Jurgen Klopp spoke about plenty of things in his first Liverpool press conference, from the “need to have a stable defence” to the transfer committee.
The German was appointed at Liverpool on October 8, 2015, and was hailed as ‘the charismatic Indie Jesus’ by a fawning media.
Herer at Football365, we thought we’d review his entire first press conference and revisit five key quotes Klopp made, and how they reflect on his time in charge since…
‘You had such a grand reception here today. Is it all a little bit surreal? Has it sunk in, the news that you are the new Liverpool manager?’
“Yes it’s surreal but I have to accept this. Yesterday night we signed the contract and this morning I was manager of Liverpool FC. But I don’t care too much about things like this here. I don’t think too much about the press, I am a normal football manager. I want to work with the team and I want to be on the pitch. That’s similar all over the world, of course some things are different, but I’m prepared for this because of my experience at the other clubs and my experience as a player. It is crazy.
“When I left Dortmund my last sentence was: it’s not so important what people think when you come in, it’s much more important what people think when you leave. Please give us the time to work on it, to think much more positive than you do today about me and about all the people at LFC.
“This could be a really special day if you want and if you work for it and if you are patient enough. We start today in a difficult league against opponents who are bigger and bigger but in a special Liverpool way, we can be successful. We can wait for it, I don’t want to say we have to wait for 20 years but when I sit here in four years I’m pretty sure we will have won a title. I’m pretty sure. If not, the next one will maybe be in Switzerland.”
Klopp is far from packing his bags just yet, but three years later there is still no title or trophy of any kind. The German guided Liverpool to the League Cup final four months after his appointment, then the Europa League final another three months after that. Both ended in defeat.
The most recent final was in the Champions League: an undoubted step up from his first two as Reds manager, but still a losing attempt. If he is to stay true to his word and avoid a managerial stint in Switzerland – although apparently his words were not contractually binding – then a trophy must be won in the next 15 months. It really ought to be soon.
2. The squad
‘How do you assess the squad that you’re inheriting here at Liverpool?’
“It’s good, it’s good. I’m here because I believe in the potential of the team. If Liverpool ask me and I see the team and think ‘oh my God’… no, no, no. In this moment, we are not the best team in the world – who cares?
“Who wants to be the best team in the world today? We want to be the best team tomorrow or another day. That’s all. What I saw from outside is absolutely OK. I saw some good matches and some not so good but it’s normal in football you have some problems, you have to solve them.
“The important thing is we have speed, we have technical skills, we have tactical skills, we have good defenders, good midfielders, good strikers, wingers. Now we have to see who is fit for the first game against Tottenham and then we have to make a team for this game, then we can start.
“I’m not a dream man, I don’t want to have Cristiano [Ronaldo] or Lionel [Messi] and all these players in one team. I want these guys [the current squad], it was a decision for these guys. Now we start working.”
Less than three years later, Liverpool certainly have “speed”, “technical skills” and “tactical skills”. For “good defenders”, see the most expensive in history and a World Cup finalist. For “good midfielders”, see the two who have joined this summer for nearly £100m combined. For “good strikers” and wingers, see last season’s goal tally.
Perhaps it was a Freudian slip, but the lack of mention of the importance of a good goalkeeper is noteworthy in retrospect. Although considering Alisson is only the third keeper he has ever signed for a fee, it is hardly surprising.
‘Can you tell us what style of play we can expect?’
“A wild one. In football, all the world-class teams play possession football, that’s cool. I like to watch this; Bayern Munich, great team, great club; Barcelona, yes; Real Madrid; maybe on some days, Manchester City. But nobody starts as a ball possession team. You cannot start and say ‘OK, we have the ball and the other players have to wait’.
“The first thing, always, maybe in life, you need to have a stable defence. That’s the first thing, always. Because you can only stay confident in a game when you know not each offensive move of the other team is a goal. That’s the first thing and when you start a development nobody starts a development from the top of the table, only a few teams.”
Oh my. There have been many adjectives used to describe Liverpool’s defence over the past three season, but “stable” is towards the bottom of the list.
In the Premier League alone, seven clubs conceded fewer goals (50) in 2015/16. Four clubs conceded fewer (42) in 2016/17. Three clubs conceded fewer (38) in 2017/18. So there has undoubtedly been improvement.
Liverpool also kept 11 league clean sheets in 2015/16, 12 in 2016/17 and 17 in 2017/18. Which points towards a far greater sturdiness at the back compared to what Klopp inherited.
But as of yet, ‘stable’ is not quite the appropriate term. The arrival of Alisson, as well as a full pre-season for Virgil van Dijk, really ought to change that.
‘There has been a lot of media talk about the transfer structure within this football club, the transfer committee. What is your take on it and what conversations, if any, have you had with the owners about that?’
“It’s a really funny thing. It was absolutely no problem between FSG and myself, we talked about this. It’s nothing. If two smart, intelligent, clever guys sit together on a table and you both want the same, where can be the problem? We all want to be successful.
“The only thing for me is to have the first and last word. I don’t want to spend money the club doesn’t have, I don’t want to hold a player that doesn’t want to stay. I have to work all day with these guys. Nobody will sell a player I want to work with, even if it’s a good deal. Nobody wants to transfer a player without my ‘yes’. So everything is OK, I don’t need more.
“It’s a crazy discussion and I heard about it and it was not a problem. Yes we talked about it but I’m not an idiot and I don’t want to be. For me it’s enough that I have the first and last word and in the middle we can discuss everything. It won’t take a long time because we only want to discuss very good players. I’m not a genius, I don’t know more than the rest of the world, I need other people to get me perfect information and when we get this we will sign a player or sell a player.”
Liverpool have signed 17 players since Klopp’s appointment. The first was Marko Grujic, who was bought in January 2016 but only joined that summer. Steven Caulker was second. It has been quite the journey.
Klopp has certainly been backed. Liverpool have spent £385.85m across the six windows he has been in charge for. That is more than Manchester United (£317.95m), and less than only Manchester City (£507.8m) in Premier League terms. The club have delivered most of his first-choice targets to such an extent that he refuses to countenance signing an alternative. The fact that the words ‘transfer’ and ‘committee’ are rarely heard with regards to Liverpool anymore is credit to how effective it has become.
His main targets have joined. No player has been sold without his say so. There have been absolutely no articles calling for the beautiful head of Michael Edwards. It is a far cry from Roy Hodgson proudly parading Joe Cole, Milan Jovanovic and Danny Wilson around at Anfield.
5. The media
How do you describe yourself?
“Does anyone in this room think that I can do wonders? I’m a normal guy from the Black Forest. My mother is very proud. I am the normal one. I was a very average player and became a trainer in Germany with a special club. I had a great job to manage Dortmund for seven years and it was the best for us to leave. I hope to enjoy my work. Everyone has told me about the British press. It’s up to you to tell me they are all liars!”