Jurgen Klopp reveals his managerial secrets that have made him a Liverpool legend
Few people have had a bigger influence on the Premier League in the past decade, but how does Jurgen Klopp – in his own words – reflect on his achievements at Liverpool and explain how his coaching philosophy has changed?
The ‘useless’ defeats of 2016
Klopp’s team reached two finals in his first season – the League Cup, where Liverpool lost on penalties to Manchester City, and the Europa League, where they were beaten by Sevilla. Only four players remain from the side who started the former – which is proof of the scale of the rebuilding job the German has undertaken.
“It was clear that we were going to have to make changes, but it was more of a natural thing. It was not my plan, but when you are here for six or seven years, that is something that will happen,” Klopp says.
“I would really like to say yes, things would have been different had we won those finals in 2016, because those defeats would somehow make sense. But I really don’t think it would have changed. The defeats were absolutely useless.
“Imagine we’d have won the League Cup – my job would have remained the same.
Nobody would have told me three months later: ‘Now you’ve won the League Cup, you can put your feet on the table.’ The same with the Europa League.
“No, I don’t think anything would have changed. That makes it even more s*** that we didn’t win. The Champions League final [in 2018] I’m not 100 per cent sure. It was one moment where we thought: ‘We have to get it back’.”
Coping with Covid-19
The first lockdown in March 2020 came just before Liverpool ended their 30-year wait for the Premier League title. On and off the pitch, the club struggled to come to terms with the unprecedented circumstances – even yesterday morning the club confirmed £67 million (€80m) losses in match-day revenue – and for Klopp, it presented a tough challenge.
“In some moments, it was the hardest time of our football lives because you are still Liverpool but with half-cut wings,” Klopp says.
“You try to fly, but it is difficult. Playing in an empty stadium is a tough one. I am an emotional coach, we are an emotional team, we are an emotional club. We need this extra bit. That was obviously not there, and it was not helpful in the most difficult situation we had.
That is why I always say, after winning the Premier League, winning the Champions League, winning other cup competitions, I think finishing third last season comes next pretty quickly.
“We were pretty much on three wheels, getting somehow over the line. I never thought more about football than in this period and I think a lot about football.
“I was more than happy for a holiday by the end. For the first 10 days, I didn’t once take the phone out and ask, ‘Could we have this player?’ I couldn’t have cared less at that moment.”
Protecting his players
Klopp’s tight relationship with his squad is one of the essential building blocks of his management. Players are never called out in public, and he expects that bond of trust to be reciprocated.
“The most difficult thing in my job is to explain a defeat. I can only say a maximum 40 per cent of what is really happening,” Klopp says.
“I can’t say, ‘It’s because he hasn’t been performing for the past six weeks’ or whatever. It would just help me maybe to blame somebody else, and that doesn’t help.
“If I open up a massive problem in a press conference, three days later we might have to play again.
“I have to be as honest as possible without blaming individuals and without saying it’s the weather or whatever. It’s hard. I go home and think: ‘That’s why they pay me that much money’.
“In other moments, I still don’t understand why they do it, but in these moments I think, ‘Ah, yes, that’s why’.”
Why he will not wear a suit at Wembley
Klopp’s Wembley record is poor, losing four times there (including two Community Shields). Mixed memories of finals have taught him to normalise the occasion as much as possible, right down to insisting on wearing his customary tracksuit rather than something smarter.
For Klopp, nothing must detract from his sole purpose: figuring out the best way for his team to win.
“I had two finals at Wembley and lost twice. I am a man for the third chance! Why is it ‘Wem-ber-lee’ by the way? I saw it written down that way.
“Ah, it’s how you sing it!
“I will not wear a suit, but not because I am superstitious. I am pretty sure that someone told me before the Carling Cup final [in 2016] that I needed to wear a suit.
“With the Champions League in 2013, honestly, it is really silly, but someone told me that it was expected to wear a suit on the touchline and then when I saw the first coach next to me without a suit and thought, ‘Are you kidding me?’ It is not a problem.
“I don’t go as a tramp to a wedding or whatever. For me, somebody has to put the things by my place in the dressing room and I just go in and from there we go. I could stand there in swim shorts. As long as we win, people will be happy.
“On Sunday, it’ll be pretty normal. I will wake up long before the wake-up call, go for breakfast, wait for all the others to come and when they arrive we will have a walk if possible. I get tense.
“Before the Champions League final [in 2019] I was really afraid as losing two Champions League finals is not nice. I was really afraid of being alone beforehand, sitting in a room trying to prepare a meeting. But I just fell asleep. That was really cool. I hope I have the same mindset on Sunday.”
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