‘It just feels right… it’s perfect,’ was how Jürgen Klopp explained his decision to agree a contract extension with Liverpool Football Club that will keep him at Anfield until 2024.
The news broke on Friday morning that the manager will sign a new deal with the Reds, extending his stay at the helm well into the next decade.
He is joined by assistants Peter Krawietz and Pepijn Lijnders in committing his future to the club.
Klopp sat down with Liverpoolfc.com in his office at Melwood to outline the reasons behind his decision, reflect on his journey with the club so far, highlight the collaborative work behind the team’s success and look forward to the future.
Read on for a full transcript of our chat with the manager...
Congratulations on agreeing a new contract with the club – why was this the right decision for you?
It’s actually so easy but then in the end so difficult to explain maybe – because it just feels right. So far, we had an incredible journey together, each and every day felt so special. There were not only good days obviously, there were some average days involved as well; big defeats, big wins, all that stuff. But it’s really about that I wanted to stay a part of this club, that’s how it is. Our relationship is pretty special so we want it to continue. I spoke to Pete and Pep, they saw it exactly the same way, then the decisive people started talking and a couple of days ago they agreed, so it’s really, really nice to know the fact that we will stay here longer. Perfect. Perfect news for the three of us, for our families, it’s really, really nice.
Just how important was it for Pete and Pep to agree as well?
Without an agreement from the boys, nothing would have happened. That’s how it is. It was always like this in my life, that I said first and foremost the assistants have to be happy and then we can talk. That was no different here. I worked together with Pete for wow, I don’t even know, maybe 20 years in different kinds. With Pep, four years with a little break when he went to Holland. We know each other, we trust each other, we help each other a lot. Without them I would not even be half the manager I am and that’s cool. Plus Vitor [Matos], plus John [Achterberg], plus Jack [Robinson] – they will stay here as well of course, they signed new contracts only recently. So, it’s a perfect situation.
It’s important to highlight that collective approach, isn’t it? It’s not just yourself, the coaches and the players, it’s everybody here at Melwood, it’s the owners, it’s Michael Edwards, everybody pulling in the same direction…
That’s the main reason why we feel so good here. In the moment it’s a very good time obviously; we had a more difficult time in the past, we will maybe have a more difficult time in the future. It’s not about that, it’s not about hoping it will stay like this, it’s about being ready to work for it. Yes, the work together with Mike [Gordon] and Michael is exceptional. You could ask everybody at Melwood, everybody enjoys coming in here every morning and it will be the same in Kirkby when we go there. It will be a difficult moment when we leave Melwood actually but we are looking forward to Kirkby as well. That’s all good. When you sign a contract now, you know there will be some difficult decisions to make in the future, but I really think after knowing the club so long now – and being responsible for it as well – that we are the right people to do that, not somebody else, a new manager coming in and making difficult decisions and people are not happy with it, then the whole project gets a little setback. That’s not necessary. I really think we are the right people to do that in the next, for now, four-and-a-half years. We are pretty much in the middle of the contract. It’s cool. We are ready for that. We know about the situation and we are ready to face the situation and sort it where necessary.
It's your fifth season as Liverpool manager. You touched upon this in your first answer, but what a journey it's been so far...
Crazy, huh? It's like this [clicks fingers], gone. But it was intense, it was great, it was beautiful obviously with the massive day in Madrid which we had this year, this summer. We had pretty much everything – we had finals, we had defeats, wins, emotions more than I think useful sometimes and legal as well! Great nights at Anfield, great away games, it was everything. Fantastic players coming in, sensational players left us but in a good way. All that what you wish and you think about your football club, you think, 'OK, that's how it should be'. The news is, I would say, 80 or 90 per cent of the time rather positive. Good, because football should be like this. That when our supporters think about Liverpool, it should be difficult for them to avoid a smile. I think that's the moment in the moment and we had a lot of them in the past as well. Hopefully we can collect a lot of these moments in the future.
It's been a special 2019...roll on 2020 and beyond! 🙌 https://t.co/fKhkJuohFH— LFC (Liverpool FC) 13th Dec 12:04
Can you describe how the development of the team makes you feel? As you say, it has been a journey...
Very, very good. Mostly in the beginning it was difficult. We came in five, six days before the first game. Everybody knows that it's not really possible to change something but on the other side, everybody is hoping for it anyway. If not after five days then after eight or nine for the next game and then [an] incredibly busy period started pretty much immediately in November, December, January, so it was of course difficult. The boys did really well, adapted really quick to the things we asked for. It was obviously a good team, it wasn’t as people made it because of the situation in the table. It was not a miracle or whatever. But we went to two finals, so that was good and the first step. We had to implement a specific style of play – it was pretty wild, very aggressive, highest intensity and all that stuff. Then of course [it] settles step by step. The good thing is when you are a long-term manager in a club, you can make different steps and you can always learn from the last season and that's what we always did and the boys did as well. So yes, we made changes, we brought players in but not massively, rather punctual and we say, 'Here we need, here we need, here we need'. We have quite a good percentage of proper hits, I would say, I really like that. All the boys we brought in had a massive impact – not only quality-wise, characters are exceptional. We don't feel we are close before the end, we feel rather we are, max, not even halfway where we want to be. But yes, we adapted every year to the ways other teams faced us because in the beginning we were more or less a counter-pressing, counter-attacking team, we had to develop to a possession team without losing the strength in the other things that worked sometimes without any problems. Sometimes it took a while but, meanwhile, our possession, we are 100 per cent on the next level. So many things which we could work together on. It's like when you go on a pre-season and pre-seasons nowadays are really difficult because you don't have the group together. I think we had the full group together for like four days in the pre-season, which is absolutely crazy. If we then have a completely new team with six, seven, eight, nine players then you need a season to adapt. We needed a season to adapt but rather physically than tactically because we didn't change a lot of things obviously, we just wanted to make little steps in the right direction and that's possible with a group you work together with longer, that's what happened. And so far, so good.
It’s not just on the pitch that the club has developed, either. Off the pitch there has been the stadium expansion, the new training ground, everything is moving forward here…
That’s it. That’s exactly what you need because being ready in the moment doesn’t mean being ready in the future, that’s how it is. You should not only think about the past, you should not only think about the future, but you should not forget both of them. In this club I think nobody doubts how we love our history and our past, and we really like the present, but the future has to be bright as well. And yes, the club supports us, FSG supports us sensationally: building a new stand, planning another new stand, building a new training ground pretty much all in the same moment and building a new team [too], that’s incredible. If you would know them, and most of the people in the room know them, then they are fantastic people as well. It’s Mike, of course, who is first and foremost responsible for us here but also John and Tom when they heard about the agreement, we had phone calls and messages were exchanged and they are really with a full heart here at Liverpool. They don’t live here but pretty much that’s the only thing they don’t do, everything else is about LFC so that’s really cool and exactly what we need. We want to go, we had to go, to the Academy to bring it closer together because that will be our future. In the moment we have four fantastic players really close to the first team: Rhian Brewster, Curtis Jones, Harvey Elliott and Neco Williams, plus we have Caoimhin [Kelleher] as a goalkeeper. That’s five boys who I would have no problem to line up tomorrow if needed. Curtis now had his first [Premier League] minutes and of course they have time as well to develop, but that’s four or five and we want to increase that number in the future. With Brexit and stuff like this then things will change, and for the youth departments as well – where can we get the players from? So these players need a perspective and they need to feel ‘if I go to Liverpool then I have the best chance compared to all the other top six clubs’, for example, to make my first steps in the Premier League. That’s all very important and we are constantly thinking about ‘how can we solve the problem today and tomorrow?’ but we are also thinking always about ‘how can this club look when we are not here anymore?’ because this club is not only bigger than pretty much all other clubs, it’s bigger than us for sure as well so it needs to have a bright future and we are all working on that.
Just a word on this current squad: it’s a special group of players, isn’t it?
Yeah, it’s great to see. Yesterday we were at Alder Hey and I couldn’t be more proud than in these moments when you see how the boys react in difficult moments. I’m 52 and it’s difficult for me to face these kind of situations but you have really young boys and how they go there, they are just lovely people, it’s really nice. But then on the other side they are proper warriors when we face the next opponent, that’s how it is and how it should be. We don’t think that we are only close to our 100 per cent but we try to come closer and closer and closer. That’s what we said after the Champions League final, after the first one, after the second one: this is not the final chapter for this team, there are a lot more to write and we want to be really influential in that. We don’t know where it will lead us to, but in this moment... I don’t know the teams before I came in, but it’s one of the teams who are most committed to this club and it’s really, really nice to be part of that.
Finally, for the fans watching this who have been on this journey with us so far, what would you say to them in regard to this news today?
Thank you! Thank you very much for each and every second since we are together here and let’s just carry on. It was not too bad so far, let’s try to make it even better in the future.