Jurgen Klopp ‘will not take pills to stop celebrating a goal’
Liverpool boss: ‘Of course I’ll celebrate. I did it when I went back to Mainz with Dortmund’
Liverpool’s coach Jurgen Klopp signs autographs during a training session at Signal Iduna Park in Dortmund. Photograph: EPA
Twelve months after announcing his decision to end a remarkable seven-year spell in charge of Borussia Dortmund, one that produced two Bundesliga titles, German Cup success and a near-miss in the 2013 Champions League final, Jurgen Klopp returns to Signal Iduna Park on Thursday. Looking forward to the Europa League quarter-final first leg, the Liverpool manager explains why he has some misgivings over the reunion - particularly “KloppCam”- celebrating against a former club and why Thomas Tuchel, his successor, is not solely responsible for Dortmund’s improvement this season...
Will the Dortmund fans treat you as a returning hero or, perhaps, an enemy on Thursday? “I don’t know what people think but I can only say that when we said goodbye it was really nice, really good. I know a lot of people who will be happy to see me again but it’s not the right situation to see friends. I have no problem if someone wants to hug me - if I know him!
“At the end, it’s a football game. We all started playing football against our best friends when we were young and I can’t remember a moment when, because it was my best friend, I did not want to win against him. That is absolutely bullshit. There’s no doubting the importance of the game for both teams. I had no bad moment in my relationship with Dortmund, not one second, and no one has to show me they know about our positive past because I know about it. I know all about our relationship. No one has to show me anything. They can whistle if they like.”
Do you wish you were returning to Dortmund having had more time to rebuild Liverpool? “I have nothing to prove to Dortmund to show how far we have come. I am fine with the draw, with the game, with everything - but not too happy with the stories around me personally. I don’t need it but I can’t avoid it. We are ready and as good as we can be at this moment. I’ve seen five Dortmund games since Sunday. Obviously they are full of confidence and playing really well, but as always in football it is up to the opponent how good you really are.
“We think we can be a real challenge - not the favourite, that’s not important - but they have a team that has been together for two years and only had a bad experience at the first half of last season. That made them stronger. They have a good manager but I don’t think I should go there thinking I have to win 5-0 so everyone can say: “Oh look what he can do.” Let’s go out, play well, see what we can do, fly home and then invite them to Anfield.”
Is there one thing in particular that will make you emotional when you step back out at the Westfalenstadion? “How can I know? I’ve not been back for a game yet so I’ve no idea. Stress is the moment when I leave the bus, go into the stadium and meet every security man and person working there who I know. Usually I’m a kind person who would say hello and talk a little bit but when I am in the dressing room it is work, and so that is stressful for me [not to have time].
“I know this stadium. I don’t know how many games I was manager here but it was a lot and I enjoyed it, but I said thank you because I knew I would never again enjoy this in my life. Now it’s fair someone else is enjoying this. It’s absolutely great and one of the best things you can do, but the stories around this game are not what I need.”
Things like “KloppCam” you mean? “There’s what? KloppCam?”
Yes. Sport1 [a German TV channel] is having six hours of live coverage on Thursday including a “KloppCam” on you for the full 90 minutes of the game. “This is the first time I have heard about it. They can’t put a camera in front of my face. You see how crazy the world is? I don’t know what I can do. I know the way in Dortmund - off the bus, stairs down, left, right, dressing room and no one in there, only us. Go out, stairs down, through the tunnel, into the stadium. It is always like this. It is loud, a big crowd and for the players everything is like it always is and that is the most important thing. I don’t play. If someone is silly enough to want to see my face for 90 minutes I cannot change the world. I can’t believe it is like this but if it is true I have to think about whether I will talk with this television station in my life again. I’m pretty sure I will not, if I don’t have to. Maybe they will think about that because I have done a few interviews with them before. But that’s how it is.
“I know I am only one part of the game but if people around me act differently I can’t change that and I don’t care about it. For me the private personal stress will be when I meet people who I know and I like and I don’t have time to speak with them. It is nice to see them but it is the wrong moment. I can’t handle the situation perfectly for them - I go in, do my job and go home - but maybe in a few years I come back and maybe we will talk about this or not.”
Will you celebrate if Liverpool score in the Westfalenstadion? “Of course I will celebrate. I did it when I went back to Mainz with Dortmund, and I was there for 18 years. If after seven years they don’t know me well enough that my team should score and I will celebrate, what can I say? It depends. If it’s in the first minute I don’t know, I won’t go running down the line. But if it’s important, decisive, in this moment that’s what happens. It’s not that I plan this but I will not take some pills to stop me from celebrating a goal.
“At Mainz they knew about it. We had a big celebration when I left and when I went back there it’s what they expected. I did everything for Mainz, I did everything for Dortmund and now I do everything for Liverpool - it is like it is. My father loved me but when we played something against each other he wanted to beat me. I needed 15 years to beat him for the first time but that wasn’t his problem and there was no doubt about our relationship. It’s a game, even if people are not always aware of it.”
Have you spoken to Thomas Tuchel this season? “No. Why should I?” To give advice? “No.”
What has Tuchel changed about Dortmund since you left? “They have changed their style in part but the biggest thing, and the most positive thing, is that the players haven’t changed at the end of the season. On the negative side of transfers, in terms of having to sell a big player, the last time they didn’t have to do it was 2010. In 2011 Nuri Sahin left, in 2012 Shinji Kagawa left, 2013 Mario Goetze left, 2014 Robert Lewandowski left and in 2015 nobody left. So they have the same team together until now.
“The problem is when you lose a really key player, and obviously all of those players were key, then you have to take a little step back and start again. We brought in Ilkay Gundogan and in the first half-year he had two, three, maybe four games before he started becoming the player he is now. That is always what you need to do and part of the problem but this year they started with players who were all tuned in which, of course, is an advantage. They have changed the rhythm a little bit, but still pressing and counterpressing really good, and in possession they have changed the lineup a little bit and their positions on the field. But that is all. It is quite successful.”
Manuel Neuer has said Dortmund are one of the top five teams in world football. Perhaps all the focus on you will help take the pressure off your team? “The problem is from both sides. English people don’t watch enough German football, it is all about results and so to them Bayern Munich are really good and this year maybe Dortmund look pretty good because of the Tottenham game. From the other side it is the same. There is not the biggest respect as English teams go out of Europe too early and people in Germany think they cannot be that good.
“Both are wrong. Both leagues are really strong but they are completely different tournaments. The Bundesliga is different to the Premier League because of the number of quality players, the number of games, things like this. There is absolutely no advantage for either team in this game. How could I use it? What do I say - I have my own camera on me so you play without a camera and play however you want because nobody will see? It’s not like this. It’s a normal football game. I like the game, I like the atmosphere in the stadium - it will be great for both games - but everything else around the game nobody will be talking about in two days’ time.”
But is Neuer correct about Dortmund? “100 per cent.”