• Sáb. Jul 13th, 2024

-> Noticias de futbol internacional

The Real Jurgen Klopp, part 1: The ‘normal guy from the Black Forest’

The Athletic


After almost nine years in charge and seven major trophies, Jurgen Klopp is leaving Liverpool.

He has been one of the most transformative managers in the club’s history and in English football’s modern era.

To mark his departure, The Athletic is bringing you The Real Jurgen Klopp, a series of pieces building the definitive portrait of one of football’s most famous figures.


The road to Glatten takes you through the Black Forest, an enchanting world of dense woodland, rolling hills, fragrant meadows, deep lakes and tumbling waterfalls.

One moment you are in a lush green valley dotted with sleepy villages and chocolate-box houses, the next you are among snow-capped peaks. Even in late spring, it feels like a winter wonderland.


The countryside around Glatten where Jurgen Klopp spent his youth (Oliver Kay/The Athletic)

Eventually, after snow-white makes way for blue skies and evergreens once more, the road drops down into Glatten, a village built around four cornerstones: a church, a school, a butcher’s and a bakery.

It is here, in this quiet corner of south-western Germany, that Klopp spent what he recalls as a “totally idyllic” childhood. Long summer days were spent exploring the woods, swimming in the river and playing football and tennis. In winter, his father would take him skiing in the surrounding mountains.

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As the sun sets on his time in charge of Liverpool, the happiest of homes for the past eight and a half years, The Athletic has come to where it all began for Jurgen Norbert Klopp.

He once mentioned how, after finishing college at 19, he “went on holiday for two weeks, came home, left and never came back, pretty much”.

But Glatten has never left him. It is part of what has made him what he is, this self-styled “normal guy from the Black Forest” who became one of the great football coaches of his generation.


It’s Wednesday evening and there’s a match on at SV Glatten. It’s a local derby against SG Hallwangen, but every game is a local derby in the Black Forest division of Kreisliga A, the ninth tier of German football.

The beer is flowing, the sausages are cooking and there is laughter in the air. An enquiry about Klopp — whether any of the locals grew up with him, whether they are still in touch with him — meets with a unanimous response. “Talk to Ingo.”

“I’ve known Jurgen since we were born,” Ingo Rath says. “We went to kindergarten together, then to school here in Glatten, then in Dornstetten and Freudenstadt. Every day after school we came here to play football. We were very good friends and he was also very close with my brother, Hartmut.”

What was Klopp like? “He was always a friendly one,” Ingo says. “Always in the middle because he was tall, with blond hair. Always joking, always a smile on his face. You must know this from the way he is now with that loud laugh, ‘HA HA HA HA!’. He is always good for a joke.”

He pauses. “This is maybe not a typical characteristic of people from the Black Forest. I think it’s more from his father.”


Ingo Rath, Jurgen Klopp’s childhood friend, at SV Glatten (Oliver Kay/The Athletic)

Ingo’s father, Ulrich Rath, agrees. “Jurgen’s mother Elisabeth was from Glatten and she was very quiet,” he says. “His father Norbert was from further north in the Rhineland Pfalz area, near Mainz. Norbert was very charismatic, very eloquent. Jurgen is like Norbert, but he has also something of his mother, I think.”

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Norbert was a travelling salesman. He had the gift of the gab. He had also been, in the eyes of Klopp’s older sister, Isolde Reich, desperate for a son with whom to share his sporting passion.

Klopp has described how his father used to take him to the top of a mountain and ski down, leaving him with no choice but to follow. Ulrich and Ingo Rath describe how Norbert would take young Jurgen to the tennis court — “and Jurgen was never allowed to win,” Ulrich says, laughing. Standing on the touchline, watching his son play for SV Glatten’s junior teams, Norbert made his presence felt. “He was very strict,” Ulrich adds.

“He was not the most patient person, so when I wasn’t as good as he wanted, it was quite uncomfortable,” Klopp said in an interview with the Big Issue North magazine in 2018. “He was a natural coach. A hard one, rather than a drill sergeant.”


Jurgen Klopp (circled, back row) playing for SV Glatten as a child. Future Croatia international Robert Prosinecki is circled in the front row, playing for Stuttgarter Kickers (Courtesy of Ingo Rath)

Klopp loved and idolised his father — the way he charmed people, the way he could replicate Stefan Edberg’s backhand on the tennis court. He also rebelled against him in certain ways as a teenager, dressing in casual clothes, growing his hair long and refusing to shave.

He was strong-minded, again like his father. A born leader? “Well, he was always the character and everybody knew about him,” Ingo says. “When they met him, they would say, ‘Oh, this is Klopp’. But he wasn’t the leader especially. Not at a young age.

“The leadership came when he was 17 or 18 in the youth team at (TuS) Ergenzingen. His coach there, Walter Bauer, was a famous youth coach in this area who always scouted for the best players in the northern Black Forest. He made Jurgen captain. That is when he became a leader.”


By his own admission, Klopp was a journeyman footballer. In his memorable words, he had a “first-division mind” but “fourth-division feet”. It was a triumph of mind over matter to enjoy a long career in German football’s second tier with Mainz.

He was 33 and still registered as a player when Mainz appointed him as coach in February 2001. Faced with an uphill battle against relegation, he transformed their fortunes overnight. That “first-division mind” seemed so much better suited to management.

Klopp’s long-serving agent, Marc Kosicke, describes him as someone who “understands football as a top coach needs to understand it”, but whose “main competence is dealing with people”.

“He has something God-given for that,” Kosicke told German website Spox in 2019. “His eloquence, the way he speaks, his rhetoric. You cannot learn to set the right punchline at the right time.”

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Jan Doehling, who worked with Klopp at Mainz and then later at German television station ZDF during the 2006 World Cup, describes him in similar terms.

“If you want to explain your ideas to people and motivate people, it’s important to give them a good feeling,” Doehling says. “He’s very funny and very clever, the way he uses humour to make people feel good and to feel motivated to do their job.

“There’s a word in German: Menschenfanger. It means something like ‘person-catcher’ — in a very positive way. That’s Jurgen. The way he uses his personality, the way he communicates, the way he uses his humour to motivate people and make them feel good about themselves. I would describe it as social intelligence.”

Dortmund’s long-serving chief executive Hans-Joachim Watzke has used that same word Menschenfanger to describe Klopp. So does Mainz executive Christian Heidel, talking about him in Raphael Honigstein’s book Bring The Noise. So did Borussia Monchengladbach and USMNT goalkeeping coach Fabian Otte in a recent interview with Sky Sports, saying he was bowled over by Klopp when they met briefly during his time at Burnley.


Jurgen Klopp in his playing days at Mainz (Kay Nietfeld/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Klopp feels he extracted the maximum from his limited talents as a player. As a manager, his job is to get the most out of players who are vastly more talented.

That means winning hearts and minds. It means taking people on a journey — the way he did at Mainz (leading them to the top flight for the first time in their history), at Dortmund (two Bundesliga titles and a Champions League final), and at Liverpool (a first Champions League title in 14 years and a first English league title in 30 years).

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who spent six years under him at Liverpool, describes him as “amazing at motivating and getting every inch of effort and belief out of everyone”. He also cites a “fear factor” where any brief drop in intensity — even in training, never mind on the pitch at Anfield in a high-stakes game — would attract his fury. And nobody wanted that.

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It is a rare combination in the modern game: iron fist, velvet glove. It doesn’t take players long to work out whether their efforts in a particular game are going to earn them one of those warm bearhugs or a withering glare. They find themselves desperate to please him, desperate not to disappoint him.

That part sounds a little like his relationship with his father. Klopp seems softer and warmer in many ways, but he has many of the same characteristics, packaged differently. He says his father’s approach “was a lot more about giving criticism than praise for something you did, but (that was) his generation”.

He once said his big regret is that his father died in 2000 without seeing him make the leap into management and coaching that has represented his calling in life. He added: “If he had seen how my life turned out after I started as a manager, I think he would have been pretty happy.”


Isolde Reich works as a hairdresser in one of Glatten’s neighbouring villages. When The Athletic arrives unannounced on her doorstep, asking whether she might be willing to talk about her younger brother, she makes a very Klopp-like expression — the one he makes in a news conference when he is hit with a question he isn’t expecting — but then her features soften again and she seems to warm to the idea.

She is interested to hear what Ulrich and Ingo Rath have said about the traits her brother inherited from both parents. More their father, she suggests with a smile. But maybe “eine gute Mischung”, a good mix. She says she and her husband Kurt are happy to talk if I come back the following afternoon.

Twenty-four hours later, Kurt answers the door with an apology. They have spoken to Jurgen and he would prefer they don’t talk. They are sorry and so is he. Nothing personal, Kurt says, but his brother-in-law is a private guy.

In many ways, Klopp seems the opposite. A grinning, laughing, fist-pumping extrovert — charismatic, uber-confident, larger than life, heart on his sleeve, “always in the middle” as his childhood friend Ingo puts it.


Klopp’s extrovert behaviour belies his private character (Jan Kruger/Getty Images)

But the glare of the spotlight isn’t necessarily something he enjoys. He loves the game and what it means to people, but he won’t miss the soap opera that surrounds the game. “This colourful world around football… I’m not part of that, I’m not there, I don’t enjoy it,” he said in an interview with Daily Mail in 2016. “The day I step back, I will never miss any of the world around football.”

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For someone who puts himself front and centre in the workplace, which just happens to be one of the most high-profile positions in world sport, he is perhaps surprisingly private.

When he first joined Liverpool, much was made of his impromptu appearances at quiz nights at the Freshfield pub, near his home in Formby. But reported sightings have been scarcer in recent years.

He and his wife Ulla like to take their dog on long walks on Formby beach, through the sand dunes and the adjoining pine woods, but even for a self-styled “normal one”, living a normal life and doing normal things has become more difficult in the modern age.


That charisma, that magnetism, that ability to light up a room, energise a group of people and, to use his famous phrase upon joining Liverpool, “turn doubters into believers”. These might be regarded as essential traits for any coach in elite sport, but they don’t all necessarily come as standard. Klopp is a rare beast, who you could imagine excelling in another industry entirely.

“Yes, absolutely,” Ingo Rath says. “In a big business, in a big worldwide company, he could be a manager, too. He wasn’t too good at school, but he’s very intelligent, has a really good way with people and a really good way with words. You could imagine him doing any other job. Well, maybe not politics.”

But even then, maybe you could imagine Klopp, in a parallel universe, as the charismatic, telegenic leader of one of German’s many smaller political parties — probably campaigning on a centre-left, pro-Europe, pro-immigration platform. Not populist, but immensely popular.

He has never been shy of airing his political views. He expressed bewilderment when Britain voted to withdraw from the European Union in 2016, saying it “makes no sense at all”. He called the electoral successes of Donald Trump in the U.S. and Boris Johnson in the UK “a really bad sign for the world”. He was scathing of anti-vaccination campaigners during the Covid-19 pandemic. He has described his political standpoint as “on the left of course”, adding that “if there’s something I will never do in my life it is vote for the right”.

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When he was named Coach of the Year at the FIFA Best Awards in 2019, Klopp used his acceptance speech to announce his support for the Common Goal charity, committing a portion of his earnings to support more than 100 charitable projects in more than 80 countries.

Is Klopp still working with Common Goal? “Very much so,” Miller says. “He continues to support ‘Football for Good’ organisations around the world, working with young people in disadvantaged communities, driving equality, inclusion (education and employment) and climate action.”

Miller sounds in awe of the man. “He’s a dude,” he laughs.

There are countless stories of Klopp’s interactions with supporters and members of the public. Last year, a video went viral of Daire Gorman, a 12-year-old Liverpool fan from County Monaghan, Ireland, who was born with a rare condition called Crommelin Syndrome. When he fulfilled his dream of visiting Anfield for a game, he was seen in tears during the pre-match singing of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’. He said that for the first time in his life, he felt the truth of that message.

Daire was later invited to Liverpool’s training ground to meet Klopp and his players. The footage of the meeting with Klopp is powerful and moving. From the first moment (“HA HA HA HA! Daire! Finally! Nice to meet you, my friend”), the Liverpool manager doesn’t stop smiling and makes the boy feel special.


The more you consider the range of qualities that make Klopp the manager he is — the charisma, the communication skills, the leadership qualities, the emotional intelligence and of course the football acumen — the more it strikes you that he is not a “normal one” at all.

But he retains, somehow, an ordinariness.

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His agent, Kosicke, suggests this is fundamental to Klopp’s appeal. “Jurgen is completely normal,” he said in that Spox interview. “And that is so abnormal in this angry media world.”

There is an authenticity to Klopp. You see it both in the unbridled joy with which he celebrates victories. You also see it in the unconstrained misery and anger that can consume him during or after a defeat. For better and, yes, for worse, there is no filter with Klopp.


Klopp with his assistant Zeljko Buvac at Mainz in 2002 (Andreas Rentz/Bongarts/Getty Images)

He is unlikely to be missed by the refereeing community given the way he has harangued and yelled at match officials over the years. Some of his touchline behaviour — in Germany as well as in England — has been extremely unedifying.

Any journalist who has spent much time in his company can cite instances when they have seen him fly off the handle at the most innocuous of questions. Sometimes his responses border on the unpleasant. Sometimes they go beyond.

He is far from the only highly successful manager with overbearing, antagonistic tendencies. It can sometimes feel as if a short fuse and an acid tongue are prerequisites for managing at the top echelon of the game. Those as calm and restrained as Carlo Ancelotti, for example, are the exception.

“A manager is still a human being and we are all weak in parts,” Klopp said in 2017 after being criticised for yelling in the face of fourth official Neil Swarbrick during a game against Chelsea. “We all know football is not the most important thing, but try telling us that in this moment.”

In contrast to his tactics, team selection and general management, this is something that is is frequently pulled up. But he seems unconcerned by what referees and media pundits think.

“I’m not interested in who judges me,” he said a few years back. “God judges me one day and that is the only thing I am interested in. What other people say about me, I couldn’t be less interested.”

Religion is something he references from time to time. Growing up in Glatten, he was encouraged to follow his mother’s and grandmother’s Protestant faith rather than his father’s Catholicism, but he showed little interest.


The village church in Glatten (Oliver Kay/The Athletic)

He “found the way back alone” in adulthood, as he told the Daily Telegraph in a 2018 interview. He did so partly in response to his father’s death in 2000. It was a support after his mother, who he says “meant everything to me”, died in 2021.

“Being a Christian gives me a few rules,” he said. “Being a Protestant is nice. It leaves a few doors open. It’s obviously not that dogmatic.”

He is not evangelical about his beliefs, but he sees them as part of the person he has become as he has found his way in the world.


Liverpool are set to appoint Arne Slot as their new head coach — and The Athletic has every angle covered.
  • The view from Rotterdam: ‘He will make it at Liverpool’
  • Who could be Liverpool’s winners and losers under Dutchman?
  • Adam Crafton: What I learned from time with Arne Slot
  • What kind of football does Slot play?
  • Dirk Kuyt: Why this coach could be perfect for Anfield
  • Profile: Feyenoord’s champion who became Liverpool’s main man

Klopp is a football romantic. Unlike some managers, he couldn’t tell you how many trophies he has won (it’s 13 — five at Dortmund and eight at Liverpool, including a Community Shield). He would tell you more about the near-misses, of which there have been plenty, but above all, he would talk about the memories he and his players created for each other and for their supporters.

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“This is one thing about football that people don’t always understand,” he said in his Players’ Tribune article in 2019. “The results, you forget. You get them all mixed up. But those boys and that time in my life and those little stories… I will never forget them.”

Every connection he has had in professional football — 11 years as a player and another seven as a coach at Mainz, seven at Dortmund, eight and a half at Liverpool — has been an enduring love affair. That is so rare in the modern game, where relationships are usually fleeting and rarely anything like as deep, passionate or intense.

His departures from Mainz and Dortmund were highly emotional occasions, barely a dry eye in the house. It will be the same at Anfield on Sunday, a powerful celebration tinged with real sadness that this is the end of a beautiful, exhilarating journey which, even if it didn’t end where they wanted this season, gave them unforgettable adventures and experiences. As he says, not just the results and the stories, but the feelings and the memories.

Liverpool will try to create more of those under Arne Slot, once his arrival from Dutch club Feyenoord is confirmed. As for Klopp, he says he needs a break and has no desire to work for the next 12 months. He has promised his wife as much, having cut short his post-Dortmund sabbatical in 2015 because he felt the Liverpool job was too good to resist.

So what will he do when he leaves Liverpool? “Maybe he will pause,” Ingo says. “This is what he says: that he will do one year of nothing, of relaxing. I read in the paper that his wife Ulla said he has to learn to dance and cook — although Jurgen said if he has to do these things, he thinks he might prefer to work.”

An extended period of downtime beckons. Other than those four and a half months after he left Dortmund, it promises to be his first extended break since he started playing for Mainz as a teenager. Those close to him expect him to take a series of holidays — some exotic, some not — to play a lot of tennis and padel and to watch a lot of football without any of the angst that comes when you are emotionally invested in the outcome.

There is a strange thing about a football manager’s life. Liverpool has been his home for the past eight and a half years. Before that, Dortmund was home for seven years. Even for someone who has been a long-term presence at three clubs, it can be hard to put down roots.

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Media reports in Germany suggest he and Ulla are having a house built near the spa town of Wiesbaden, not far from Mainz. They will spend weeks at a time on the Spanish island of Mallorca, where they are having another house built.

Glatten hasn’t been home since he was a teenager. He has been back on only a handful of occasions over the past decade and more.


SV Glatten’s home ground (Oliver Kay/The Athletic)

One such occasion came, by popular demand, after he led Dortmund to the Bundesliga title in 2011. There was a question-and-answer session on stage in front of a huge crowd. He picked out familiar faces, mentioned them by name and made them feel special. Ever the Menschenfanger.

But the best moments for Klopp came away from the cameras: time with his mother, with his sisters and various friends, like Ingo and Hartmut Rath, who represent a permanent link with his “idyllic” childhood, and their father Ulrich, his first coach.

Ulrich Rath looks overcome with pride when he remembers it. He is close to tears when he recalls his 75th birthday and the surprise of a video call from Klopp. The boy he had coached all those years ago had never forgotten him.

And he will never forget Jurgen Norbert Klopp, the “normal guy from the Black Forest” with an extraordinary capacity to win hearts and minds and give people the best times of their lives.

(Top photos: Getty Images; design: Eamonn Dalton)


Klopp’s Anfield timeline


(Paul Ellis/AFP via Getty Images)

Oct 8, 2015

Klopp is appointed on a three-year contract, becoming the highest-paid manager in Liverpool’s history.

Feb 28, 2016

Liverpool lose 3-1 on penalties to Manchester City in the League Cup final.

May 18, 2016

Another final defeat, this time to Sevilla in the Europa League.

May 26, 2018

Liverpool reach their first Champions League final since 2007 but are defeated 3-1 by Real Madrid.

May 12, 2019

Liverpool finish the league season with 97 points but miss out on the title to Manchester City.


(Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images)

June 1, 2019

Klopp wins his first trophy for the club, beating Tottenham 2-0 in the Champions League final.

Dec 21, 2019

Liverpool win the FIFA Club World Cup, to add to the UEFA Super Cup they had claimed four months earlier.

March 13, 2020

The English season is suspended due to the outbreak of Covid-19. Matches resume, behind closed doors, three months later.


(Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)

June 25, 2020

Liverpool are crowned league champions for the first time since 1990.

Feb 27, 2022

Liverpool win the League Cup after beating Chelsea on penalties.

April 29, 2022

Klopp announces he has signed a new contract, extending his deal until 2026.

May 14, 2022

Klopp wins his first FA Cup, again on penalties against Chelsea.


(Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images)

May 28, 2022

Real Madrid again prove Liverpool’s undoing in Europe, winning 1-0 in the Champions League final in Paris.


(Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images)

Jan 26, 2024

Klopp announces he will leave Liverpool at the end of the season, saying he is “running out of energy”.


(Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images)

Feb 25, 2024

Liverpool win their seventh major trophy under Klopp, the League Cup, after a 1-0 win over Chelsea.