While Saturday’s FA Cup final will rightly be billed as Liverpool vs Chelsea, beneath the 22 players on the pitch is another, monumental clash. The battle between two of the best German footballing minds in modern football.
When Thomas Tuchel and Jurgen Klopp take to the touchline, their battle will be as immersive as the football on display, with both bosses bounding up and down their technical areas in an attempt to provide tactical nuance to their side. In their minds, they make every pass and compete for every tackle.
But, how do the two juggernauts of management stack up?
The apprentice becomes the master
For Tuchel, his job began in the shadow left by Jurgen Klopp. The now-Liverpool boss enjoyed a seven-year stint with German side Mainz to kickstart his managerial career, before being poached by Bundesliga giants Borussia Dortmund. That left a vacancy, and after a brief intermission with the club in the hands of Jorn Andersen, it was Tuchel who took up the reigns, beginning his own managerial career in the process.
And their records in charge of Mainz were not too dissimilar. On average, Klopp managed 1.51 points per game, while Tuchel picked up just 1.43. Under Klopp, the club climbed out of the second tier of German football, before sliding back in after a disastrous 2006-07 season.
Klopp left them in the II.Bundesliga, joining Borussia Dortmund at the end of the 2007/08 season in which they finished 4th in the second tier, before they were promoted and Thomas Tuchel took the reigns, guiding them to top half finishes for the next two seasons.
Meanwhile, Klopp was excelling at Dortmund, guiding them to a Champions League final, two League titles and two German Cup wins, toppling the Bayern stronghold on Germany in the process. Blessed with stars in the form of Robert Lewandowski, Mats Hummels, Ilkay Gundogan and Mario Gotze, they blazed a trail across Europe.
Then Liverpool came calling, willing to take a risk on a man who had seen success, but who that season had seen his side bottom of the Bundesliga by Christmas, and limp to 7th by the end of the season.
And with a vacancy in Dortmund, you guessed it, they raided Mainz once more to bring Thomas Tuchel to the club. Though he picked up more points per game than his predecessor (2.12 vs 1.90), he could not bring the same success when it came to silverware, with just a solitary German cup on his CV when he departed for Paris two seasons later.
While Klopp set the foundations of a dynasty on Merseyside, Tuchel became embroiled in politics with Paris Saint Germain, being sacked after reaching the Champions League final in 2019/20.
He was finally picked up by Chelsea, and when they meet at Wembley, it really will be the apprentice against the master.
Head to head form
The pair have done battle on the touchline plenty of times already of course, and the outcome is pretty one-sided in favour of Jurgen Klopp. As Mainz and Dortmund boss respectively, Tuchel managed a win and a draw from their first two meetings, only for Klopp to win seven of the next eight as well as picking up a draw.
In Europe, too, they have clashed. Klopp grabbed the advantage in 2015/16, with Liverpool edging out Tuchel’s Dortmund 4-3 in the second leg of their Europa League quarter final. He also beat Tuchel while the Chelsea boss was in charge of PSG in 2018. They clashed in the Champions League group stages, and Liverpool won the first game 3-2 courtesy of a Roberto Firmino goal, only for Tuchel to mastermind a 2-1 reverse in the second leg, his first win over Klopp since 2010.
He won the next meeting too, as a Mason Mount goal proved decisive for Chelsea against Liverpool two months after he took over. The three clashes since have all ended in draws, with the Carabao Cup going Liverpool’s way via a penalty shoot-out in February.
The 22nd penalty that was missed by Kepa Arrizabalaga after being subbed on for the shoot-out in the Carabao Cup final! 😨👇pic.twitter.com/9qBFUxHWnd
— Sky Sports (@SkySports) February 27, 2022
Perhaps understandably given the sides they have managed, there is a one-sided look to the head-to-head record. Tuchel has won 3 of the 18 games that the managers have met for, drawing 5 and losing 10.
When the pair have been at ‘par’ sides (i.e. excluding Tuchel’s Mainz vs Klopp’s Dortmund), the record is far closer, with Tuchel and Klopp both having won 2 of the 7 clashes, and drawn a further 3.
What about the trophy cabinet
Trophies, ultimately, is what players play for, and is the major currency used to judge managers.
And in that regard, the pair are also strikingly similar. Both won the German Cup with Dortmund, while both have also won the UEFA Supercup and the Club World Cup.
They also have a Champions League trophy each, though Klopp has three domestic titles to his name (two with Dortmund and one with Liverpool) while Tuchel can only boast two (both with Paris Saint Germain).
Both have 10 major trophies to their name, with Liverpool’s League Cup win over Chelsea taking Klopp’s haul into double figures, though the Liverpool man’s achievements will stand clear to many as a result of how he has transformed both the Merseyside club and Borussia Dortmund before them.
When they meet at Wembley, it is sure to be close.