Following their amazing triumph in Madrid, we asked Jurgen Klopp for his thoughts on how he has built a winning claims team.
Jurgen, you have achieved a tremendous feat in winning the Champions League trophy, but in the UK you came second to the City team of claims managers. How do you feel about that?
I feel great. The boys have done a magnificent job and I always wanted to come second.
You always wanted to come second? Is that true?
For sure. Think of it this way. The City NPS score of 98 points was just one point ahead of us but since June 2016, they have spent an extra £270m to try and improve their squad and results. It isn’t worth it. Investing in trying to improve is good, but you have to balance that with what you actually achieve.
So, you’re not really a fan of league tables then?
Not so much. No. You see, when we finish higher than Cardiff it is for sure that we are the better team but – how do you say it in English – we do not compare the apples with the apples. We have the better players, we spend more money, and we play a different game to that of Cardiff. If you want to test yourself then you have to look inwards at what you are doing and not worry too much about the others as you can get a false picture.
OK. But how do you decide where to invest your time and money? You have spent heavily in recent times on the likes of Virgil van Dijk
Virgil has done a great job for us and is a great example of what I call the ‘O ring’ of investment.
The ‘O ring’. What’s that?
When the US Challenger Space Shuttle blew up in 1986, they discovered that it was all down to a tiny couple of ‘O ring’ parts that failed. You need to look very carefully for the weak spots and that’s where you spend your time and money. We didn’t need a big redesign of the team and the way we played, we just needed to identify the real weak spots and buying Virgin transformed our defensive capability.
Liverpool are famous for adopting a style which aims to score more goals than you concede, rather than focusing on not allowing the other team to score. Is that a good philosophy to have?
Of course, for sure. And you only have to be one goals better than the bad stuff of letting the ball into your net. So long as you keep on driving to be better you do not need the big wins. One goal difference is enough.
The fans love this approach. Is it all about keeping them happy?
Yes. But, you know, we have a lot of things to think about at Liverpool as well as the fans. Yes, you have to keep them on your side and you want them to love you but they are not the only people. We have owners, the football league, the players. We also have to make money so that we can carry on buying the right players in the future.
So, what makes Liverpool the great claims team that they are today?
You know, I think its mainly down to me and the team of people that I have around me.
Of course! You have to have the great players on the field but they will play to the style and with the vision that I and my team give to them. Yes, we need talent but we also need leadership. You only have to look at the claims teams threatened with relegation who then recover. For sure their players start to play better but that is often driven by the hunger of the managers and the environment that they create to improve performance.
It’s usually the manager that gets sacked and not the players when things go wrong!
You mention the team of backroom staff that you work with. What role do they have to play?
You know, they are the most important people perhaps because they are the ones who see the team every day. Sometimes I am thinking about the next Cup Final and planning ahead to next season but my team of leaders and specialists are there all the time making things happen. They have huge responsibility and I need to have great people around me.
So how have you and the team created such a great spirit and belief at the club?
We know what we are trying to do and not afraid to experiment. We also have very high expectations of our players and everyone else involved in team performance. There is no hiding place here. Even the people who wash the team shirts have a key role to play.
Really? That’s seems a bit ‘off the wall’
No, not at all. Everyone who plays a part must aim for the right standards that fit with our philosophy. Washing the shirts, cleaning the boots, physio, match day security people, ….everyone, no matter what role they play.
You haven’t mentioned the ballboys. Is it true that you issued the ballboys with special instructions for the Barcelona game?
For sure. We noticed that Barcelona were very slow to set their defence against corners so we made sure that the ballboys got the ball to us very quickly and we restarted play before Barcelona were ready for us. Its often the little things that make a difference.
So, when you played Spurs in the final what advice did you give to your players?
Don’t be frightened! We have our game plan which has been carefully thought about and you need to make that happen. Don’t be blown off course by the other team or the fans, even, but if we need to make changes later in the game then be ready to be flexible and adaptable. Work as a team and win as a team.
Thank you Jurgen. Terrific insights into the views of one the best claims leaders in the world I hope to continue with our connection in the future.