Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has opened up on why the club’s star players like Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane sometimes “hate” the decisions he makes and how they handle their feelings
Jurgen Klopp has offered a behind-the-scenes insight into the iron fist he uses with his players – even stars like Mohamed Salah hate it.
The Liverpool manager explained that he simply can’t talk to them about his decisions over team selection. Instead, he takes that responsibility completely on himself – and tells them to deal with it.
Klopp left Salah out against Benfica in the Champions League, even though it was clear the Reds’ biggest star was desperate to play to find a goal after a disturbing barren spell in his last seven matches.
Yet the Anfield manager was clear that there can be no emotion to his decisions – and instead his word is law as he looks clinically at whether they need to rest. And he explained: “That is how footballers are, they are completely in a tunnel, they want to play, play, play, play. They want to be be successful win everything…which is why I don’t ask players ‘are you tired?’ (They say), ‘No, no why? Do I look tired’? So I have to make these decisions without talking a lot, I just make it and: deal with it, go from there.
“It’s my responsibility, right or wrong. So the reason for Mohamed Salah not starting against Benfica is easy – yes, because we play Manchester City (in the FA Cup semi final) but also because we have 12 games after that. Nothing to do with anything, else, no story to anything. Just the necessity. Mo played in January and February six times in 120 minutes, so we can’t just close our eyes and say ‘who cares?’”
Klopp is always viewed as a laid back manager with his ‘arms around the shoulder’ approach to his relationship with players. Yet beneath that smiling exterior there is a tough as a teak character who is prepared to take even the toughest decisions. And he revealed he laid down the law with Salah, even though the player he describes as ‘the best in the world’, was desperately unhappy – and “hated” his decision.
He said: “Even he (Salah) is just a human being and that is why it is clear there will be games where he can’t start, there will be games where we take him off – he hates that! But it is clear. People might wonder what am I actually doing all day, but it is to think about these kind things when these things are really, really necessary to do, and that was clearly the case with Mo. That is why Mo didn’t start, and what I just hope is that the boys can play at the highest level as often as somehow possible. Because the boys are really highly trained athletes, they don’t need a lot of time for recovery…but no time for recovery, that doesn’t work. That is why I made the decision.”
Klopp also argued that his decision to rest seven players against Benfica was justified, because it will give Liverpool a real edge as they prepared to face Manchester City in the FA Cup semi final. He believes players like Salah, Sadio Mane, Virgil van Dijk. Fabinho and Thiago will be so much fresher for the huge showdown, and he added: “If seven players who started three or four days ago didn’t start last night and are fresh. Great. Seven more players got some rhythm. Great. We are in the semi-final – outstanding.
“It is not conscious, Mo doesn’t feel it, (tiredness)but it is just logical – if you sleep four nights in the week only two hours and you think ‘oh I’m fine’ but the fifth day you get a knock. The intensity of the game showed it was right to change seven players. If you play a few minutes in this game and then the day after you have a nice session, it is not even close to the intensity of the other game. And that is what we have to do, because we want all the boys to be at the highest possible level for the next 12 games.”