With his loud laugh and the bear hugs he gives Liverpool players and staff, Jurgen Klopp is one of the warmest managers in world football.
But the German has another side – much colder and uncompromising, which some former players of the “Reds” testify to.
It all started with Jordan Henderson, who made a controversial £12m move to Saudi Arabia’s Al-Etifaq in the summer. In an interview with The Athletic, the midfielder revealed how he felt unwanted by both Klopp and the club’s management, which forced him to pack up at Anfield.
“There were a few things that caused concern for me,” Hendo said. , in which I knew I wasn’t going to play that much.
I knew that new players would come to my post. And if I don’t play, everyone knows that it would be quite difficult for me. Especially after such a long time at the club, and as captain. Let’s not forget the national team of England, which has a European Championship ahead of it.
Then came the interest of Al-Etifaq and the club’s reaction was not to say no and turn him away.
At that moment I felt that my desire to stay with this manager in this team had changed. I knew that time would come at some point. Not that I thought it would be now. But I had to accept things.
I have a very good relationship with Jurgen, with the owners of the club. That’s how it will always be. What we have achieved together in the last 12 years is incredible. But at the same time, it was hard for me to accept it.
If any of those people had said to me, “We want you to stay,” we wouldn’t be having this conversation now. But the stage has come where I have to think about what’s next in my career. It’s not that they kicked me out or that they told me they wanted me to leave, but at no point did I feel like they wanted me to stay.”
Hendo isn’t the only one who feels this way. Roberto Firmino left Liverpool after his contract expired and also played in Saudi Arabia – in Al-Ahly. The Brazilian informed Klopp that he was leaving as early as March.
And in his autobiography, Si Senor recounts how he was convinced he would re-sign, but communication between his representatives and the club proved “confused” and “slow”.
Bobby also claimed that Colp began to side with him and his playing time was limited without receiving an adequate explanation.
Claiming there was a “difference of opinion” about what he could offer Liverpool, he also shared his relief that after telling Klopp he would not sign a new contract, the manager did not try to persuade him to stay
Both Henderson and Firmino are at least holding talks with Jurgen, which cannot be said for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. He joined Besiktas on a free transfer in the summer after it had long been clear that his prospects at Anfield were exhausted.
Despite fully understanding his situation, the midfielder was left surprised by the lack of communication with the club regarding his future.
“In January I got a bit of momentum. I scored against Brentford and then we lost 3-0 at Brighton. That was it for me. I was out of the squad for most of the rest of the season. I trained with the team and in the days the matches I was preparing individually, I kept my head down and did everything to make sure I was prepared, but in the end the manager was looking the other way and it was out of my control.
Some of the younger players were getting chances to prepare them for years to come, which I understand. I just guess it’s normal to have conversations because at some point you start going crazy and thinking, “What more can I do here?”
You just expect certain things to be said, whether they’re good or bad. The lack of communication was a bit surprising.”
But still, that’s football. Players age, trade them, sell them and life goes on. Something Oxlade-Chamberlain is well aware of.
“The longer I’ve been in the game, the more I realize you’re really just one part of the big business scheme. There’s going to be a lot after us and there’s been a lot before us. I’ve had great, great times at Liverpool. I can’t say anything bad about his time at the club. I wouldn’t even say it ended badly. At the end of the day, the club is bigger than any one player. As they say – sometimes there are bigger fish to fry.”
The aforementioned trio may not have played as much as they would have liked towards the end of their Anfield careers, but they were still part of Klopp’s squad. And during their time with the Merseysiders, they won everything.
It may seem cold and ruthless, but that will always be part of the game. And their stories have nothing to do with those of the players who were actually ousted by Klopp.
When the German took over in October 2015, Mario Balotelli was experiencing a dismal loan spell at Milan after an equally miserable first season at Anfield.
He returned to the Reds for pre-season ahead of the 2016/17 campaign and was intent on impressing Klopp and fighting for a place. However, the German clearly had completely different ideas about the footballer.
“I’ve heard a lot about him since I’ve been here,” said the coach. “He’s a good lad and I can’t beat myself up about it. Everything’s fine and we’ll do what we can to get him fit.”
We want Mario to become the player he was before his injury. His talent is still there – no doubt about it. He shows world-class stuff in training.”
However, when Liverpool left for the United States for pre-season training, Balotelli was not put on the plane. Klopp let him train with the youth team and later joined Nice on a free transfer.
The whole situation infuriated the striker’s agent, the late Mino Raiola.
“In the end, the higher-ups at Liverpool admitted that Klopp was wrong with Mario,” he told Gazzetta dello Sport. among other things, Balotelli is also a human being. Mario was impeccable. He never complained about training individually, etc.”
A month later, the striker broke his silence on his virtually non-existent relationship with Klopp.
“He didn’t know me and I didn’t know him – the football player told the media then. – I returned to Liverpool and in a month and a half I spoke to him only once. He explained to me that I can stay, but I am not his first choice and it is -I better go somewhere else.
If they had given me a chance, I could have proved myself, but I told them goodbye and thank you, and that we will not see each other again.”
The former Italy international wasn’t the only one rubbed out in the summer of 2016, with Mamadou Sakho also sent home from the aforementioned pre-season tour of the United States.
The Frenchman had just returned from being investigated by UEFA for an alleged anti-doping rule breach after testing positive on March 17 after a Europa League match against Manchester United, but the test was later rejected. Yet his behavior on the tour irked Klopp and eventually there were signs of an end to his Liverpool career.
Sako was late for the Reds’ flight, then missed the agreed time for a team meal. That was enough for the manager to write him off and later be shown the door.
Jürgen also decided about Lazar Markovic that it was not for him, although under different circumstances.
The Serbian was on loan at Fenerbahce when the specialist started at Anfield, but his season ended prematurely due to injury in February 2016. The Balkan international took part in Liverpool’s pre-season training before joining Sporting Lisbon on loan at the end of August.
In the middle of the season, he was loaned to Hull City and it was clear that he would not get a chance to play for the Reds. He was left out of the squad for the Hong Kong tour in the summer of 2017, and Klopp said he was free to leave:
“If Lazar finds a club, we will negotiate. That was the situation last year as well. He is a really good player and I like him as a person as well. He got in shape and there will be a team that needs him.”
However, the Serbian had to wait until January before recording his next transfer – this time in Belgian Anderlecht.
“I want to show that I’m still the same player and for Liverpool to understand that they can’t treat me like that,” Markovic told Belgian newspaper DH. “Yes, I take things too personally because they want an unrealistic transfer fee. “
After returning from another loan spell, Marković was given a chance in the pre-season ahead of the 2018/19 season. He was part of the squad for the camp in the United States and even scored a goal in control with Blackburn.
But when the season started, he was once again pushed back to the sidelines before joining Fulham on a free transfer in January 2019. And Klopp shared his delight that Markovic could finally try to revive his career.
“For him it’s brilliant. I can imagine it was incredibly difficult for him. It wasn’t very easy for me either. For various reasons his transfer still didn’t work out, but we weren’t responsible for that. At Fulham he can show his potential again. He’s a good boy and a really good footballer. I hope it works out for him.”
Loris Karius’ place has gone cold after his horrific performance in the 2018 Champions League final in Kyiv.
Jose Enrique and Steven Caulker in 2015/16, John Flanagan in 2017/18 and Ben Davies in 2020/21 are some other examples of players who have been virtually completely overlooked by Klopp during his tenure as Liverpool manager.