Accomplished journalist Rapahel Honigstein, author of the new Jurgen Klopp biography "Bring the Noise: The Jurgen Klopp Story," joins the Planet Fútbol Podcast to discuss Klopp and his role in Liverpool's rejuvenation.
Honigstein discusses Klopp's biggest influences, how he won over Liverpool's ownership in his interview, how he'll gameplan for the Champions League semifinals, how he's extracted the most from Mohamed Salah and other insider stories on the manager's rise to prominence, which are all detailed in the book.
Here is some of what Honigstein had to say, and the full conversation about Klopp and the process of writing the book can be heard in the podcast console below and on iTunes, where you can subscribe to our show and listen to every episode.
GRANT WAHL: Why has Klopp, in both Germany and England, had more success against Pep Guardiola in your opinion than other managers?
RAPHAEL HONIGSTEIN: I think the characteristics of a Jurgen Klopp team are sort of kryptonite for a Pep Guardiola team. They like to disrupt teams. They like to break up their passing patterns. They're very aggressive. They take up the space and the time that Guardiola's passing teams thrive on. And they are usually very deadly and dangerous on the counterattack, which again, if you're a possession side, is bad news.
It takes a tremendous amount of effort, it takes a tremendous amount of mental fortitude and aggression to play that way. It's also no coincidence that Guardiola's teams, aside from being better equipped, have done better domestically than Klopp's sides. But on a knockout, one-off occasion, these are the sort of teams that if you're Guardiola you really do not enjoy playing against. Klopp once more showed that he has perhaps not Pep Guardiola's number, but certainly a way that can be very effective against his brand of football.
GW: What in your mind, having written this book now, having followed Klopp for so many years, what makes him kind of a singular figure at this point in world soccer?
RH: I don't know if he's a singular figure. I think he does something very well–which is the mark of any successful manager–which is to bring both the human and emotional intelligence to a very keen intellect, and a willingness to learn and to come up with ideas and create something that is bigger than the sum of their parts. He's never been in charge of a team that was a favorite to win any of the competitions that they've taken part in, but he has won stuff and he's come very close with teams that nobody really expected to be that close and that successful. So he's clearly doing something very right, and he clearly has the ability–and also that's part of his strategy–to tap into a collective identity to bring out a synergy between the crowd, the stadium, the city, the club, including all its employees, and the players and create that energy that even if it's intangible drives players a little bit further than they would otherwise reach.
We've seen it very clearly at Mainz, they had absolutely no right to be promoted to the Bundesliga and stay there when he was there. We've seen it at Dortmund, who nobody thought could win German titles and get to the Champions League final. And we're beginning to see it at Liverpool, where of course, in absolute terms, he's worked with a lot more money than he's ever had at his disposal before, but in relative terms they're still not the biggest team in Europe, they're not even the wealthiest team in the northwest of England. So there is something that he does that kind of negates all those disadvantages and makes a lot, perhaps even the maximum, of the stuff that he finds at his disposal.
Just to give you a little snippet that's not in the book, Carlo Ancelotti was also interviewed for the Liverpool job, and the first thing he told FSG [Liverpool owner Fenway Sports Group], was, 'Yes we need a new center back, we need a new really strong central midfielder and we need a top striker, because we need strength all through the spine.' And then Klopp came up ... and Klopp said, 'First of all we need to activate the crowd, we need to make sure that they get behind the team because football is not just about tactics and buying big players, football is about winning tackles, football is about energy, football is about euphoria, football is about plugging into something that is bigger than the team.' And you can guess how that went. The proof is in the pudding. But if you didn't know, you'd have a good idea of who they preferred as their manager.
GW: At Liverpool, in what ways do you think Klopp has succeeded the most and in what areas has he continued to struggle a bit at times?
RH: Well I think it's been a real learning curve for him, to start with the negatives. To really adapt and adjust his methods to life in the Premier League. I think the lack of a winter break, the crazy rhythm of matches, the physical demands. The strength when it comes to very straightforward football from the opposition, which kind of introduces an element of randomness which is hard to deal with if you don't have the exact players equipped for that. Hence the pursuit of [Virgil] Van Dijk this year. Those are all things that he had to learn and is still learning. He's honest along with his team of coaches that this is an ongoing process, that they couldn't quite come and have the answers already, and perhaps it has taken a bit longer than people have anticipated.
At the same time, I think what he has succeeded in, irrespective of the outcome of the season, is he's created very positive momentum. Liverpool fans are once again really excited to go to Anfield. They're looking forward to exciting football. They have a sense that they can beat anyone. They don't need to be in the shadow of any of their rivals or neighbors. All these things are worth a lot when you consider that he took over the club in October 2015 just how demoralized and almost depressed the whole fanbase was after a very poor start to the season and very dull and methodical football under Brendan Rodgers. It's really changed by 180 degrees and that sense of excitement and going places has definitely returned to Liverpool thanks to him.