Julian Nagelsmann and compatriot Jürgen Klopp will be on opposing benches again when Leipzig and Liverpool meet in the UEFA Champions League round of 16.
Klopp had left Dortmund for Liverpool before Nagelsmann made his name in the Bundesliga with Hoffenheim. Klopp’s Reds beat Nagelsmann’s Hoffenheim 6-3 on aggregate in the 2017/18 UEFA Champions League play-offs, but they can expect a closer encounter in the weeks ahead. Klopp, 53, and Nagelsmann, 33, compared notes ahead of kick off.
On coaching during lockdown
Jürgen Klopp: I just walked here on foot, from my coaching office. It’s freezing cold in our building because the doors are open everywhere. It’s a big change, I would say. I have a jacket on currently, but inside I like to have it a bit warmer. But that’s only one part. It would be interesting to know how it’s going for you in Germany, what you are allowed to do, and what you are not.
Julian Nagelsmann: When the players go home, they are in their houses, isolated and alone again, and aren’t allowed to see anybody or go anywhere. I think you noticed this too, that there sometimes are difficult phases, when there are no fans, plus you are only seeing your teammates, and then to get focused every three days, no matter who your opponents are, is very difficult.
Klopp: What I find extremely difficult… I don’t know how many new signings you have, but we had three. It is very difficult to find your place in the team. You can’t spend much time together in the dressing room, nor in the restaurant. You can’t meet privately. It’s insane.
Nagelsmann: Yes. We have some players who don’t speak German. It’s three times as difficult for them. They don’t have proper German class. They don’t have any contact whatsoever to their teammates outside football because they are just sitting at home. I think you always see that it’s tough for new signings to integrate when you have a very established team, but this year it’s extreme.
On moving clubs and rising expectations
Klopp: How was the switch from Hoffenheim to Leipzig? Is the club structure any different? From the outside I would say that it’s not dissimilar.
Nagelsmann: In general, it’s quite similar. The expectations here are a bit higher because we spend more money than back then at Hoffenheim and invest more in the squad. But it’s not a club where I feel overwhelmed by the expectations because it’s still a club that is being built up, that is being developed. They don’t rip you to shreds here if you don’t win the league title. It’s similar to your example in terms of progress. Surely, the expectation was much higher at Dortmund than at Mainz.
Klopp: I saw it as a very natural step from Mainz 05. But I think you’ve done really well, and the move made a lot of sense. More opportunities, which means a bit more pressure but not an overwhelming amount. It’s a very good squad.
On their last meeting, when Liverpool eliminated Hoffenheim
Nagelsmann: I actually remember those games fondly, especially the one in Hoffenheim, where we played really well. We missed a penalty. And then Trent Alexander-Arnold scored with a free kick, he thundered it in. His star really rose for the first time that night, it was a wonderful shot. I don’t like remembering the second leg as much. It was already pretty loud and emotional before the game. It was 3-0 after 17 minutes…
Klopp: But they were awesome goals.
Nagelsmann: Yes, true. They overran us and then in the 21st minute I was hoping that Jürgen had a folding spade up in his coach’s office that I could borrow so that I could start digging in half-time. In the second half, however, we managed better, and had already managed better in general in the second leg. We played really well in the first leg. I would’ve liked to see how well we would have played, if Andrej Kramarić back then would’ve scored the penalty.
Klopp: I would love to have known that too.
Nagelsmann: The first leg was a really good game. The second game was also a really good game, just not from our side. I think that they will be two very different games coming up. I hope that we don’t miss a penalty, and I also hope that Trent Alexander[-Arnold] doesn’t score a free-kick. We’ll see about everything else.
Klopp: My situation was that I had heard a lot about Julian Nagelsmann. And then we got the analysis for the game and I sat there and thought, wow, hats off! They really focussed on ball possession, on good processes, I really liked that.
What I can remember is that after the game, after the second leg, I went to look for Julian because I wanted to say goodbye or something…
Nagelsmann: I can remember that too.
Klopp: And I opened the door to a little room, where I didn’t even know that there was anything behind it, and he was sitting there with his assistants at a laptop. You could see it in his face, that he was thinking: ‘Well what happened here?’
Nagelsmann: Yeah, that’s exactly what happened. And you closed my laptop and said to stop it: it’s over anyways. Let’s rather go have a beer. I took a few minutes to deal with that.
Klopp: You can’t win after the game is over. That’s my experience.