It's a period that is regularly described by Jürgen Klopp and his coaching staff as 'setting the basis' for the season ahead – but just how has life been at Liverpool's Germany training camp this summer?
Overwhelmingly positive is the verdict of Vitor Matos.
The Reds arrived in Baden-Württemberg last weekend to step up preparations for 2023-24 with daily double – and sometimes even triple – workouts for the squad.
And, after defeating Karlsruher SC 4-2 in their opening friendly of the summer on Wednesday, Liverpool will conclude their stay in the country by taking on Greuther Furth on Monday.
So, how satisfying have the Reds’ efforts been for those responsible for setting out the training plans? We caught up with elite development coach Matos at the team hotel to find out a bit more about the work done over the course of the past week…
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Vitor, the German training camp is well under way now – how pleased are you with the work that’s been done so far?
Yeah, it’s been really good. We started earlier, so we started in AXA with all the young talents and with the players that were not internationals. So we had as well this time to build some basis and now here in Germany everyone came together and it has been really good. It has been something that is important for us to build an identity, to keep building dynamics, to keep building togetherness as well in terms of mentality. And that’s been the case. So we are really pleased with everything so far. Yeah, it has been really good, a good environment.
Just how important is this week in terms of setting the basis for the season ahead and getting this work in now?
You set a lot of things in the beginning. I think the pre-seasons especially are important in a way that you can be really clear in terms of identity, what you want for your team to play. And at the same time, you have more time to develop individually, collectively and that is quite important in the pre-season. So for us, it’s important that we have finally time to train because during the season you don’t have that much time, so you are more concerned in terms of recovery individually, all the players are, and as well the ones who are not so much involved in the games, how you can keep them in a way that they are ready to perform.
And in the pre-season you can really develop things. So you set the standards in terms of mentality, you set the standards in terms of performance-wise. And as well you start building what will be the starting point of your season. So for us it’s really important and we are really glad and happy that we have the time for doing it and it’s been really good in here as well. The facilities are unbelievable. The pitches are really good and great conditions to train. I think it was a really brilliant job from all the people involved in that. So it has been really good.
I think one of the things that’s really noticeable from watching the sessions is just the level of intensity and energy in them. It’s really high, isn’t it?
Yeah, I think everyone came with the spirit that we need to create something new. At the same time, we need to come with the standards that always make us successful in the past. And that gives an extra boost for everyone, and I’m saying not only the players but as well the staff, so everyone is really with energy and really excited to start again and to start the pre-season. That in the end becomes part of the training sessions. The new players, the new signings have been really brilliant as well, they bring energy. The players who were in the squad already came with the mentality to keep developing and keep improving. The young talents who came from the Academy and are trying to step up as well. So I think this mix is what is really good because all of them are just throwing themselves 100 per cent on the sessions. So it has been good.
In terms of those young talents, obviously we’ve brought several out here to Germany. How are they settling in collectively?
Good. Different backgrounds. So, Conor [Bradley] and Jarell [Quansah], if you want, they had a loan process and with that they earned a lot of competitive experience and that’s quite good for them because it settles them in terms of what is the level of what they can give as well on the moment and they feel much more confident, they feel much more senior players, if you want. And that’s how both are in the situation. Jarell did a good game, the last one, and Conor as well. So they are settling quite good.
Then we have from that group, Bobby Clark, Ben Doak, who were with the U21s process, so more close to us, more close to being part of the sessions with the first team, which has been really good. And Mel [Frauendorf] as well, I was almost forgetting about Mel. Mel, Bobby and Ben, they were on the process of the U21s, so much more close to the first team. And they are doing this step, so much more settled, much more identifying with all the process. And they are being a really good surprise; you can see that now they can really perform in the middle of the senior players with real intensity and they keep the level of the training for much more longer periods.
And then we have this new, how I say it, this new wind coming from the Academy. That is Calum [Scanlon] being really good. Unfortunately, [he] had a season with big injuries and a long time without playing last season, but was always someone that we had high in terms of what he can be in terms of potential, and he is being really good in terms of training and in the game as well. And then we have James [McConnell], who fulfilled a role of number six on the game and was brilliant, I would say. So, someone who did most of the games on the U18s and has been good, did it quite well. And [Lewis] Koumas, so more exposure on the U21s a little bit, then got an injury as well, but was always a kind of player that was really technique but physically as well quite developed in a way that he is just able to press all the time and defend and run and offering again, and he can keep the same quality in terms of technique.
So all of them are quite settled, I would say. In from different backgrounds, from different levels as well. But yeah, it has been good, all of them are being really brilliant with us. I think on the game we all saw that, how fresh they are to be in here. We are really happy with that.
Just specifically about the younger boys who are joining the squad for the first time. What are the benefits of them coming out here and training with the likes of Mo Salah, Virgil van Dijk and so on?
It’s a lot of benefits. What we try is to expose them to this process as early as we can, when we believe they will be more successful or when they will benefit [from] feeling this difference. What we try is to do it quite early in terms of developing and you can learn a lot of things. So you have big role models, how it should be in their lives in terms of off the pitch and on the pitch. And that’s one. The level of decisions they need to make in training sessions is completely different, the speed and the number of it just speeds up the process in terms of that. And as well they get exposed to the game idea that the club wants and we want, and that creates an adaptability to them in all parts of that. If it’s physiologically, physical, mental, tactical and technical, all of these dimensions are there and that’s what we want and what we believe that will help them to develop for the future.
I remember the story when we were in Austria a couple of years ago about Mo and Harvey with the bread at the table and Mo speaking to Harvey about nutrition. When they’re in the dining room, is that the kind of thing you want the seniors to be doing?
Yeah, we have brilliant players for that. So all the senior players, they take charge of these kind of things with them, they mentor them as well. And you cannot pay for that. That’s something that we have because we have a really good group of senior players who understand as well how important it is to develop in the right way. And if we can use it, we need to use it. We always say that sometimes something said by a player is more important than something said by me, so they value it much more as well. It’s just a perfect environment to have that.
And speaking of Harvey, he’s obviously back now with Curtis. How pleased are you to have them here?
It was brilliant. I think as a club we are all really happy about what happened in the U21 Euros. For the whole country and for the whole youth process, I think it is important to mention how the process of developing young players is improving and is having, we say, results, let’s say like this. And for us as a club it’s a real honour to have two players involved in that. Jarell was as well involved on the U20s before, a lot of players on the English national team youth development. Yeah, we are really happy to have both now in here and we are looking forward to having them all the time in the sessions. They come really motivated: flying, happy with how it was. It’s always good to catch a little bit of these moments.
Is it fair to say Harvey and Curtis are role models themselves now? They’ve had tough journeys, they’ve had difficult moments…
Yeah. How I say it… they come from potential talents to being now a proper talent and then to become a world-class player. So they are all on this process of settling, I think in different ways as well. But we see that the game they can both put on the pitch is becoming much more experienced in a way that they can control more things, they know little shortcuts in the game, how to defend, how to attack, how they express themselves as well. They have a more clear identity of how they want to be as a player. So I think, yeah, it has been a really good development to see from both, I would say.
And away from the training, away from the games, away from all the kind of physical work, it was obviously quiz night on Thursday. How important are kind of events like that and bringing the squad and the staff together? And can you tell us how your team did?
We won, sorry to say that! But we were really good! But I think it’s quite important because that’s what we mean by creating a culture of the club. So, this togetherness that everyone on their own role helps the team to perform better. I think when everyone has a little bit of feeling for this, in terms of feeling for the person who is in front of you, sensibility through other one – empathy is the right word – when you have this, you can win a lot of things because everyone has importance and everyone can contribute to the team to perform well. We always said that we know it is a good process when the person who is in charge of just putting the clothes of players [out] really takes care of that as if it was a piece of art. When you have that in all the positions in the club, you have a winning team. And these kind of events create, or help to create, these moods and help to create relationships between the people. And that’s quite important, I would say.