out on the Premier League title by a single point, but claimed a Champions League crown following victory over Tottenham in the final.
Boyhood Everton fan Barton, however, made no qualms about his feelings for the manager during the start of his reign.
“They are actually regressing under Jurgen Klopp. They are not getting any closer to winning the league,” he told talkSPORT back in 2017, before later labelling Klopp with the aforementioned statement in March last year.
23 – In all European competition, Liverpool are unbeaten in 23 games at Anfield (W17 D6 L0) since losing 3-0 to Real Madrid in October 2014 in the UEFA Champions League. Atmospheric. pic.twitter.com/IUf2rXKITT
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) November 5, 2019
He has since been made to eat those words after the Reds earned the title of Europe’s best side, while this season the Merseysiders are flying high in the top-flight, six points clear of Manchester City in second after an unbeaten start to the division.
“I’ve been critical of Jurgen Klopp, certainly when I was working for talkSPORT, I didn’t feel they were learning lessons,” Barton confessed to talkSPORT.
“But I think they are the most improved team and his is the most improved coach in the last three years. He has that, I dare say, Shankly feel to him. He has lifted the whole city and Liverpool really firmly believe.”
Legendary boss Shankly is widely heralded as the club’s greatest-ever manager, taking them from the Second Division up to the First Division and cementing the club as a European heavyweight. During his time at Anfield, he secured three First Division Championships, two FA Cups and one UEFA Cup.
Klopp has someway to go in order to match that success, but Sunday’s potentially pivotal clash with City could see the club take a huge stride towards securing their maiden Premier League title.