Liverpool take on Real Madrid on Saturday in the UEFA Champions League final.
And ahead of the crucial showdown, former Reds, Robbie Fowler interviewed Kop’s boss – Jurgen Klopp and the German coach made some striking points.
In the second part of the interview as revealed by Mirror Sport, Klopp talked about his wealth, why he turned down Manchester United and much more;
Read in full:
Fowler: As a player and a fan, I can appreciate your genuine passion.
Klopp: I do what I love, I really do what I love and that’s the biggest thing. When I passed my A levels, the school head said in front of all the other students: ‘I hope you do something in football otherwise I’m not optimistic for you!”
Fowler: How did that go for you?!
Klopp: It was really hard. It was really hard in that moment I can tell you. But I sit here today and I can train a club like Liverpool…it still feels like a f****** sensation. It’s unbelievable!!
Fowler: That brings me on to another thing – Liverpool means something more than a football club to you. I think you’re a perfect fit, because your philosophy helps you get the people of this city.
Klopp: It’s the other way round too. Yes I felt something special immediately when Mike Gordon called me. I was not ready, I thought it made sense that I had one year off. But I really knew, ok, that is one club that I can not say no to.
Fowler: You’d surely have your pick of clubs though, there were others.
Klopp: Of course there were other clubs.
Fowler: It is documented Manchester United made an approach, so why Liverpool?
Klopp: “I love the history. I really am a football romantic. I knew I probably can help. They maybe really need me, in this time. I know what I’m good at. When they told me about the problems they had I thought ‘ok, yeah, I am probably the really right manager for that club’.
A little thing. Liverpool is a world class brand, big, big, big, but in Melwood, you know it Robbie, it is still a family, nothing else, and you can go in and feel that. I have to develop and improve, sure, but I don’t want to go into the office in the morning to wear a tie. That is not me.
So when you see the pictures – and I realise it as well, by the way – I look still like a player…that’s not cool, but that’s me. I go in with a baseball cap and they still respect me, I don’t have to act in a specific way. They took me like I am, they didn’t ask me to do anything else, so I could focus from the first day completely on football.
It is a football club. A FOOTBALL club. I had talks with other clubs and they didn’t sound like a football club. It sounded like marketing, image, you need to sign this, you need to sign that. And I thought wow, that’s not the game I love. It’s all part of football, but it can not be the number one, two, three, four, priority. First of all please try to improve the game we play. And that’s what I am good in. All the rest can happen but it’s not so important for me.
Fowler: Shankly’s beliefs are similar to yours, he always believed in a common effort delivering a common reward that everyone shares in, but he was prepared to take the burden of delivering that.
Klopp: I can take the pressure, I really can take it. I don’t know why, but I can take the pressure. That’s very important. Another little agreement with my players: For the good performance, they are responsible. For the bad performance, I am responsible. That is really important. Football players need someone around who is there for them in the decisive moments, and I really feel that is my job to do.
Fowler: I like the support you give to players. We had a fantastic keeper called David James, but he was given the tag Calamity James, which affected his career. I’m a big fan of Dejan Lovren, and you protected him from that.
Klopp: It’s true first of all, sometimes players get unfairly treated. Two positions that are really, really difficult to play for Liverpool: goalkeeper and centre half. It’s like you can never been good enough, whatever you do, they still say ‘we need a world class replacement’.
The Tottenham game I was angry. It wasn’t I was saying, ‘boys, never mind it can happen, forget about it’. Not even one per cent of that. I was really angry. I took Dejan off after 25 minutes and I didn’t speak to him afterwards. But then a few days later I saw him waiting for my talk, so I said, come in. ‘You took me off after 20 minutes’. Because you were bad.
But I said to him – maybe this was the decisive moment when he got it – I think he’s a world class centre half, 100 per cent. Yes with weakness, concentration can happen from time to time, could be harder here, whatever. But he is a world class centre half, otherwise he would not be here any more.
Kolo Toure left, Martin Skrtel left, Mama Sakho left, a lot of centre halves we had all left. He’s still here, I am not blind and I am not silly. Especially because the whole crowd would be happy if we do it – it would be easy (to let him go). But I am completely convinced about him. That is all there is to it. So he hears I think he’s a world class centre half, and that maybe helped him, I don’t know. But it’s really the thing that players need help in these moments, and they need a clear opinion.
They respect me, so if I think they are good, then they start thinking themselves they are good. And Dejan Lovren is 100 per cent a world class player.
Fowler: Little things like that go a long way for players. I know how much it helps them.
Klopp: Yeah, but it came from him, because I thought he needed to know by himself. It’s not that I go around telling everybody how fantastic they are. I expect really hard work, and I expect they are mature, that they are ready for the fight out there. It’s not that it’s easy. We now play Real Madrid.
Fowler: For me you are the same person, inside and outside football. I get the impression a lot of managers are false, but for me, you are what you are.
Klopp: That is 100 per cent true with me. I don’t think other managers are different. I know a lot and most of them are really nice as fellas. But one skill I have – and there are not many! – is that I am really not interested in the public perception of me. I can not be best friend of everybody. So during a game I am very emotional, that is how it is. Less than I was because even I get more mature. But I am still emotional.
Outside the game though, I really am normal. I know it’s a famous saying now, but I’m really normal. Completely normal life. In a bigger house yes, and I have more money than other people – but I don’t need it. I don’t use it because I don’t have time to spend it.
Fowler: You can always give it to us….
Klopp: I know, a lot of people will say that. But it’s not that I think how can I spend the money, I do what I love, I really do what I love and that’s the biggest thing I could ever control.
Fowler: The history of the club, and the philosophy of managers like Shankly – who always believed in a kind of football socialism – seems to fit perfectly with your beliefs.
Klopp: I never wanted to be them. It is not possible. The times have really changed. The good thing is, because of them, the job of the manager of Liverpool is really different, in a good way. You really think they put you on a pedestal and it takes a while before they take you off again – and that gives you time, which is very important. But I never think about being seen like Shankly. It is really not about me. I have no clue where all my medals are. I love being around a team which is going to be part of a Champions’ League final, and for me that is unbelievable.
Fowler: Do you train different scenarios though, to allow you to make those changes?
Klopp: We would love to do that, but in football you don’t have the time to do it. That City game, we played the Merseyside derby in between! The derby! We made five or six changes, so we have to prepare that team for the Everton game, and two other teams either side.
We didn’t train in that week. But of course Sadio played the whole season before on the right, Bobby often played 10 for us, left or nine, so it is not a problem. And the boys knew instantly why we changed, we were not stable enough or compact enough and we can’t leave one player exposed like that.
Fowler: And it allowed you to give Salah freedom.
Klopp: If you play against us in a moment, I would say this is really true, you really have an eye on Mo Salah, he is a constant threat offensively. But Rome played only that side too. Kolarov, cross. Kolarov cross. That was that game. And we didn’t change it that day, we said instead, ‘Mo you have to work that pass, it’s only one pass’. They can not play from the centre half to Kolarov and then he makes the cross from half space. It worked then. Until the last five minutes or so anyway!
Fowler: I noticed too, you also stopped the passes centrally through De Bruyne into their usual attacking channels.
Klopp: Absolutely. That is the plan. We have two things. In an ideal world there is always a moment when the players receives the pass we are there already. Steal the ball and go. But that is not possible to be always there. So then second, we need a team who can react in that moment. All the boys have to want to do it. My English is not good enough, but we call it, we have to ‘jump’. We always need a jumper, who jumps in the challenge. Then we have protection in behind the challenge.
They all want to jump, but with the wrong timing the jump is always rubbish!! And meanwhile it leaves gaps. When we are not at the right moment we stay compact, we cut the passing options. That’s football tactics, it’s not that difficult. You have to jump 20 times until you realise when you jump too late and then you open a gap. A jump doesn’t close all gaps, that can’t work. But you have to take a risk. And that is what we do.