Two weeks of the season to go, three trophies on the line. So much can be gained but so much can be lost, you may expect the high stakes are having an impact on Jurgen Klopp. Not a bit of it.
‘I had two afternoon naps yesterday – two!’ Liverpool’s manager proudly declares, as we talk at the club’s training ground. ‘It worked well. I feel really good. I cannot do it every day. I can do it usually never, actually. Come on… I don’t run, I don’t fight. It’s all good.’
Klopp is mulling over questions about whether it is possible to enjoy things when so much is on the line. Clearly, he is. The man sitting in front of us now is far removed from the human Catherine wheel you see on the touchline, he’s calm and considered and also realistic.
Jurgen Klopp has insisted he is enjoying the high stakes of Liverpool’s chase for the quadruple
The Reds won the League Cup in February are are still vying for the other three major trophies
‘It’s tough, but it’s fine honestly,’ he continues. ‘It has never been done before (the quadruple) so it’s like first step on whichever island. We’re the first team to give it a try – and that’s what we do. Go to all the finals and trying, chasing City, it’s a tough task but that was always clear.
‘If you had said (in August) you will be in all finals and, two matchdays before the end, we are three points behind City, I’d have said: “Nah… can’t see that happening”. Not all in the same season. But the boys did it and that’s really special, but we the decisive part is coming. Now we go for it.’
Still the point remains about this campaign ending with the Carabao Cup as the sole tangible reward for how well they have played. Chelsea, for all the issues they have endured, know how to cause Liverpool problems, while anything could happen against Real Madrid in a Champions League final.
The realist in Klopp also knows that overhauling a three-point and seven goal deficit on Manchester City in two games is unlikely. Is there not, then, something incongruous about a team with Liverpool’s qualities potentially not having the baubles to match their talents.
He greets the hypothesis with another smile and one of those big laughs. There is nothing easy about what Liverpool are trying to accomplish but if Klopp had wanted a simple life, he would have stayed in Germany and taken charge of its biggest club.
The Reds are in the FA Cup final against Chelsea on Saturday, the Champions League final against Real Madrid, and are still in Premier League contention after a fightback saw them recover from 1-0 against Aston Villa on Tuesday to win 2-1 and go three points off Man City
Senegalese star Sadio Mane (left) scored a deft second-half header which proved the winner
Bayern Munich have made attempts to recruit Klopp down the years, before he was manager at Anfield and – he reveals for the first time – since 2016. Bayern have won 15 major honours in that period but would it have brought the same about of fun?
‘Which club should I go to, to have a different situation?’ Klopp asks. ‘Tell me! The only thing I could do is ask Pep if he is sick of all that winning and I take over at City. Is that the idea? That wouldn’t work, I don’t want to do it.’
He delivers that last line with a smile, as everyone knows the situation wouldn’t be possible, but the next point is serious.
‘I could have gone to Bayern a few times,’ he says. ‘I could have won more titles in my life. Pretty sure I would say – a good chance at least. I didn’t do it. I had a contract here and I never did it. That’s completely fine. The world is not full of winners, the world is full of triers, hopefully.
‘And I try and sometimes I win with some other people together. I’m happy with that. I’m not always positive but give me a second and I will find a reason for optimism, that’s probably true, but that’s it. This club went through incredibly tough periods and always hit back.
Klopp said he could have moved to German giants Bayern Munich but chose to stay at Anfield
But the German loves working with Reds players and testing himself in the Premier League
‘If people can’t appreciate the time we are in – or the team they have – I would really feel for them as it’s fantastic what the boys do. If you saw the Aston Villa game, the situation we are in, you could write books about the resilience of these boys. 1-0 down, everything looks like: “Ah! This time!”
‘But no. We are three points (from City) and seven goals. We’ll try. We cannot do more and I can enjoy that. If people can’t, I cannot change that. People might say: “Yeah it’s (just) the Carabao Cup!” and stuff like this. It meant everything to everybody in the stadium. That’s how we felt after we won it.’
Life has changed considerably for Chelsea since the team went head-to-head in the Carabao Cup final on February 28, with the club’s ownership changing hands and results fluctuating; his admiration for how Thomas Tuchel has handled the situation, however, is total.
‘They are third, almost qualified for the Champions League, qualified for two finals – that’s a successful season,’ said Klopp. ‘When there were some difficulties, I really thought especially Thomas – because he was the voice in these moments very often – dealt really well with it.’
His view on success will jar with some who view silverware as the be all and end all – for instance, would Roman Abramovich have tolerated a campaign for Tuchel without any domestic success? – but Klopp, to go back to the beginning, is not losing sleep about those who take such a stand.
Klopp faces compatriot and Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel (right) in the FA Cup on Saturday
The pair, who managed Dortmund, came up against each other in the League Cup final too
Klopp admires how Tuchel (right) has handled the ownership situation at Stamford Bridge
‘If we are all only happy when we are really winning in the end, when your race finishes, what life would that be?’ he asks. When I say: “Enjoy the journey” I mean it. Enjoy the journey, as there have been so many great moments already.
‘If we stop now, it’s not great then (it means) we didn’t win the FA Cup final and didn’t win the Champions League final and came second in the Premier League. Well, forget that! Just say: “Wow! That was a ride!”
‘We only cause ourselves problems as human beings – “Don’t come home without a quadruple!” for example – you will never be happy. If that is the only way to satisfy you that is really difficult. If you ask me, I have to say Chelsea is a really good team.’
They are but it won’t stop Klopp plotting their downfall. ‘If my players ask me later, I will say how we can beat them,’ he says before leaving.
‘Both is the truth. So let’s give it a go.’