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'Klopp threw me out of training!' - Sahin explains why he still loves Liverpool boss

11:00 GMT+3 19/05/2021
Jurgen Klopp Nuri Sahin
In an exclusive interview with Goal, the former Dortmund midfielder offers an insight into the German coach's unique man-management skills

Nuri Sahin doesn’t remember the exact year, but he certainly remembers the feeling.

The fear, the dread, the apprehension. Blind panic, at one stage.

“It was either 2009 or 2010,” the former Turkey midfielder tells Goal, smiling at the memory. “I was playing for Borussia Dortmund and the coach threw me out of training. He told me to leave, because I had an argument with another player. 

“I was young and I thought I knew everything. I was sure I was in the right, 100 per cent, but he told me to go, so I went.

“So, the next day I came in and I thought ‘OK, maybe it’s the end for me here’, you know? I thought he would put me out of the squad or whatever. But he came in and it was like nothing had happened. 

“It was a moment for me to realise that I would have him on my side even when I was in the wrong. It’s powerful when you realise that about your coach.”

That coach, of course, was Jurgen Klopp. You may already know this, but Sahin loves Jurgen Klopp. And why wouldn’t he?

It was Klopp, after all, who enabled Sahin to become a Bundesliga champion. It was Klopp who understood, who supported, when he told him he wanted to leave for Real Madrid.

And it was Klopp who later took him back to Dortmund and gave him the chance to play in a Champions League final. 

“I think people are maybe bored of me talking about him!” Sahin laughs. “But he had such a big influence on me, as he does on all his players.

“Ask any of the guys at Dortmund, at Mainz, at Liverpool now, they’ll tell you the same.”

So, what is it exactly which makes Klopp so special? What is it that draws players towards him like few other managers in world football?

“There is no doubt about his coaching, he is very good,” Sahin says. “But what I love most about him is that he’s human. He touches you on a human level. 

“If he asks you ‘how are you?’, it’s not just for the sake of asking. He asks with his heart. And if you have a problem, he is there to solve it. He has time. He cares.

“He can be hard at times, for sure, but the next day you come in and you know there is nothing left between you two guys. 

“This is what I loved about him and what I learned about him. If you want to be a good coach for a long, long time, you have to be a good person also, because the players feel it. 

“You can’t lie, and Jurgen doesn’t lie. He is who he is, and this is one factor in why he has been so successful.”

Sahin says it's also why Klopp continues to keep players onside, even when times get tough.

The world may have been surprised by Sadio Mane’s show of petulance towards his manager at Old Trafford last week, but Sahin says there is no chance of Klopp ‘losing the dressing room’ at Liverpool.

He will always have his players onside, and that, more than anything, is why Reds fans should trust him to get them flying again after a difficult, trying, unique season this time around.

“100 per cent,” he says. “To have a bad season, it can happen. Especially after such successful, historic seasons that they had, winning the Champions League and then the Premier League. It’s normal to have a season with some down moments after such big achievements...

And when you have injuries also, then what do you expect? We are speaking about maybe the best defender in the world in Virgil van Dijk, and after that you have some trouble getting a partnership in defence because you are changing every week. Then, midfielders play there. This is not easy. 

“That’s why I think it’s only a matter of time before they are back. Obviously, they are keen to finish this season in the best possible way, by getting into the Champions League hopefully, but Liverpool will be back next year. I’m pretty sure about that.”

Sahin, of course, played briefly for the Reds himself, joining on loan from Real in 2012. He has fond memories, even if his time on Merseyside was short-lived, lasting only four months and a dozen appearances before switching back to Dortmund.

“I loved every minute,” he says. “It was such a well-organised club with great people. I’m still in touch with many of them. They helped me and my family like I’d never seen before. They made sure we settled in, that we felt good.

“The only problem was that Dortmund called me and said ‘come back if you want’, and at this moment I think everyone can understand that I wasn’t getting the minutes I wanted at Liverpool.

"Dortmund asked me, and I saw the potential for a good season there. That’s why I rejoined, to be back with my team, my friends and my family. That was my only reason.

“Really, I fell in love with Liverpool, with the fans, the stadium, with Melwood. Melwood was the place I felt at home. It was built to feel like home. It was so nice. But I hope everyone can understand, at the time Dortmund was a better place for me.”

He shakes his head as he remembers some of his former team-mates.

“Luis Suarez was crazy!” he says. “Such a good person, but as a player he was unbelievable. The likes of [Steven] Gerrard, [Pepe] Reina, Daniel Agger, [Martin] Skrtel, Hendo [Jordan Henderson] were there. It was a good team. I really enjoyed my time there.

On Gerrard, he adds: “Steven was a leader. It was nice to see how you lead a team in his way, you know? He wasn’t shouting all the time, he wasn’t acting, but when he spoke, you better listen! He was incredible.”

Sahin is 32 now, and plays in Turkey with Antalyaspor. He still has plenty of years left in him as a player, for sure.

Beyond that, though, he hopes to build a legacy which extends well beyond football.

He launched the Nuri Sahin Academy in 2019, with a focus on providing opportunities, education and life skills for children, while his own quest for self-development and improvement led him to enrol on a sports management course at the Harvard school of business. 

“I don’t want to finish playing football and just get a job because I was an ex-player,” he says. "I want to be a better human being, I want to develop myself. 

“It’s not that hard to get a job in football when you are an ex-player, but when I do a job, I want to know what I am doing! The pitch is my daily business, but when that’s done, it’s done and it’s time to move on. 

“That’s why I want to get my degrees, why I want to develop myself, and see for myself where my strengths are, where I can help to make everything better.

“The academy is something for young people, boys and girls. It’s to bring them a better future, not only in football.

“Sure, it’s easy to put them on the field and show them how to pass the ball or receive the ball, but this is not our aim. We want to help these kids be better human beings, better people and a better help for the world, you know?

“Maybe we can give them the kickstart to be a doctor, a translator, a cook, anything. This is our main goal, to bring people into positions where they can make this world a better place. That’s my biggest aim as a person, and as a father.”