Liverpool's manager Jurgen Klopp waits for the start of the English Premier League soccer match between Brighton and Hove Albion and Liverpool at the Amex stadium in Brighton, England, Saturday, Nov. 28, 2020. (Neil Hall/Pool Via AP)(AP)
Liverpool's manager Jurgen Klopp waits for the start of the English Premier League soccer match between Brighton and Hove Albion and Liverpool at the Amex stadium in Brighton, England, Saturday, Nov. 28, 2020. (Neil Hall/Pool Via AP)(AP)

Klopp loses his cool in Liverpool’s winter of discontent

“Armpits and club badges”: Bristling heated interview from Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp gets highlighted amid Liverpool’s troubles.
By Rutvick Mehta | Hindustan Times, Mumbai
UPDATED ON NOV 30, 2020 07:19 AM IST

It’s not often that you see an interviewee turn the tables by congratulating the interviewer twice during a chat—first a sarcastic return and then a genuine appreciation of the questioning skills. The interviewee? Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp. The interviewer? BT Sport journalist and broadcaster Des Kelly. The points of discussion? Fixture pile-up, injuries, VAR. The outcome? A back-and-forth eight-and-a-half-minute chat post the Premier League champions’ 1-1 draw with Brighton on Saturday.

It’s clear why Klopp is an unhappy man these days. He complains about a congested scheduling with matches—European and domestic games—coming thick and fast; his list of injured players is mounting; and controversy with the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system is always around the corner. All of it came together as Klopp, who otherwise lightens up post-match interviews with laughs and jokes, vented it out. And the broadcaster wasn’t ready to remain a mere listener.

It began with a question on VAR after Liverpool had two goals struck off by the much-debated video review system for off-side and Brighton were handed a stoppage-time penalty that led to the equaliser. “With Mo (Salah), I think, it was the foot,” Klopp began. “But we’re used to armpits and club badges, so if it’s the toe then it’s obviously off-side. And the other one with Sadio (Mane) was clear, I heard. And the penalty, it is how it is. I think the decisions were right,” the German added, looking away.

When Kelly said Liverpool skipper Jordan Henderson had revealed that some Brighton players agreed it wasn’t a penalty, Klopp fired his first shot. “Look, you try to create a headline at my cost. You do. Like, I said the ref whistled it. Don’t look like this,” Klopp addressed Kelly, shrugging. “You try. Always. All the time. So today I say it was a penalty, and you’re not happy with that answer. So what do you want to hear? Then give your answers yourself.”

Time to change the question, then. Let’s talk about James Milner, who joined a key chunk of the champions’ squad on the sideline with a hamstring injury during the match.

“Yeah, congratulations,” Klopp said with a smirk. “Me, personally?” Kelly retorted. Klopp replied: “No, but you work for them (BT Sport), yeah? Hamstring. Surprise. And they (Brighton) had injuries as well because it’s a tough time. But ask Chris Wilder (Sheffield United manager) how we can avoid that.”

Out came the big guns. For quite a while in this pandemic-affected season, Klopp has blasted the scheduling—his major grudge being asking Liverpool to play a lunchtime Premier League game on Saturday after playing an evening Champions League match on Wednesday, a 0-2 loss to Atalanta last week. But Kelly held his ground, telling Klopp he was “firing at the wrong target” and that the problem wasn’t due to the broadcasters, but the Premier League clubs and bosses who picked and agreed to the slots.

A debate ensued. Klopp lowering his tone, throwing in sentences like “these are difficult times” and “I’m not having a go at the broadcasters, I just say how it is”.

Club disunity

Time to ramp it up a notch. Kelly countered with another question: If the scheduling woes were indeed about protecting the players, as Klopp kept mentioning, why did the clubs not agree to five substitutions for this season?

“That’s very interesting now,” Klopp, now gesturing with renewed vigor, said. “Because when we had the talk between the managers a week ago, it was 15-5, if not 16-4, for five subs. But since then nothing happened.”

Klopp again singled out Wilder, labelling him “selfish” in response to the Sheffield United manager dubbing Klopp the same for demanding five subs. Kelly brought the discussion back to why Klopp was venting out in the “strange way” by attacking the broadcaster. This time though Klopp gave a verbal pat on the back to the presenter. “I’m 100 per cent sure you’ll be highly praised for this interview, because you stuck on it. So, great,” Klopp said, before reiterating his point about the Wednesday-Saturday problem.

Wilder later responded, saying every club had to look after itself.

After more than eight minutes of intense argument, the chat ended on a sombre note. “We can probably go on forever,” the interviewer said. Perhaps it goes for the interviewee and his scheduling gripe.

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