Jurgen Klopp is a two-time Bundesliga winning coach, and has also won the DFL-Supercup twice (as well as its unofficial predecessor, the 2008 T-Home Supercup) and the DFB-Pokal once. He has twice been named German Football Manager of the Year. He is, by most measures, an extremely successful soccer coach. He is also currently without a club.
Klopp decided to leave Borussia Dortmund - the club where he collected all those trophies and awards, and made a run to the 2012-13 UEFA Champions League final - during the 2014-15 season, which was a rough one by the standards he had established for himself. The team finished only seventh in the Bundesliga last season (and lingered around the relegation zone longer than was comfortable for its supporters), though it did also make another DFB-Pokal final (which it lost for the second consecutive season). Nonetheless, Klopp decided to take a break.
When he returns to work - and at 48 he is expected to have many years of coaching left in him - he will have a great many options. An ever-restless English media linked him to Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City almost as soon as he announced he would be leaving Dortmund at the end of the 2014-15 season.
But he is still on sabbatical. Bild caught up with him in Berlin recently, and discovered Klopp is by no means committed to returning to management at the highest level of the club game - where he might reasonably be expected to set his sights given his achievements with Dortmund.
It doesn't have to be an absolute top club, there are other good projects that are exciting
Not a top club? The Daily Telegraph has helpfully rattled off a list of mid-ranking EPL teams Klopp might consider. But one wonders whether a not "absolute top club" in Germany has caught his attention.
A few weeks ago, Bild asked 2. Bundesliga club RB Leipzig's head coach and sporting director, Ralf Rangnick, whether he had considered Klopp as a candidate to run the first team were it to win promotion to the top flight in Germany:
That's not very likely, but not completely ruled out. But we must first ascend and Jürgen would then still be on the market ...
Interesting. Rangnick also told Bild:
Jürgen Klopp and I have known for almost 20 years. We had repeatedly contact.But in the 2nd League Klopp will never go. That's why we need at the moment to worry about it too.
Also interesting. So not even a possibility unless Leipzig gets to the Bundesliga, which just happens to be the club's target for this season: promotion from 2. Bundesliga. And Rangnick's comments came before Klopp indicated he might be interested in a club below the level to which he he become accustomed.
Klopp and Rangnick have similar soccer philosophies, in so far as both might fairly be considered exponents of gegenpressing, the tactical system that appears to have been installed across the entire Red Bull soccer family, presumably at Rangick's behest.
Might the "RalfBall" project - to have a global network of soccer clubs unified in every aspect (youth development, scouting, player acquisition, analytics, player health and nutrition) under one playing style, with (hopefully) Bundesliga-bound Leipzig at the forefront - be attractive to Jurgen Klopp?
Ambitious Leipzig would certainly fit the profile of "not an absolute top club." And we know Rangnick and Klopp know how to reach each other. We also know that Rangnick's commitment to his RalfBall project is greater than his commitment to being Leipzig's head coach. He recently extended his contract at Leipzig to 2019, but he has not committed to continuing in a coaching role for more than one season - refusing to rule more than one season managing the team out, or in, in a mid-July interview.
Indeed, when Red Bull's Head of Global Soccer Oliver Mintzlaff - the man who represented Rangnick's initial move to Red Bull as his agent, and extended his contract as (technically) his boss - was asked about longer-term plans for the head coach position at Leipzig, by Guido Schafer reporting for lvz.de, he replied:
Who knows what will happen in a few months?
So Ralf may not be in charge at Leipzig for much longer than it takes to get the club up to the Bundesliga and attract the attention of another coach. And Klopp is a high-profile coach with a love for the same tactical principles as Rangnick and a recently-revealed interest in taking on an exciting project at a less-than-top-tier club.
A lot has to fall into place for both Klopp and Leipzig for any union of the two to happen. And Rangnick has already reportedly failed to land another high-profile target for Leipzig coach: Tomas Tuchel, the man who ultimately took over Dortmund from Klopp. But we know Red Bull ultimately wants Leipzig to challenge regularly for Champions League success, and Klopp fits the profile of the sort of manager who knows what it takes to build a gegenpressing squad capable of competing for domestic and continental titles.
Klopp will get many more lucrative offers from clubs in better shape than Leipzig. But if he's on the hunt for an exciting project, he won't find many more ambitious and wide-ranging than Papa's global RalfBall plan.
What significance does this rumor-mongering have to the New York Red Bulls? Just that the integration of RBNY into the RalfBall project potentially means developments in Leipzig and Salzburg will have some impact on Papa's MLS team. It is hard to gauge that impact from this distance, but Jesse Marsch is already finding considerable success with the support of Rangnick and Helmut Gross, another important architect of the RalfBall blueprint. Add Jurgen Klopp to that mix, and Marsch would have three of the most respected German soccer tacticians of their respective generations on speed dial.
Not a bad situation for Marsch and RBNY, if it were to happen. Not a bad situation at all.