In a male-dominated environment – and particularly an English male environment – love is often off the agenda; “Whatever ‘in love’ means,” as Prince Charles once said. I think, like the nostalgia often attached to football, that is sad. But Quinn’s writing shows what immense capacity for care and love men can have. Liverpool, the most un-English of all England’s footballing cities, legitimises love beyond reason, and as long as that is true, books like this will be written: pages and pages of love.
The danger in reading a book about a hero is that you might learn stuff you can’t unlearn — such as the fact that Klopp treated himself to a hair transplant in 2012 (and acknowledged it cheerily, telling reporters: ‘Yes, it’s true... And I think the results are really cool, don’t you?’). Or that he had his teeth whitened by the same dentist who worked on the Liverpool forwards Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mané (all three now flash egregiously bright grins). Or that as a young player Klopp once headbutted a teammate in anger.
But he can always be counted on to brush away any misgivings. Remember when he was asked to put his finger on what went wrong during an ugly Champions League defeat in Belgrade? He replied: ‘I only have ten fingers.’
Though a slim book, it is no small achievement for Quinn and Faber to have turned this around so quickly. It is so fresh that one imagines Quinn still annotating the manuscript as it was being sent to the printers. It also happens to be one of the first literary accounts of sport’s empty stadia (the “applauseless air”) during Covid times.
Klopp isn’t just for Liverpool, Quinn writes in his final pages. He is for all of us. I reckon this book can be too.
Neither celeb-biography nor sports reportage, Quinn’s highly enjoyable book makes room in a short space for a lot more than Klopp: colour photographs; diary entries; a pastiche screenplay based on the film The Flight of the Phoenix; vignettes from childhood; the heretical admission that he dislikes the “mawkish” club anthem “You’ll Never Walk Alone”; observations on Klopp’s politics (left of centre); some terrible puns on former Liverpool players’ names (“Hamman for all seasons”, “all you need is Lovren”); and an A-Z of items that don’t fit the main narrative.