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How Liverpool flop Karius can revive his career at Besiktas

17:28 GMT+3 28/08/2018
Loris Karius Liverpool Champions League final
The German goalkeeper has left the Reds after a testing period in England and will now attempt to rebuilt his career in Turkey

As the tears flowed in Kiev on May 26, Loris Karius had the look of a broken man.

Two costly errors from the German goalkeeper had just contributed to Liverpool suffering a 3-1 Champions League final defeat to Real Madrid, with the grandest of European prizes snatched from under the nose of Jurgen Klopp’s wounded Reds.

At that point it was yet to be revealed that a much-maligned figure had suffered concussion during a clash with Blancos skipper Sergio Ramos, with glaring errors being put down to nerves or a lack of concentration.

Emotions on and off the field were raw and the finger of blame was pointed firmly in the direction of a distraught 25-year-old.

Liverpool were to decide on the back of that showing that they needed a new No. 1, with £65 million invested in Brazil international Alisson.

Support was offered to Karius from those around him on Merseyside, with a loyal fan base and compassionate manager making it clear that there was still a place in their hearts for him.

It was, however, always going to be difficult for him to fall back under domestic and continental spotlights, with the decision subsequently taken to hand him a new contract and sanction a two-year loan at Turkish outfit Besikas.

The intention is for Karius to rebuild his form and confidence away from the glare of Anfield, with Dr. Alan Watkins - an expert on leadership and human performance – telling Goal that the best call has been made for all concerned.

He said: “Whilst staying at Liverpool might have given Loris a chance to work on his confidence out of the first team, moving to a new club is a much better choice. Had he stayed at Liverpool he would have still been in the spotlight to some extent and if he had made it back to the first team everyone’s initial thought would have been the Champions League’s final as soon as he took to the pitch. Moving to Besiktas gives him a completely fresh start.

“However, the move to Besiktas will only be beneficial if he receives the right quality guidance on how to rebuild his confidence. For most sports stars, confidence is a mysterious and elusive concept which can come and go like the clouds in the sky.

“However, fifty years of neuroscientific research suggests that this doesn’t need to be the case. It is possible to sustain high levels of confidence despite making errors on the football pitch no matter how public they are. This starts by developing the ability to control our own biology. Specifically, Loris needs to learn to control his breathing. This will give him control of his heart rate and his ability to think clearly under pressure. Such an ability has to be practiced away from the intensity of a match day and even away from the training ground. Once he can control his biology away from the pitch then he steps up his practice to the training ground; then moving his practice to match days until ultimately he can control his biology even during the most high profile games.

“But controlling biology is just the first step. Real sustainable control requires Loris to control his emotional state not just his biology. Such mastery also requires significant practice and guidance from a ‘developmental coach’. With quality guidance we have coached many sports stars to be confident regardless of the threats they are facing. This has stopped golfers ‘choking’ on the putting green; stopped rowers panicking before the start of the Olympic final and helped footballers to deliver ‘man of the match’ performances.”

Karius, as a relatively inexperienced performer at the very highest level, still has some way to go before he can claim to have complete control of his situation, with there issues to be addressed on and off the field.

His willingness to interact with fans after the most distressing evening of his professional career was considered by many to be a positive thing, while Dr. Watkins feels it displayed vulnerability.

He added: “The fact that Loris reacted to online comments simply reveals he has not yet developed his ability to control his own response. He is reactive, not responsive. Developing self-regulation requires an individual to control their response to any threat. This makes them responsible. Every individual, particularly elite sports stars, must ultimately develop the ability to control their response if they want to realise their potential.

“The best thing that Senol Gunes can do for Loris is provide him with the right support so the investment in Loris will deliver for the team. No-one becomes a bad player overnight. But great players are characterised by the ability to achieve what they are capable of. This requires quality guidance in some very specific skills which are not part of most football coaches' normal approach. A focus on self-regulation and particularly the cultivation of a positive emotional state is vital.”

Karius is being backed to thrive at Besiktas, with the faith shown in him by those at Liverpool helping to ensure that he has headed for pastures new ready to learn important lessons and reward those who continue to believe in him.

Dr. Watkins continued: “Klopp, the Liverpool coach, is very skilful in creating a positive emotional environment to get the best out of his players. It is a credit to Klopp that he continued with Loris after the final. But Premier League managers have little time to achieve their results and so when Loris’ confidence didn’t return quickly enough even Klopp had to make a hard decision to move him on. This shows that Klopp, even though he is much more advanced in emotional regulation guidance than most coaches, can still develop his approach at Liverpool.

“Hopefully at Besiktas Loris will receive the right support and get back to the standard that made him the first choice for Liverpool in the first place. All of this also requires the support of team mates. A developmental approach should never be restricted to individual players – it must become part of a team ethos. In fact, our ability to support our teammates despite their mistakes is the hallmark of a truly high performing team.”