Is Jürgen Klopp really football's Mr Nice Guy?

27 May 2022

5:02 PM

27 May 2022

5:02 PM

Jürgen Klopp is football’s Mr Nice Guy. Despite his Liverpool side missing out on winning the Premier League, Klopp was this week named as the League Managers’ Association manager of the year. The German also won the Premier League manager of the year. It’s not the first time Klopp has won both awards in the same season, which are voted on by his fellow managers. It seems everyone agrees: Klopp is a brilliant coach and a gentleman. Is there anyone who doesn’t like him?

Perhaps we should ask those journalists whom Klopp has belittled at press conferences down the years. Testy post-match interviews are, after all, something of a speciality for the Liverpool manager.

Take the moment earlier this season when Klopp clashed with a reporter after his team was defeated 3-2 by West Ham. The journalist asked Klopp about the standard of referring: ‘My God. I’m not your puppy. Hopefully, you have an opinion yourself,’ he replied.

Or what about the moment last February when he lambasted a reporter who had the temerity to ask whether Liverpool were still competing for the title after being beaten 4-1 by Man City? It was a legitimate question to ask of a man who presides over a team worth over £500 million. But Klopp did not agree:

‘I really think you should prepare your job better to be honest. How can you ask that?…We have only two questions and you waste one for that. Your fault, you had only two questions.’

Liverpool’s manager even lambasted a BT Sports pundit back in November 2020 over the scheduling of football matches. Klopp told the channel’s Des Kelly:

‘I don’t know how often I have to say it: you pick us for 12:30 kick-offs. You picked it. Not you, personally. But you did, didn’t you? Us on 12.30. Between now and December and New Year, there’s one more Wednesday and Saturday 12.30 kick-off.’

That bizarre rant seemed to ignore a simple fact: the billions of pounds that broadcasters pour into football – and ultimately into the pockets of the likes of Klopp himself – for the rights to broadcast games. It’s also strange and unfair to single out a journalist for doing his job.

A fascinating interview between Jurgen Klopp and @TheDesKelly discussing Liverpool’s draw with Brighton, the Reds’ injuries and fixture schedule.

— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) November 28, 2020

It isn’t only reporters who have felt Klopp’s wrath over the years. When a result doesn’t go Liverpool’s way, the referee can find himself in the firing line too. Klopp was issued with a yellow card after he lambasted the referee during their 2-2 draw with Tottenham shortly before Christmas. Klopp confronted the referee at the game’s conclusion to tell him:

‘Honestly, I have no problem with any referees, only you. You don’t give us this penalty – you have never played football’.

This season, Klopp also nearly came to blows with a fellow manager, Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta, during a Premier League game. The Liverpool manager – as well as his Arsenal counterpart – received another yellow card for that ugly episode.

Jurgen Klopp was not happy with referee Paul Tierney after the game 😳

— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) December 19, 2021

Klopp also lost his cool on another occasion this season, when he was questioned over his support for allowing teams to make more substitutes. Inevitably this scheme would favour the richest clubs like Liverpool, whose substitutes can cost as much as an opposition side’s entire playing squad. But those who dare even hint as much face the wrath of the Liverpool manager:

‘I cannot believe that somebody who earns his money with talking about football still doesn’t get it…Nobody thinks it’s an advantage from a tactical point of view. A few people think: ‘That’s why Klopp wants five subs, because he can bring these guys on.’ It has nothing to do with that.’

Is it unfair to pick on Klopp when he reacts like this in the heat of the moment? Is this just his passion for winning spilling over? Perhaps. Liverpool’s legions of fans would certainly say as much. The German is a hero to those on Anfield for bringing success and fortune to a club that, until his arrival, had both in short supply in recent years.

Not long after taking the Liverpool job, Klopp famously told a tabloid journalist that he would not be taking his questions from now on. ‘I don’t speak with the Sun anymore,’ he told the bemused reporter. ‘It’s not personal but you are still working for the Sun, right?’

For that soundbite, Klopp won instant adulation on Merseyside; he had taken on a newspaper with few admirers in that part of the world. Was Klopp right to take a stand? Maybe. But it wasn’t brave. Whatever Klopp thinks of the Sun, he was speaking down to a man who was just trying to do his job.

So, yes, Klopp is funny, witty and charming. And if his Liverpool side triumph in their Champions League final against Real Madrid tomorrow, he’ll flash his ivory white teeth and say something witty. But if they lose, we might well see a different side to Jurgen Klopp.

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