"I Just Want To Understand What Life Is." Klopp's Touching Words About Leaving Liverpool
Arguably, the main football news of this winter. Jürgen Klopp extended interview.
Jürgen, we’re here because you have a message for the Liverpool supporters. Would you like to share what that is?
Yes, I have to. I will leave the club at the end of the season. I can understand that that’s a shock for a lot of people in this moment, when you hear it for the first time, but obviously I can explain it – or at least try to explain it. I love absolutely everything about this club, I love everything about the city, I love everything about our supporters, I love the team, I love the staff. I love everything. But that I still take this decision shows you that I am convinced it is the one I have to take. It is that I am, how can I say it, running out of energy. I have no problem now, obviously, I knew it already for longer that I will have to announce it at one point, but I am absolutely fine now. I know that I cannot do the job again and again and again and again. After the years we had together and after all the time we spent together and after all the things we went through together, the respect grew for you, the love grew for you and the least I owe you is the truth – and that is the truth. That’s it, pretty much.
You offered a lot of detail in that first answer, but I am sure you appreciate how big this news is for our supporters, so we’ll drill down into some of the topics and the reasons behind your decision. I think the first thing fans will want to know is has something happened and are you OK?
I am OK. I am healthy, as much as you can [be] at my age. Little bits and bobs, stuff like that, but nothing anybody has to be concerned about, so that’s absolutely fine. I told the club already in November. I have to explain a little bit that maybe the job I do people see from the outside, I’m on the touchline and in training sessions and stuff like this, but the majority of all the things happen around these kind of things. That means a season starts and you plan pretty much the next season already. When we sat there together talking about potential signings, the next summer camp and can we go wherever, the thought came up, ‘I am not sure I am here then anymore’ and I was surprised myself by that. I obviously start thinking about it. It didn’t start [then], but of course last season was kind of a super-difficult season and there were moments when at other clubs probably the decision would have been, ‘Come on, thank you very much for everything but probably we should split here, or end it here.’ That didn’t happen here, obviously. For me it was super, super, super-important that I can help to bring this team back onto the rails. It was all I was thinking about. When I realised pretty early that happened, it’s a really good team with massive potential and a super age group, super characters and all that, then I could start thinking about myself again and that was the outcome. It is not what I want to [do], it is just what I think is 100 per cent right. That’s it.
Is there a reason you’re making this decision now, particularly given the stage of the season we’re at?
In an ideal world I wouldn’t have said anything to anybody until the end of the season, win everything and then say goodbye. That’s not possible. In the world we are living in, it’s not possible to keep things like this secret; it’s maybe a surprise that we could keep it [a secret] until now. There are so many things which are influenced by it, especially personal situations. People from my staff need to know early – and especially the club needs to know early and needs to plan. You cannot plan anything and you cannot really start. You can do a lot of stuff with knowing it but not making it public, but the decisive things, a lot of things, you cannot do. That means the club needs time. Over the years my role was a pretty dominant one. It was not intentional, but it happened. There were a lot of moments where I wished that I didn’t have to do that again [leave a club] – it is the third time I have to do something like that and I really don’t want that. But in the end I have to because one thing I am really convinced of [is] if you have to make a decision like that, it is better you do it slightly early than slightly too late. Too late would have been absolutely the worst thing to happen [if], I don’t know, next season in September I realised, ‘Oh my God, that’s it – I cannot do it anymore’ and then we are in the middle of a season and everything. This club, everything we built in the last years, is a wonderful platform, a wonderful basis for the future and the only thing that could disturb that now is pretty much that you cannot make the right decisions because you are running out of time, and that’s what was very important to me: that I really inform everybody as early as somehow possible.
You said ‘disturbance’ there. Are you at all concerned this news could have a negative impact on the remainder of the season?
I understand the question 100 per cent, [but] that’s up to us, I would say. I had a similar situation at Dortmund. The circumstances are completely different but it is a similar situation, you cannot deny that. It is up to us. After this announcement we will have a press conference and stuff like that. After that, I am 100 per cent in this season. We can go through it, I think in an ideal world we have kind of 30 games coming up or something like that. That is, in other countries, a full season. There are so many things to play for and there might be some ideas from the outside to disturb what we are doing, but it is all about us. The way we grew together in the last few years is absolutely exceptional. Absolutely exceptional. I always said it, and especially now it is still true, nothing has to happen because of me. Nobody has to make the games now about me – please don’t, if I can ask for that it would be really nice – and we just support each other. I am fully here – I don’t think anybody realised any difference in the last few months. If [they did] then maybe a positive change because I have to say when I made the decision, as hard as it is, it was a relief as well. It was like, ‘OK, there is a finishing line’ and not for not being here anymore. If I could stay here in that role I would be over the moon, I just can’t. That’s it. I really want to perform on the highest level and we only get disturbed if we let it happen as a club. I really hope that it will not happen, with the team I am sure that they will be fine. With the crowd I am sure they will be fine, but the world out there is bigger, the social media and all these kind of things, but I think it is worth [it] that we do what we always did. We live in the moment, we push each other as much as we can and we go for absolutely everything. The rest is next season, there is no difference really for that season, to be 100 per cent honest. Everything what happened in the last few years it was always my name but obviously plenty of people are working on everything and they are still working on that and still doing that. My role will change, a lot of other things will stay the same, so the club is in good hands and the future is bright – and even brighter when I don’t have to do it anymore with not exactly the same energy level as before. If you look at my career, this career is actually not possible, I would say, because where I am coming from, ending up as the manager of Liverpool FC is a fairy tale and a very difficult thing to plan. Impossible to plan and difficult to reach, but it is only possible if you are very busy and 100,000 per cent committed to everything you do and you dedicate your whole life to it. That’s what I did. I came here, and I said it on the first day, as a normal guy. I am still a normal guy, I just don’t live a normal life for too long now. I don’t want to wait until I am too old for having a normal life. I need to at least give it a try at one point to see how it is and will I miss it. As I said, I never really had this before so I need to give it a try and it is the right moment for me and I think it is the right moment for the club because I can’t do the job from next year on anymore as I did it before, and then I am not the right one anymore.
What was the reaction of the club’s ownership when you informed them?
They didn’t smash a party! We developed a really good relationship over the years, but I explained it and they know me now for so long that they know I don’t say these kind of things and leave a little bit of the door open, ‘Come on, try to convince me’ and these kind of things. As I said, we’ve known each for so long and that good. That was clear and they accepted, they just accepted it. Nobody was really happy. The few people I have told so far, who I told so far, were not really happy. I am not happy with it, I just know it’s right. What are the alternative scenarios? What are they? Usually as a manager you get the sack. You have a bad spell before – five, six, seven weeks – and everybody is relieved when you part ways. I’m not sure what’s the other one… you get ill and you have to stop. And unfortunately, or fortunately, I have to do it like that. I don’t like that we have to make that fuss of myself, I don’t consider myself as that important but I know that the outside world sees that slightly different. That’s why we do that. Doing a press conference, doing an official announcement is a rare thing to do in that situation; we just want to make sure that everybody who is with us gets informed in the best possible way. But after this I’m completely in the Norwich game, I’m completely in the Chelsea game, in the Arsenal game, whatever game is coming up. I’m completely in that. There is no need for any farewell parties now, there is a long season to go. I want to be 100 per cent in it, and I am. I am. Nobody has to worry about my mindset. It would be really cool if you just could accept my decision as a difficult one but the right one. That’s it. Because as much as I love everything, I still think it’s the right one – that could show you it is probably the right one.
From your perspective, after the announcement is made, in this building it’s just business as usual?
Yeah, definitely. Business as usual, with a few sad faces for a few days. In a good moment, to change is obviously something that doesn’t happen too often but if it happens there’s still a chance. Nobody knows what the future will bring, but the basis is so good, this team is so good. If you would have asked my younger version 10 years ago to take over this team, I would have run through a brick wall to do that. Unfortunately, I did this job for 24 years and at one time I need to have a look how life is… how life is, actually. Because I don’t know. I just don’t know. And that’s what I need to figure out before it’s too late for me, if you want. I have to try that now. And I know, I don’t know exactly when but I signed a new contract not too long ago, and I was over the moon when I did it and it was exactly what I felt in that moment. The one thing I didn’t know and I underestimated was the fact that my energy source is not endless, because I never had that issue. And when I realised that then I had to tell people. That’s what I owe you all. I tried to describe it already, I had to explain it to Ulla clearly. I tried to explain it with, I’m like a proper sports car – not the best one but a pretty good one, can still drive 160, 170, 180 mph but I’m the only one who sees the tank meter is going down. The outside world doesn’t see that, that’s good, so you go until as long as we have to go, but then you need a break. In this case, you need to go to the petrol station. That’s exactly what I know I have to do, but nobody has to worry until the end of this season, I know that I will be fine until then.
When you signed that last contract in 2022, there was a lot of talk about Ulla and her influence in making that happen. What’s her reaction to this news?
I had to explain it, of course I had to. It was not like, ‘Oh, thank God.’ You must not misunderstand. Not at all. She asked me why and I explained it like I explain it now to you, with a few more maybe private details, but besides that it was pretty similar. And obviously Ulla wants me to do well and be fine, and when she realised that I’m really clear about that – and she knows I don’t take these kind of things lightly – she is happy for me, that I’m happy with the decision. Because that’s the truth. When people tell me now all the different things we do in the moment and what’s going well with the team and stuff like this, I enjoy it like crazy. But I enjoy it as well because I know I will not have to do it forever. I need to find a different purpose as well, I need to have a look for it. If you ask me, ‘Will you ever work as a manager again?’ I would say now no. But I don’t know obviously how that will feel because I never had the situation. What I know definitely – I will never, ever manage a different club in England than Liverpool, 100 per cent. That’s not possible. My love for this club, my respect for the people is too big. I couldn’t. I couldn’t for a second think about it. There’s no chance. This is part of my life, we are part of the family, we feel home here. There’s no chance to do that. But all the rest, will I ever work again? Of course, I know myself, I cannot just sit around. I will find something else maybe to do. But I will not manage a club or a country at least for a year, that’s not possible, I cannot do that and I don’t want to. That’s all. It’s such a strange situation because I have to explain that I don’t have energy anymore, but now I’m sitting here and I have energy and I’m buzzing for everything that’s happening here. But because of the relationship we have, I have to think about this. Because nobody will sack me, I have to make this decision by myself. The responsibility I have for everything here tells me I’m not the right one for the future, so I have to tell. As much as I wish I would be. And that’s what I do here. It’s completely strange. I’m looking forward to the Norwich game, I do, I’m really looking forward to the Norwich game, to play it, a home game. Then we play Chelsea at home. At one point the new stand will be completely full. So many wonderful things happened in the time since I’m here, it’s just amazing and I love all that but I will follow that, I will be part of it, I will support it, but not in the main chair anymore from a specific point on.
Coming back to your love for the city of Liverpool, you said something recently and I think our supporters would quite like to hear what you said. It was about what getting the Freedom of the City meant to you…
It is an honour. We have enough time to talk about everything, there will be after the season, whenever you want me here. I have a contract until the end of June and we can talk about absolutely everything. For me, the situation is [that] today is an announcement day, if you want. We have to say what we have to say. All the rest will come, we will have time for it and these kind of things. That I not only feel home, that I am home here, is 100 per cent clear. That I will love this club forever, will be grateful forever, is 100 per cent clear. That getting the key of the city is one of the most special moments of my whole entire life, that I never expected something like this to happen, makes it even more special because I didn’t even know that you have something like that. When I got it, when I heard the speeches, when I saw the ceremony and all these kinds of things, it was so special, it was incredible. And made me an honorary Liverpudlian or Scouser, however you want to see it. But there are so many things and that’s not the moment to talk about the fantastic time we had, because this wonderful book we wrote together since we are here together, I would love to put a few more chapters into it. That’s what I want. I know there are kids out there when they run at my car after games and want to have signings and autographs and stuff like this – they never experienced a different manager since they are born. Only recently we met Dáire, our friend, I probably have to explain it to him as well, and I will, that’s no problem. I really will try to do all these things. But in this moment, that’s it and from here we go. I told why but people might not believe it. OK, if I have a health issue then everybody says, ‘OK, he’s not healthy’ so that’s normal. All the rest, there will be a lot of discussions around. So, I can tell, the owners tried everything, absolutely everything. There’s no issue, nobody has to discuss that, it’s nothing to do with FSG. I loved so many things about what we did in the past – we built two new stands, we built a new training ground, we had always wonderful football teams. Did it always go exactly my way? I’m not sure, I don’t even remember it anymore because it was all about discussing hard, talking about it; what is possible, what is not possible? And from the moment on when the decisions were made, we had the best possible football team. People will say, if he would have got more backing from the owners then this and that would have happened. Do you really think with one more player – a different player – we would have had a point more than when we reached 97 points? I don’t know how that goes, players are not that influential, scoring in the right moment – it was about 11mm here or 15mm there. That’s life. We had so many good things, if you want to remember them, remember them. I will forever, I will cherish that 100 per cent. But this is the moment where we have to: OK, now everybody knows, now the club can plan, now everything can be sorted, organised and we can keep playing the football we are playing. That’s actually the idea. Because there are, in our situation, not a lot of different scenarios. I could go in the next season and start it with like, ‘Oh my God, again?’ Stuff like this. And that’s not me. My coaching, my managing style is based on energy, I usually have enough to give it to a lot of people. And if that’s not there I am not the same. If I am not the same I cannot do it. And that’s what we all – I – have to accept. And I hope you can accept it as well. And then we go, that’s the plan.
Is that your message to supporters, then?
The message to supporters: I really would like you to accept the decision. That would be nice. And then if I can ask for one more thing, after telling you don’t sing my song too early, after telling you be loud in the stadium, stuff like this, if I could ask you for one more thing it would be: don’t make these games about me, because there’s no need. The only thing I always wanted was the full support for the team, it’s not for me. I know about our relationship, I don’t need any kind of proof. We will have a moment, maybe the last matchday here or somewhere else – I mean in other countries or other competitions. There’s enough time to do these kinds of things. Let’s now really go for it. The outside world want to use this decision, laugh about it, want to disturb us. We are Liverpool, we went through harder things together. And you went through harder things before me. Let’s make a strength of it. That would be really cool. Let’s squeeze everything out of this season and have another thing to smile about when we look back in the future. Thank you.
Published by Patrick Jane