An au­di­ence with Jur­gen Klopp

From fall­ing in love with the gi­ants of world foot­ball as a boy in 1970s West Ger­many to bring­ing the Euro­pean glory days back to An­field, Jur­gen Klopp tells Jamie Car­ragher Liver­pool are fi­nally ready to em­brace a new golden era

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Front Page - Jamie Car­ragher’s bril­liant in­ter­view

‘We are one of the five or six best clubs in Europe again. That is why I am happy for the fans’

Jur­gen Klopp is vividly de­scrib­ing the mo­ment his sev­enyear-old self fell in love with Euro­pean foot­ball. He is con­jur­ing im­ages of au­dio com­men­taries, ex­otic names and venues and a sense of “some­thing spe­cial” cap­tur­ing the mood of cities, na­tions and con­ti­nents.

“You al­ways knew when the big games were on,” he tells me. “My mum would put me in the bath, put the ra­dio on and for 1½ hours I was there. My skin was done.

It is more the leg­end of the com­pe­ti­tion I re­mem­ber – the big Ger­man play­ers of Bay­ern Mu­nich and, at that time, Borus­sia Monchengla­d­bach… Rainer Bon­hof, Berti Vogts, Uli Stielike and Jupp Heynckes.”

Great Ger­man teams beaten by Liver­pool, I re­mind him. Did he have a bath on the night of the 1977 Euro­pean Cup fi­nal?

“If you speak to Ger­man peo­ple and had to name a club that you as­so­ciate with Euro­pean nights it is Liver­pool,” he says.

“It was not one spe­cific game or fi­nal. It was the whole era. When a Ger­man side was play­ing it was al­ways some­thing you wanted to read about as a boy.

“Then you hear the names of these clubs – the big English teams were al­ways in­volved. This is how you re­mem­ber it.”

A more re­cent me­mory stirs Klopp. Re­gard­less of the out­come against Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur in to­mor­row’s Cham­pi­ons League fi­nal, he may have al­ready se­cured a pre­cious An­field legacy. For a mo­ment, he is a child again.

“If I had watched the Barcelona game as a seven-year-old, I would re­mem­ber it,” he tells me. “Ev­ery­one in foot­ball knows it was so spe­cial and it is not some­thing you will see of­ten in your life. Liver­pool have gone from be­ing not the most at­trac­tive girl in the vil­lage to a su­per­model.

“We are one of the five or six best clubs in Europe again. I do not know when that was last the case but it was a while ago. That is why I am happy for the peo­ple. They see where their club is and think, ‘Look at that. Look at that red. That is Liver­pool’. This is what we feel now.

“If I am try­ing to make sign­ings

I don’t have to con­vince play­ers any more and tell them what Liver­pool is. That is ob­vi­ous. I never had so many mes­sages as I did af­ter both Barcelona games. Ev­ery­body watched it, and thought, ‘Wow, what was that?’ I have never had so many com­pli­ments for the per­for­mance of my team.

“I don’t know how many peo­ple watched but there will have been a few in the world. That makes it spe­cial as well – one game, a semi-fi­nal. There was no other game on the planet with such fo­cus.”

Whether a player, man­ager, fan or pun­dit, the en­thu­si­asm of that seven-year-old foot­ball ob­ses­sive never leaves you, es­pe­cially when the Cham­pi­ons League an­them plays. In my youth, it was the great AC Mi­lan side of the mid-eight­ies, with Franco Baresi, Alessan­dro Costacurta and Marco van Bas­ten, that caught my imag­i­na­tion. As a player, noth­ing eclipsed shar­ing the stage with the great­est play­ers of my time. I tell Klopp Europe is what I most miss since re­tir­ing. I see the same pas­sion in him.

“I love the Cham­pi­ons League. I love it as it is. I don’t think there should be any change. It is ex­actly as it should be,” he says.

“You play strong sides, and in the group stage there is the op­por­tu­nity for other teams to sur­prise. Red Star Bel­grade is not a small club, but the re­cent his­tory of Red Star and Liver­pool has changed a lit­tle bit and they beat us in a real, proper game. It is spe­cial.

“I love the night games, too. The mo­ment the flood­lights come on it feels dif­fer­ent. There is the whole day to pre­pare – a lit­tle ses­sion in the morn­ing and then lead­ing to­wards the game and then go!

“And, of course, we play half the games at An­field, which I also love.

“I see the game like this: you have your club – not ev­ery­one, but usu­ally you have your club and for me it was Stuttgart – but when you see a good foot­ball game you ap­pre­ci­ate it and say, ‘Wow’.”

The coun­ter­ar­gu­ment, one Klopp has heard of­ten, es­pe­cially in the build-up to his third Euro­pean fi­nal as a Liver­pool man­ager, is it can never be solely about the ex­pe­ri­ence. It has to be about more. It has to be about win­ning.

Even though a first Liver­pool tro­phy has eluded Klopp, I feel he can over­see an An­field golden age.

“Sil­ver­ware-wise I am not sure if that is pos­si­ble in an era of Manch­ester City, be­cause there is one team above all of us and we have to fight like crazy to be kind of close,” he says. “But de­vel­op­ment wise, joy-wise, it can be a golden era and for me it is al­ready. Who con­nected to Liver­pool can­not be happy? Who can­not love what we are do­ing? Be­cause step by step we are com­ing closer to ev­ery­thing. OK, we didn’t do it again in the league be­cause of City, but we are again in a fi­nal and it is still very pos­i­tive.

“Who can ever prom­ise sil­ver­ware? I can’t do that. But in terms of the de­vel­op­ment of the club, putting the club where it be­longs? We are there.

“This year was our first try for the Premier League. We could not try be­fore be­cause we had no weapons to be cham­pi­ons. This year, af­ter the first five games,

I was like, ‘We can try. We are in the flow’. It forced us to a new level and City to a new level. Now we have to do it again and again.

“We have not lost one knock­out round in Europe in our three years com­pet­ing. Can I sit here and think, ‘We will win the fi­nal, 100 per cent?’ I would never think that be­fore any game. This is foot­ball. What I can say is we have never been bet­ter pre­pared as we are now.

“It sounds crazy to me that be­tween 2013 and 2019 at Dort­mund and Liver­pool I have been four times [to a] Euro­pean fi­nal. How is that pos­si­ble? We lost three of them and it does not feel good. But I have never had such a good team. This is the best team I have taken to a fi­nal. Dort­mund was a good team but Bay­ern was much more ex­pe­ri­enced.

“In the end, Bay­ern de­cided that game at Wem­b­ley with luck. No prob­lem. You need it. We had none, 2-1. Thanks very much.

“Sevilla came at the end of the most in­tense sea­son of my life. Three days af­ter the fi­nal Premier League match­day we went to Basel, also more ex­pe­ri­enced than we were. Then last year we play the most ex­pe­ri­enced team there is in Real Madrid.

“This is a dif­fer­ent fi­nal, be­cause if any­one is more ex­pe­ri­enced it is us.”

It is clear to me what in­vig­o­rates Klopp is the sense of be­ing on a foot­balling jour­ney. Per­son­ally – as his ca­reer took him from Mainz to Dort­mund and now Liver­pool – and col­lec­tively as he has over­seen

re­vivals rather than in­her­ited suc­cess­ful teams. Ev­ery­one felt Klopp and Liver­pool would be a per­fect fit, but what has made it work?

“I can’t ex­plain it. It was not con­scious,” he says. “When I went to Mainz it be­came a very emo­tional foot­ball club. We put foot­ball in the mid­dle of in­ter­est some­how be­cause we were more of­fen­sive than be­fore. I went to the univer­sity to give a speech about mo­ti­va­tion and foot­ball and I asked them all, ‘Why the hell are you not com­ing to our sta­dium?’ and told them why they should. I was close to giv­ing away tick­ets.

“We were top of the sec­ond di­vi­sion and had 6,000 in our sta­dium. A few years later we had 20,000. It was like the Chicago Bulls. To get your­self a sea­son ticket some­one had to die. “Then with Dort­mund, I knew how im­pres­sive the yel­low wall [was] and I knew it could fit, but it was not that I thought this was the only club where we could work. I had thought maybe Dort­mund could be good, but who de­cides whether you get that chance? “Af­ter this, Liver­pool was al­ways in my mind. But all the news that was com­ing to Ger­many about Liver­pool was not pos­i­tive. It was never about some­thing de­vel­op­ing there. It seemed to be Liver­pool wanted to be some­thing else but they could not do it.

Be­ing in the Bun­desliga it was not like you fol­low the Premier League all the time. You might pick games but you are fo­cused on your own games. I know the 2013-14 sea­son was ex­cep­tional and there were good sea­sons be­fore as well, but just gen­er­ally that was the im­pres­sion. “Then when I fin­ished with Dort­mund and I looked at the clubs maybe I could go. I can­not ex­plain why, but I saw Liver­pool and I thought, ‘Yeah, Liver­pool would be cool’. Then, when the call came, maybe late Septem­ber or early Oc­to­ber 2015, there was not much to con­vince. It was just a feel­ing. “Why does it fit? Be­cause I love foot­ball when it is ev­ery­one’s in­ter­est. OK, maybe in spe­cific mo­ments, I do not need it all the time. But when the mo­ment comes it is, ‘Please, let’s do this to­gether’, and that is what we have at Liver­pool. With­out re­ally know­ing it at the time that is the rea­son I came here. I felt we could make these ex­pe­ri­ences to­gether.”

If Klopp can win in Madrid it feels like it will mean more to him be­cause of how the club have grad­u­ally nav­i­gated their

‘We are there in terms of de­vel­op­ment, putting the club where it be­longs’

course back to the top. “The his­tory was part of my de­ci­sion, of course, but the po­ten­tial meant much more,” he says.

“When I came to Liver­pool, there was a mood and a feel­ing where the peo­ple thought, ‘We can get Klopp?’ I was not think­ing like that. I was think­ing at that mo­ment that ev­ery man­ager in the world would run to Liver­pool and I am ready.

“It is not that the start­ing point was not good. Ob­vi­ously, you do not want a start­ing point that does not give you a chance – you don’t want to be in a sit­u­a­tion where it can’t get any worse, but there is not much chance to make it much bet­ter.

“But the pic­ture Mike Gor­don [Fen­way Sports Group pres­i­dent] gave to me at that time, what the club wanted to do, was im­pres­sive. No­body spoke about money. They did not say, ‘We will give you £100 mil­lion for play­ers’ and I did not ask for it. I re­mem­ber lik­ing the team more

than a lot of other peo­ple did. Many of those play­ers are still here. Of course we brought a few in, but it was a nat­u­ral, healthy re­build. We brought in po­ten­tial and at­ti­tude and that led to qual­ity.

“I saw a lot to work with, knew the new Main Stand was com­ing and even de­tails like our new dress­ing room at An­field gave me a bright view of the fu­ture. When you go into our dress­ing room now you must think, ‘Two years too late for me!’

“It is the best dress­ing room in the Premier League and it is ours. These seem [to be] lit­tle de­tails but it is so im­por­tant the boys feel so com­fort­able.

“And I don’t have to talk about the at­mos­phere now. Peo­ple ex­pe­ri­ence it. They see it on tele­vi­sion, or in a pub or – if they are lucky – in the sta­dium.”

That was never more ap­par­ent than in the semi-fi­nal, a come­back against Barcelona which en­hanced the An­field leg­end.

“What we needed was the play­ers to be­lieve only in the chance and noth­ing more,” he says. “I was say­ing to the boys, ‘We need to win 4-0 tonight’ and was laugh­ing.

“Easy to say, huh? I knew it was dif­fi­cult, nearly im­pos­si­ble, but I said, ‘Be­cause it is you we have a chance, so let’s try’. It is not about what I think. It is about the play­ers. What do they think? Then when I saw Barcelona kick off and kick the ball back and we [were] jump­ing all on them I thought, ‘OK, it is pos­si­ble’.

Barca still had big­ger chances at An­field than in Barcelona.

“Then, at half-time, Andy Robertson can’t carry on. So Milly [James Mil­ner], Gini [Ge­orginio Wi­j­nal­dum], let’s go. In the dress­ing room at that mo­ment was

so spe­cial. Ev­ery­one was com­pletely on their toes. ‘Come on, let’s go’. We all knew if Barca score one goal it is done, but we never in that game [were] think­ing about the fi­nal step, only the next step. At 2-0, at­mos­phere changes. Then 3-0. Wow. Then 4-0 with the best goal I ever saw. Goal of the sea­son. So dif­fi­cult. Not only Trent’s corner but the shot which nine times out of 10 is over the Kop.

“I see my job like this. If pos­si­ble, play the best sea­son of your life. If you win some­thing,

you carry on. If you don’t win some­thing, you carry on.

“It is not about whether in a cou­ple of years peo­ple say Klopp won or did not win this or that. I do not need that. What I want is this club is as pos­i­tive as pos­si­ble. But, of course, I want to end this sea­son dif­fer­ent to oth­ers.”

And that is the point. What hurt most af­ter de­feats in Basel in the Europa League fi­nal, in Kiev last sea­son and more re­cently in fin­ish­ing run­ners-up to Manch­ester City in the Premier League was the post­pone­ment of the big­gest par­ties.

Ri­vals have of­ten stated Liver­pool fans will be un­bear­able if they win, and maybe they are right. As a city, as sup­port­ers, there are none bet­ter at savour­ing vic­tory and the truth is, I have come to Mar­bella, Liver­pool’s pre-cham­pi­ons League train­ing camp, with a con­di­tional in­vi­ta­tion for the man­ager.

“You can’t go to Liver­pool city cen­tre much be­cause you get recog­nised, but will you be there on June 2?” I ask him.

“If we win I can prom­ise that. There will be no sleep planned,” he replies.

“Good. I will look af­ter you,” I tell him.

“I am not sure that would help. I have seen a cou­ple of videos of you!” says Klopp, adding: “If there is some­thing to cel­e­brate I am pretty good at cel­e­brat­ing.

“That is what we are go­ing for. That is what we want at the end of this sea­son.

“It would be de­served, 100 per cent. But Tot­ten­ham will see it dif­fer­ently. This is nor­mal.

“We are work­ing for the mo­ment we want. Three times we have been so close, three times we have had noth­ing. In the Olympics you go home with the sil­ver medal. We have noth­ing. Mo­ti­va­tion will not be a prob­lem.”

‘If you win some­thing, you carry on. If you don’t win, you carry on’

Europhile: Jur­gen Klopp talks to Jamie Car­ragher ahead of to­mor­row’s fi­nal

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