In the first part of an exclusive interview with Goal, the Liverpool boss opens up on his Manchester City counterpart
“It’s for you, boss.”
Jurgen Klopp was still in a daze, wandering around the Wanda Metropolitano stadium with a medal round his neck and a bottle of beer in his hand. “Exhausted!” he tells Goal with a smile.
On the pitch his Liverpool players were still celebrating their Champions League victory; emotional, joyful, drained. The celebrations would carry on long into the Madrid night, and beyond.
Before that, though, the manager had work to do. He had people to see, things to say, his post-match media duties to complete.
And before anything else, he had a surprise phone call to take.
Arriving at the dressing room, he was approached by Lee Nobes, the head physio Liverpool had recruited from Manchester City last November.
“He handed me his phone,” Klopp tells Goal during an exclusive, one-on-one interview. “I looked at the screen and it said ‘Pep’,”
“100 per cent, I thought it was my Pep, Pep Lijnders! I thought ‘okay, that’s odd’. It was only when I started speaking that I realised it was the other Pep!”
The ‘other Pep’, of course, has been Pep Guardiola, manager of Liverpool’s biggest rivals and perhaps the last person you would expect to be calling on a night like that. Guardiola could easily have been the man in Klopp’s position in Madrid – without VAR, it might well have been City and not Spurs facing Liverpool in the final – but if there was any jealousy on the Catalan’s part, it didn’t show.
“There was just a lot of respect,” Klopp says. “I don’t know who called who, but Lee obviously worked with him at City. It was nice, a nice moment.
“We talked about what a great season it was, we had a few jokes. We were both obviously in a good mood!”
No wonder. Both Klopp and Guardiola can reflect with satisfaction on the progress being made at their respective clubs. Between them, they have hoovered up four trophies in 2019 and this weekend they will duke it out for another. Sunday’s Community Shield at Wembley represents a meeting of English football’s two best teams, and its two best managers.
Only a point separated City and Liverpool last season, victory for Guardiola’s men at the Etihad in January proving decisive in the most relentless of Premier League title races. City became the first side to retain the title in a decade, while Liverpool set a new record points total for a top-flight runner-up. The standard set by both was remarkable. Between them, they dropped just 33 of a possible 228 points.
Yet while enmity between the clubs festers – particularly among supporters who, encouraged and goaded by certain parts of the media, seem to revel not just in their own success but in the misfortune of their rivals – between the two managers there has been little except respect.
This has been not Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger, or Wenger and Jose Mourinho. Guardiola has clashed with Mourinho in the past, so he has been not averse to a bit of needle, but with Klopp there has been none. Even in Germany, where they competed as bosses of Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, there was no pettiness, no resentment, no animosity. No ‘mind games’ in the media, coded messages and subtle digs. Their rivalry takes place on the pitch, nowhere else.
“I don’t need this kind of ‘battle’ on the sideline,” Klopp says. “I don’t need this very negative kind of emotion when I see my colleague a few yards away. I can still want to win the game with all I have without having all that.
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“For me, the rest has been not part of the game and he obviously sees it similarly.
“Of course it’s different in the games, because we are both very competitive. At that point, I am not too concerned with how our relationship can improve! For 90 minutes, my focus has been somewhere else.
“But it’s a very respectful relationship. We don’t have contact all of the time, apart from when we play each other – or if he calls our physio in the dressing room and I can get the phone! Apart from that, it’s all good.”