“I could be sleeping, but I’m here talking to you!”
Jurgen Klopp is smiling again, making a point in that trademark manner. A grin and a chuckle, but a message beneath the geniality.
He doesn’t have to be here, you know!
He is, though, thankfully, giving up his time and energy for an exclusive, sit-down interview with Goal . There have been other media engagements already that morning too. There have been camera crews, a podcast recording and duties for his club’s TV channel. Being the manager of Liverpool is a 24/7 job, even in pre-season. The fun never stops.
It is to Klopp’s credit – and that of his media staff too, to be fair - that he deals with the various demands and requests so well. Few Premier League bosses are more accommodating with the Press or TV reporters, and not many offer as much insight or colour, either.
“If football hadn’t worked out, I probably would have ended up being a sports reporter,” he once said. Martin Quast, a German journalist and close friend of Klopp’s, remembers him starting an internship at SAT1 , the first privately-owned TV station in Germany, whilst playing at Mainz in the 1990s. Among Klopp’s big successes was a feature on the Roschingers, the two most successful snowboarders from the Hesse region. He had interviewed the sisters, added a voice-over and edited the feature himself. “He was talented,” Quast said.
Thankfully – or should that be sadly – it was in football, rather than journalism that Klopp ended up. But after talking about winning and losing, and about young players and new players, Goal is intrigued. What does he really think of the media? And what are his views on the depth and breadth of football coverage in 2018?
“I am a little bit split in my opinion on this, to be honest,” he says, picking his words carefully. “On the one hand, football clubs get the money from the media because everybody is interested in what we do. But on the other side, yes, not everything is how it should be, I would say.
“I respect the job of journalists, absolutely. People want to be informed, I get that. Could journalists sometimes be a little bit better prepared? Yes, to be honest! They ask how you feel when you lost 5-0! What do they think I’ll say?!
“Those kind of things are not too good, but apart from that it’s just part of the business. We can talk about football. It’s absolutely fine.”
Klopp, like many managers, regularly insists he doesn’t read newspapers, and he certainly isn’t one for social media. Regular visitors to Melwood will know, however, that he is rarely behind on the narratives and talking points when it comes to Liverpool. He knows what’s being said.
“I don’t read about football really,” he tells Goal. “From time to time I have Sky on or whatever, but not really a lot.”
At this point, he references an incident the season before last, when he reacted angrily to criticism from Gary and Phil Neville about one of his players, Loris Karius. In a memorable press conference, he remarked that: “[Gary Neville] showed when he was a manager that he struggled with the job to judge players, so why do we let him talk about players on television?”
Nearly two years on, he is able to laugh off the “spat”. “I made a mistake,” he says. “I was a little harsh about the Neville brothers, for sure, but I said what I said.”
Klopp has done punditry, both in Germany and, for Sky, in England. He knows how the industry works and appreciates the challenges facing those whose job it is to inform, to analyse and to educate.
But, he says, he still doesn’t read them!
“I don’t sit and listen to what people say about us,” he insists. “I’m really not interested. If we are bad, I know it before they know it, and if we are good, I know it before they know it. It makes no sense to listen to them.
“I don’t read anything about English football, I occasionally see something about us but only if the headline is harmless! If I see a headline is going in a particular direction, then forget it!
“But I want to have a normal relationship with journalists. I don’t want to be one of these managers who is like ‘who wrote that?’ and then I will not talk to them. That makes no sense.
“I learned a long time ago in Germany that you get good and bad. I knew each journalist in Germany, but does it help? They are not friends of mine, but I don’t hate them!”
Klopp remembers those early days at Mainz, when he would hold press conferences attended by two or three journalists and maybe, on a good day, a photographer or cameraman too.
Now, it is standing room only at Melwood, where crews from the four corners of the globe can always be found. Football coverage now is non-stop, the demands on players and managers must be immense.
“Yes, but that’s not just the media,” Klopp says. “It’s also associations like FIFA and what they do with the World Cup, what they do with the [African] Nations Cup. We squeeze the orange until there’s nothing left any more, and all on the back of the players. That’s the truth.
“Take the World Cup. There was one day after the group stages where there was no game and I think the whole world was ‘wow, what do we do tonight?!’ They were used to watching three games a day!
“It doesn’t stop. It’s a lot, but that creates the money that we all earn, so how can I complain about that?
“I love the game, I really do. I have loved it since I was three years old. That’s what matters to me.
“The media thing, it doesn’t bother me. Yes, you lose a game and have to give 17 interviews, and yeah it’s not what you want to do. But you don’t want to do it if you win the game!”
“Mind you,” he adds. “It is easier when you do win!”