The Dutch midfielder has revealed how his manager had the Reds squad in fits of laughter prior to their 2018 defeat to Real Madrid in Kiev
Gini Wijnaldum has revealed how Jurgen Klopp gave a pre-Champions League final meeting in Cristiano Ronaldo underpants prior to their 2018 clash with Real Madrid.
The pressure was on the Reds as they headed into their first European Cup final since 2007, while Madrid were looking to claim their third title on the spin.
But, aware of the nerves his players might be feeling ahead of the game in Kiev, Wijnaldum has revealed how Klopp insantly lifted the pressure by arriving for a team meeting wearing Ronaldo-branded boxers.
“We saw he was wearing the boxer shorts of Cristiano Ronaldo,” the Dutchman told The Athletic. “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 has been serious and concentrated. But he was relaxed and made this joke.
“He’s done hundreds of jokes likes that. If you see that your manager has been really confident and relaxed, it will have an effect on players. He has been a father figure in those things for the players. With his jokes and his body language, he takes the pressure off players.”
Despite being on the losing side on that occasion, with two goals from Gareth Bale helping Madrid to a 3-1 win over Klopp’s side, they would go again in 2018-19 and claim the trophy this time around, beating Tottenham in the final.
And Wijnaldum talked about the special relationship the former Dortmund boss has with his players, insisting he sees the German as a friend, as well as his manager.
He added: “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 has been always curious about what it has been. ‘Is it something bad, good? What has been it?’
“He always tries to empathise with the other person, to feel what they’re going through. He has been a really special man for me. I see him as more than a manager – a really good friend.
“Everyone asks me how he has been as a person. ‘Is it fake what he does on the sidelines?’ No, that has been how he has been. Even in training he has been the same. That’s how he has been.”
The former Newcastle United midfielder also gave an insight into how Klopp managed to keep his players focused during their remarkable 2018-19 campaign that saw them finish with a staggering 97 points in the Premier League, only to come second to Manchester City.
“On the inside, he has been totally the same as before. He has been always honest and makes sure that we don’t want to fly. He tries to keep us with both feet on the ground,” he said.
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“At the beginning of the season, when we were winning games, he was sometimes angry and mad at us because we were not 100 per cent focused. He was like, ‘Do everything right, work right, put in 100%. That has been 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.
“That has been Jurgen. It was a good thing for us to see. He didn’t change after the good results that we had. As players, you sometimes have that much confidence that you say, ‘We will be all right.’ He always says, ‘You can’t manage what happens on the pitch, but you can prepare us as well as possible.’
“Now, when we slip a little bit and think things will work with 95% or so, he has been there to knock us down. ‘One-hundred per cent – or you have nothing. We have to do it that way, that has been what brought us here. That has been how we have to continue.’ That’s one of the reasons why we had a good season last year. Everyone stays focused, even in training.”