How Jurgen Klopp Treats His Players

How Jurgen Klopp Treats His Players

It’s the team meeting before the 2018 Champions
League final in Kiev and everyone’s waiting for Jurgen Klopp to find the right words.
Liverpool go into the game against Real Madrid with a degree of confidence, but they also
know that they’re the underdogs. There’s tension in the room. Klopp is about
to speak. But first, he lifts up his top and stuffs it back into his underwear. The players
are looking at him and then at each other, puzzled. Then, one by one, they notice the
branding on Klopp’s boxer shorts. “We saw he was wearing the boxer shorts
of Cristiano Ronaldo,” Georginio Wijnaldum recalls. “He did the meeting with his shirt
stuffed inside his ‘CR7’ boxers. The whole changing room was on the floor laughing their
heads off. That really broke the ice. Usually in those situations, everyone is serious and
concentrated. But he was relaxed and made this joke.”
Ronaldo and Madrid would have the last laugh on the night, with Real Madrid winning 3-1.
But Wijnaldum is still smiling, thinking back to that scene a year later. It’s one of
his favourite Klopp stories, he says, a neat illustration of the German’s ability to
anticipate his team’s mood and to change it — by means of physical comedy, if necessary.
“He’s done hundreds of jokes likes that,” Wijnaldum says. “If you see that your manager
is really confident and relaxed, it will have an effect on players. He is a father figure.
With his jokes and his body language, he takes the pressure off players.”
Klopp is close to many of the Liverpool players but his relationship with Wijnaldum is so
strong that it transcends the professional, the Dutchman says.
“When I have problems I can always go to the manager. I can text him a few days before
and ask if he has a minute for me. He is always curious about what it is. ‘Is it something
bad, good? What is it?’ He always tries to empathise with the other person, to feel
what they’re going through. “He is a really special man for me. I see
him as more than a manager — a really good friend.”
Klopp, he adds, goes out of his way to ensure that Wijnaldum can see his family, who live
in the Netherlands. They met for a long, personal chat at the
manager’s house in Formby before completing the midfielder’s £25 million transfer from
Newcastle in the summer of 2016. But unusually, it was Wijnaldum who had ‘tapped up’ Klopp
— in the literal sense — during Liverpool’s visit to Tyneside six months earlier:
“He is the kind of man who takes you aback when he looks at you. We had a few moments
like that in the first half. When we walked off the pitch, I was behind him and I tapped
him on one shoulder but was standing on the other side. He looked the other way. That
was the first moment we really had contact.” The classic schoolboy prank worked.
Friends and players from other teams often want to know if the Klopp they see is the
same man once the spotlight is off. “Everyone asks me how he is as a person. ‘Is it fake
what he does on the sidelines?’ No, that is how he is. Even in training he is the same.
That’s how he is.” In one particular aspect, however, Klopp’s
behaviour last season was a little misleading. The Liverpool boss was less animated on the
touchline than in recent years; seemingly more relaxed. Wijnaldum insists that the manager’s
public placidity should not be confused with a more forgiving attitude.
“On the inside, he is totally the same as before,” the 28-year-old says. “He tries
to keep us with both feet on the ground. At the beginning of the season, when we were
winning games, he was sometimes angry and mad at us because we were not 100 percent
focused. He was like, ‘Do everything right, work right, put in 100 percent. That is what
brings us here. Every slip will let it go, it can be the other side again.’ He kept
us with both feet at the ground. Klopp’s leave-everything-on-the-pitch approach
can be unnerving. “Sometimes it can be a lot for a player.
You are busy with the game and sometimes it is not going well. Then you see him at the
side, yelling at you. You are not allowed to bend over to take a rest, or show that
you are tired. He wants you to stand up and show [the opposition] that you are not tired.
It’s very demanding, but he is always trying to help you as a player to go forward.”
Wijnaldum himself has fallen short of Klopp’s high expectations in a handful of games.
He bore the brunt of his manager’s ire after the 2-0 defeat away to Red Star Belgrade in
the Champions League group stage, for example. “I had played a really bad game. A lot of
times he says that when I start a game badly, it never becomes good during the game. And
he said, in front of everyone, ‘I could see it in your eyes and in your body language
— this was going to be a game like that.’ And I was like, ‘Whoa, I don’t need that
in this moment.’ “But in the end, if you analyse it, he was
right. He didn’t say it to break me, but to help me. Sometimes it is difficult for
me, how he reacts or shouts, but if you ask me if I would like him to change, I would
say: absolutely not. He is the kind of manager that will be angry about things in the game,
or will show emotion during a game, but when it comes to half-time, he speaks with you
and gives you confidence. ‘You can do it better. You have to do this, have to do that…’
“He is one of the first managers I’ve had who doesn’t get angry when you try to
do the things that you are good at. He will never be angry when you try to use your talent
or quality. Even if it goes wrong. Since I am at Liverpool, he has helped me a lot. Not
only with football, but also as a person, the way you think about things. That is why
I enjoy every day of working with him. I can be really mad at him one day. But the next
day the anger is gone and we will love each other again.”

About the Author: Garret Beatty


  1. You have coaches who are obsessed with football, coaches who are great people managers and there's Jurgen Klopp. Right in the middle between crazy obsessed and crazy loving.

  2. I am an Arsenal fan but Klopp is my favourite coach in the world. I liked him ever since his time in Dortmund. When are we sacking that overrated Emery?

  3. I really hope Klopp becomes Liverpool's Fergie. He has all that he needs. Hopefully, they'll win the title this season

  4. He is what I think every club needs and, in the EPL, only two really have; a manager who is the biggest person at the club, no contest. From players to backroom staff, scouting and transfers, the manager's agenda is THE agenda. Without it, success is fleeting, not sustained.

  5. We're so pleased to be working with The Athletic – and we're delighted to say that for our viewers, the best way to support Tifo is to support The Athletic. Not only do you get to help us continue to make videos regularly, but in doing so, you get access to a treasure trove of football writing. – Sign up now for your 30-day free trial and 50% off an annual subscription (that's about 8p per day).

  6. There probably hasn’t been a better man-manager than Jürgen since Fergie. Absolutely dedicated to getting the best out of their players. You look back at times where Fergie was playing arguably not-so-talented players and still getting them beating Chelsea and Liverpool at the peak of their powers.

    You couldn’t say that O’Shea, Brown, Fletcher were anywhere near world class. And I reckon you could say the same about Origi, Wijnaldum, Matip, and yet they’re all champions league winners and pivotal to their clubs success because of the backing of the manager.

  7. Really just shows a light on how his time with Newcastle was then. No real connection with the manager or people there. Shows the big difference. Liverpool care about their players, while I doubt some at Newcastle don't. I still miss Gini tbh. Wasn't always the best, but was still a great player overall.

  8. And then there’s Barca, stuck with a emotionless man with tactics to, “ go with the wind” and hope for the best.

    It is what it is when we lose.

  9. Gini showed what he can do against Barca…. Klopp knew he had it in him and Jurgen knows how and when to unleash that energy in his players.

  10. Klopp has given Liverpool: The best keeper in Europe. The Best RB, LB and CB in Europe. The best DM The Best Captain The Best Genius Gini, The Best inside right the best inside left and the best false nine.

  11. Frankly speaking I don't know how Klopp does it…. You don't get any player he's managed speak ill of him…. The way he interacts with his players alone can be a source of confidence…. This man is fantastic

  12. Genuinely think people underrated man mangement. I for example believe that most man united players are actually quality. It is no coincidence every time previously world class players came to their club they turn shit…I believe it got to do more with the "unhealthy" mood around the club than their quality. until they fix it no world class players going to perform as they should. The same thing with Barca, the have the most quality players on paper yet most of them underperformed.

    Klopp makes players overperform, which is good and bad at the same time. I'm afraid it'll be bad when he leaves. you can find tactician as good as him, but it'll be dang hard to look for a manager that have the same energy in motivating players and uniting the club.

  13. Can you please make a video on Liverpools playmakers, since its obvious that its not the midfielders, but the full backs

  14. I’d love to know how OGS treats his players, or how they players react to him, just doesn’t strike me as a natural leader

  15. Hi, Can you please make a video on football club and a Wolf? if it has any credible relation. As we see there are 3 Wolf teams in the Europa League, Groups I, J and K.

  16. When asked about Klopp's hug. Mo Salah's only complaint was "sometimes it's too tight".

    I would love 1000 Klopp hugs please

  17. “Put in 100% effort”. This what’s wrong with Barca, they think because they reserve energy against some small teams, they’ll be more prepare to confront teams like Liverpool and that’s simply not gonna work.
    Barca didn’t bottle a lead, they were never prepare to face Liverpool and they shouldn’t have won at the Camp Nou in the first place.
    Liverpool had a intense week and still was able to pressure barca the whole game, Alba and the whole team didn’t commit mistakes out of nowhere, they were never prepare for such a situation.

  18. You must have an opinion on Bolton and Bury by now. The rest of the media started covering when it went to the wire; are you telling me you're worse than traditional media?

  19. I would be devastated when he leave Liverpool one day. I know the day will come eventually. Nobody can replace him. I would rather lose Salah than him.

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