Jurgen Klopp exclusive: Liverpool boss on early days, man management, Borussia Dortmund, punditry and more...
Sky Sports exclusive: Klopp spoke to Jamie Carragher and David Jones on The Football Show
Last Updated: 22/04/20 9:56am
In an exclusive interview with Sky Sports, Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp provides a fascinating insight into the mentality behind management.
From Mainz to Anfield, team selections to punditry, the German spoke candidly with Jamie Carragher and David Jones on The Football Show on a range of subjects, including the characteristics that made him the manager he is today.
The Liverpool manager, who won his first trophy at the club in last year's Champions League final, dominated the Premier League before coronavirus halted football, with the Reds top by 25 points.
Here, he analyses what has changed about his style since the early days at Mainz, and what he has kept exactly the same...
Klopp on... managerial style
Klopp started his managerial career at the age of 33 with Mainz, before tasting success at Dortmund and now at Liverpool. But has his managerial style changed through those two decades?
"Yes, of course. But some ideas were always the same. Always the idea of organisation was similar, like where I wanted to win the ball back with my teams. So these things never change because I just think they are right. But of course as a manager you have to adapt your style to the quality of the players you have available. The quality increased a lot in the last two years, and not only here, at Dortmund it improved as years went by, and at Mainz too. But it's all about the organisation.
"It's not that I have a fixed idea of how it should be and I try to push it through with the boys, it's just I try to understand exactly the quality and skills of the boys, and then to use that. The pitch in my career has always been the same size, the rules haven't changed too much since I am a manager, and these things are clear, so you have to try to adapt to different situations.
"But a lot of things have changed. The way I work has changed. I started alone, and now I have a lot of coaches next to me, and that's all different to how it was."
Klopp on... managing individuals
Klopp is widely praised by his current and former players for his man-management skills. Has the advent of social media changed the way he treats individuals?
"In the very beginning I was just much closer age-wise to the players. I became a manager when I was 33 and I had two players older than me in my team. Now I have really, really young players. Now I have to deal with 33, 34-year-old players and also 16, 17-year-old players in the same squad. That of course is a challenge, but it was never really difficult for me because I never judge people as a group, always individually.
"Social media came in, players are much more in-demand with television, newspapers, everything. The world makes a fuss of pretty much everything the boys are doing. I am 52 now, older, and this helps of course, but do I treat the players differently to the past? I don't think so.
"It was always the same, I was always really close with the boys, wanted to be close with them, and wanted them to feel faith and trust, so I never had to change, or nobody told me to change. It's exactly the same as with my sons. My players are my sons.
"With my own sons, there are moments when you are a father, a friend, when you have to criticise them, it's exactly the same. I always did that with my players as well. We can have a close relationship, and the closer you get, the more you have to tell the truth to the boys, because they judge you on that.
"I explained it once, that I really want to be the friend of a player, but not their best friend. A friend has to tell you the truth, what they want better, what is right or wrong, but never in a manner that they cannot get up the next morning and do it. I want to help them, I have no other job, I have to help the boys be the best player they can be.
"But the main part of it is; I could be the nicest guy in the world, but if I have no clue about football, the players realise that in a second, and I lose that all. They don't want just a nice guy in the manager's office, they want someone who can help them. So that was much more important I think that I learned so much about the game that I could adapt to different situations. That is a bigger part of the career I had so far."
Klopp on... team selections
Jamie Carragher wondered how Klopp dealt with team selections, particularly the timing around telling players whether they are part of the starting XI or not. Klopp replied that players don't have to be happy with his decision, they just need to accept it...
"The players know usually a day before the game, maybe even two days before a game. I never made the line-up in the hotel. I want them to prepare for it. But again, I treat them individually, that means if a player who played the last 20 in a row isn't playing the next game, it's not a big problem, but I still tell him.
"Like normal rotation during a season, when you have three games a week, I change the front line or the midfield quite a lot, I don't tell the boys, I explain it once at the beginning of the season or at a specific point in the season and then it is clear. You might start today but not the next game. I have to always judge the situation in the moment.
"Like in the Champions League semi-final second leg last year, I realised after the game as people told me that Gini Wijnaldum was really angry that he didn't start! I didn't see it in training! That's the most important thing; I tell the boys they don't have to be happy with my decisions, they just have to accept them, and after the game we can speak about it, we can talk about it. Before the game, we cannot.
"So when I make a decision on the training field and go through the line-up, and then a player looks at me and thinks: 'What idea is that?' or 'Why don't I play?' - that shows me that a player doesn't understand our situation. The next game is the most important thing. You have to respect that. If you come to me in that moment or don't train well in that moment, then you could have problems with me, really.
"But if you are in a session, I can see you are not happy but you train well, you come to me on a Monday morning in my office, door is open, and we can talk about it and I can explain if there is something to explain. You say I am the friend of the players? Believe me, around match day I am friend of exactly 11 players! Haha! And all the others have some points or some things to criticise if you would ask them then!"
Klopp on... the first Dortmund title
Klopp still fondly remembers his first title with Dortmund in 2011, and recalls how he had to be creative to build a championship-winning side...
"It was massive. When you become a manager, you cannot really plan to be really successful. A lot of things have to come together and fit into each other. First you obviously need a sensational football team. Then, you can be the best manager in the world, but if you're in the wrong club with the wrong CEO, you have no chance. So you need the support around. That's what I always had, at Mainz and Dortmund.
"When I got to Dortmund I had no idea of the financial problems that existed there. I realised after I signed my contract when they told me they had like 6m or 7m euros to spend. I thought OK, for me, coming from Mainz that's OK, but then they showed me a centre-half that was 8m, and we could get him for 6m, I watched him and said: 'I don't want him at all.'
"Then we spend money on Neven Subotic for 5m. That was the situation, we had no money so we had to be creative. We had this very wonderful young team, and that was luck as well, it's not that we all found them everywhere, some were already there, some we brought in, but it worked well together.
"To prove it then in 2011, after being together three years, was of course a massive, massive thing for all of our careers. Not just me, but for the players as well. The first one is in a lot of parts of life, maybe not the best one, but the one you remember for the longest time. They enjoyed it a lot, and it was a sensational team.
"When you get the real proof that something works out, it gives you a lot of confidence, 100 per cent. I enjoyed it a lot."
Klopp on... Liverpool beginnings
Arriving at Liverpool in 2015, Klopp knew he had reached a new level of pressure. Thankfully for him, the powers that be at Anfield trusted him near enough from day one, and that faith rarely wavered...
"It was really clear we needed time. It was clear we cannot fix it overnight. Everyone wanted that, but we couldn't so I had to ask for time. I knew. Before that in my career I never got the sack so I had no experience with that, but I knew then it was a different level, and if I can't deliver here quick enough, then I will get the sack.
"We got that time, and the nice thing is that after six, seven, eight games, they were really positive about the situation, they realised we were on the right path. From that moment they didn't question it one second. They were full of faith and trust, and they said the path we will stay on, and everything will be fine.
"That's what we did then. When we lost finals against Sevilla or City or Real Madrid, I think pundits say then if he doesn't win the next one then they might change, but internally it was never somebody thinking like this."
Klopp on... the lesson of Kiev
Liverpool's 2018 Champions League final defeat was Klopp's third final defeat in two-and-a-half seasons. Instead of wallowing in disappointment, Liverpool won the Champions League in 2019, and Klopp could see the benefit in every bad situation...
"Losing a Champions League final feels today, nowadays in this world, like a joke and nothing else. In that moment it felt harsh, and going again, and qualifying again for the Champions League final, and losing a title by a point or 11mm, that could be hard, but we always saw it like this: the only way to get something is to give everything, but it's not a guarantee.
"The boys were always ready to give their all, absolute all, to try again and again and again. There are two possibilities: to win a final and lose a final. If you lose a final there is still a wonderful experience to go there, because you had to qualify, you can get so much confidence from it. And that's what we did from the Champions League final in Madrid.
"It was a strange final, it said nothing about the boys, absolutely nothing. The only thing we realised is that we ate good enough to cause a few more teams problems and that was exactly the plan for the next season.
"Whenever we can play again, whenever it will be, we will not give up. In the moment we are allowed to concentrate on football again for us, then we will do that, start again and try again."
Klopp on... managerial power in England
Asked about the differences between Germany and England, Klopp says the weight on a manager's decisions in this country can be too much, and joked that he could control even the smallest details at the club if he wanted. Instead, Klopp believes clubs should maintain a consistency at their core, regardless of the identity of their manager...
"To be honest the job is not too different. In Germany you are really the head coach really, responsible for the team and that's it. You can have your say in transfers of course. I was always involved in marketing stuff, retail, long-term planning, all these things, training ground, all these things. So the difference is not so big.
"But you give a lot of power in this country to the manager. When I came in, I could have decided at that time if we used only blue pens, or green pens, or red pens, and they would have thrown all the other pens away! 'Maybe that was one of the reasons he was so successful at Dortmund, because he used green pens'.
"So there's a risk in that, 100 per cent. Meanwhile I think it is getting better and better, because I think this responsibility should be shared on different shoulders, of course the CEO, the sporting director, and of course the manager, it must be like this.
"But a strong manager who decides everything is not the only way to be successful, or that after he leaves it's like a blank slate to start everything new. It should not work like this; a club needs consistency and therefore there needs to be other people. That's the big difference, or was the big difference, between England and Germany."
And finally. Klopp on... punditry
Klopp was used as a pundit in Germany during the 2006 World Cup, prompting a sharp rise in his profile at the time. But does he watch or read much punditry now?
"Really not a lot, sorry Jamie! Maybe that's the reason we can be so friendly with each other! I did punditry myself. I accept that 100 per cent it is difficult and you have an opinion, but I think the former players are doing really well. It's like this: we cannot really listen to it because we have our own problems. In the moment that you judge our decisions, I made that decision already so I cannot take it back.
"If I bring a line-up and Jamie says he would have lined up differently, and if lose maybe Jamie was right, if we win maybe I was right, but I really don't listen too much. I watch football games a lot of times completely without commentary, not because commentary is bad but because I want to concentrate on the game. I don't need anybody to tell me No 11, or whoever it is, has the ball! But I respect it a lot, I don't have a problem with it."