Jurgen Klopp is often consigned to Mr Motivator status and while that is part of his success as a manager, it doesn’t paint the full picture of his qualities.
Indeed, the German does have the ability to push all the right buttons when it comes to the Liverpool players, supporters and even the board.
However, he is also one of the most meticulous coaches in world football, as evidenced by his insistence that the Reds look to catch Barcelona napping at set-pieces during their Champions League semi-final second-leg clash at Anfield.
And more evidence of both Klopp’s and his staff’s eye for the finer details have emerged.
In the build-up to the Champions League final with Tottenham, the Reds faced Benfica B and Portuguese performance analyst Tiago Estevao has translated quotes from the team’s manager Renato Paiva who talked to newspaper ABola about the warm-up clash.
Liverpool played Benfica's B team in Marbella before the Champions League final. Turns out it was more than just for fitness reasons, it was specific tactical preparation.— Tiago Estêvão (@TiagoEstv) June 4, 2019
I translated some quotes from Renato Paiva (Benfica B manager) who talked to newspaper ABola about it. pic.twitter.com/6aBnohwUwn
Estevao also revealed from the piece that Liverpool couldn’t pick an English team due to information leaks, nor a Spanish team because Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino spent a lot of time in Spain as a player and manager, while a French side was ruled out because Hugo Lloris is the national team’s goalkeeper.
And so they ended up with a Portugese side and the details of that above are quite magnificent.
The 2-0 win for Jurgen Klopp’s side over Tottenham Hotspur in Madrid on Saturday was the culmination of a week of all-English European finals, after Chelsea had thrashed Arsenal 4-1 in Baku to lift the Europa League trophy.
The Premier League’s European rivals have taken note of the English dominance this season, with many seeing it as evidence of the Premier League’s overwhelming financial power created by TV contract receipts that put other leagues in the shade.
A report from accountants KPMG last month underlined that financial muscle, with six English teams ranked among the top 10 European clubs that generate the greatest revenue.
Manchester United were runners-up to top-placed Real Madrid. Abu Dhabi-backed Manchester City, the newly crowned Premier League champions, were in fifth place, ahead of Russian-owned Chelsea, US-backed Liverpool, and Arsenal, with Tottenham in ninth spot.
The looming prospect of Brexit does not yet seem to have had a detrimental effect on the growing incomes of the top English clubs.
For Tottenham, who reached the Champions League final after miraculous escapes in the group stage, quarter-finals and semi-finals, the question is whether their achievement shows mounting momentum or is merely a lucky high water-mark.
Glittering new stadium
The London club opened a glittering, £1 billion 62,000-capacity stadium to rave reviews in April. It holds 26,000 more than the old White Hart Lane and the club has landed a 10-year deal to host NFL games.
How much of that increase in revenue will be available to strengthen the squad is not clear. The club reportedly took out more than £600 million in loans to pay for the stadium.
Tottenham’s dynamic Argentinian coach Mauricio Pochettino has been linked with jobs at Bayern Munich and Juventus. An emotional man, he sent conflicting messages in the run-up to the Champions League final.
While Spurs face immediate challenges to make the leap to Premier League contenders, Liverpool and their coach Jurgen Klopp appear to stand a good chance of dethroning City and winning their first Premier League title for 29 years next season.
Liverpool lost out to City by a single point in a thrilling race this season.
Madrid spending spree
The Daily Mail’s football editor Ian Ladyman said he expects Liverpool “will only get stronger from here”, tweeting that the “only feasible threat is the big Spanish clubs coming for the front three, which will happen at some stage I am sure”.
He was referring to envious glances aimed at Egyptian forward Mohamed Salah, Senegalese striker Sadio Mane and Brazilian Roberto Firmino.
Thirteen-time European champions Real, and Barcelona, who have won the Champions League five times, have had poor seasons by their high standards, and the response has been swift.
The Madrid club are widely expected to announce the signing of Belgian midfielder Eden Hazard from Chelsea within weeks. A host of star names are expected to follow.
Barcelona have raided Ajax’s precocious lineup, snapping up 22-year-old midfielder Frenkie de Jong. His Ajax teammate Matthijs de Ligt could join him in Catalonia, although Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester United are also reportedly interested.
France’s World Cup-winning striker Antoine Griezmann is expected to move from Atletico Madrid to Barcelona too, to bolster the ageing attack of Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.
United’s wealth has rarely been matched in recent years by the same success on the pitch as they enjoyed under former manager Alex Ferguson. The Old Trafford club are expected to spend big to attempt to regain the Champions League qualification they missed out on in a calamitous season.
Perennial German champions Bayern Munich have also splashed the cash to begin rebuilding their squad, investing in French defender Benjamin Pavard and Lucas Hernandez from Atletico Madrid.
The problem for the Premier League’s rivals is that success is attracting ever more foreign investment.
Evidence of that was provided this week when Qatari investors linked to Paris Saint-Germain were revealed to be in talks with the owners of one of England’s sleeping giants, Leeds United, about a possible takeover.
It didn’t matter from which mouth the words exited, the message was always the same.
‘We did this together’.
There were deviations in how it was conveyed, some cracked with emotion while others filtered through via second languages, but they all scripted an identical, wider narrative.
Liverpool’s glorious Champions League success against Tottenham, the sixth European Cup in the club’s history, was a victory for the collective. The cold nuances of finance, tactics, preparation and data all play their part, but above everything else, this Liverpool team is a collaboration of spirit, energy and will.
It’s not to consign Jurgen Klopp to Mr Motivator status, but it must not be ignored that he has massaged these elements into this winning unit.
The German is absolutely meticulous and finer details such as Barcelona’s complaining during breaks in play do not escape vision. Yet his luminous personality can often blanket the seriousness of his work.
There are two levels to Klopp, the silk of charm and the steel of determination. These qualities have helped reforge a defiant force, housing the owners, supporters, staff and players.
Where before there was schism, all pieces now fit together. It wasn’t always like this. Before Klopp, disenchantment hung over Anfield with a divided fan base cynical of its representatives on the pitch and in the boardroom.
Gripped by insecurity, there was a desperation to return to an illustrious past, a celebration of which grinded on rivals because their big historical talk didn’t match the current walk.
What Klopp looked to create was a future not chained by the past. Indeed, as he’s said before, this wasn’t European Cup number six, but number one, the first sign post on a road to future glory.
And Klopp does not stand at the top or sit in the middle of the club, he just binds everyone together. It’s that magnetism which claimed the Cup.
Not one player broke rank on Saturday. After taking an early lead, there was an agreement, spoken and unspoken, to protect that prized commodity.
This was done through expert game management, from the drawn-out throw-ins to the slow-paced prep for set-pieces. Not one individual sought to unnecessarily quicken play as each intentional act ate away seconds of a game which seemed to be lasting hours.
The concept of time, incidentally, was completely skewed. Three weeks of build-up seemed to stretch as if it were summer break. But then within seconds of the game Mohamed Salah put the Reds in front and what followed that rapid piece of attacking action, was a defensive effort which contorted time again.
Yet nothing was desperate or rushed. Granted, quality in possession was pretty poor, both sides were victims of the pause as that time siphoned any rhythm.
Liverpool’s measured organisation was something to marvel at, though, even if their attacking instincts were switched off.
They bolted back into shape whenever the ball was lost, forming four solid walls of defence and blocked Tottenham’s final ball.
Naturally, each player possessed different tools but they mined silverware in unison. Virgil van Dijk headed everything with arguably the most telling exchange being his change of pace and composure to deny Son Heung-min.
Sadio Mane smoothly progressed into the final third to heave his side forward. The club sold the velvet touch of Philippe Coutinho and signed two countrymen in Fabinho and Alisson who both defied Brazilian stereotypes with their rocky resilience on Saturday. Jordan Henderson didn’t quite exert control over the midfield but the captain’s drive was essential, matched by the strike of another significant Divock Origi’s goal.
For the neutral observer there is sympathy as the early lead blunted Liverpool’s desire to attack because there was no need to sharpen their arsenal at the risk of being hurt themselves.
But champions do not care for neutrals, the only spectacle which matters is the trophy lift. In finals, that is all that matters. They did what they had to do, and did it together. The quality of the game is inconsequential.
Liverpool in the modern era has been hallmarked by some flashy victories, but that’s not always how trophies are won. It’s generally accepted that the most thrilling and entertaining brand of football Liverpool have played in the 21st century was under Brendan Rodgers, but there was no bounty for their rich style.
Under Klopp, they are cold and calculated with desire and determination powering those traits.
FSG have displayed financial support, allowed those better positioned to get to work with the club’s transfer committee structure, sports science and data analysts near faultless.
The fans have been patient and inspirational, Klopp and the players united with them. All corners of Liverpool won this prize, they did it together and they all acknowledged that fact.