Jurgen Klopp’s simple ‘no’ spoke a thousand words… Liverpool needed his declaration of loyalty when asked about the Germany job – uncertainty would have been devastating
- Jurgen Klopp recognised that Liverpool needed a strong declaration of loyalty
- He could have played politics when asked about his interest in the Germany job
- It was a chance to send a subtle nudge to the board that he has other options
- But instead he chose honesty and deserves great credit for playing it straight
For a reporter, Fabio Capello was a great England coach. He couldn’t lie. True, his famously poor English was often exaggerated. Capello knew all the important words, for coaching. He knew enough to get by.
What he didn’t have was command of the language. And that is what makes a good liar.
Capello didn’t have enough English to dissemble, to cloud his words, to deploy nuance, to work the room. Straight questions therefore got straight answers. It was beautiful.
Fabio Capello was brutally honest but did not have a command of English to be anything else
This much was apparent on day one. The Football Association arranged for Capello to meet the press, one from each newspaper, informally around the lunch table. There would be a brief period on the record, the rest off-limits.
During the notebooks-out session, Capello was talking about what he wanted from his striker. His preference was for a physically imposing figure, tall, who could hold the ball up, play back to goal, bring in the midfield or the second striker.
He was talking about a man like Luca Toni of Italy. What he certainly wasn’t talking about was Michael Owen.
Duly noted, it was asked what position Owen would play in Capello’s ideal system. He thought about this, briefly. ‘Number 12,’ he said. And there it was, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
The FA press team were head in hands, but Capello was true to his word. Owen had 88 caps when Capello came into the job and retired on 89.
He was a half-time substitute for Capello in a friendly against France. England reached the 2010 World Cup with Wayne Rooney as top goalscorer, playing No 10, behind Emile Heskey.
Jurgen Klopp insisted he will not be replacing Joachim Low as Germany boss after the Euros
And this wasn’t even peak truthfulness. After one game, Capello was asked rather excitedly about Theo Walcott. ‘He played very well, didn’t he, Fabio?’ ‘No,’ said the manager and left it at that.
Fine word, no. Says everything one wishes to convey, with the minimum elucidation.
Robert Towne, the screenwriter, was once revising a script in which a wounded, bedridden veteran was asked if he was OK. The original had him responding with a long, wordy and tear-jerking speech. Towne changed it to that single-syllable negative and conveyed greater emotion.
And when, this week, Jurgen Klopp was asked if he was interested in the Germany job, he said no and the conversation ended. He could have played politics. Could have looked at Liverpool’s failings this season and tried to turn the situation to his advantage. Many of his peers and predecessors would have.
One imagines Rafa Benitez, with a squad in need of overhaul and the Spain job up for grabs, might have sent the board a subtle reminder of his options if unsupported. Klopp could have done that.
Could have gone down the road of never say never. Played with the mystery of what the future holds. Flattered his suitors, spoke of the challenge, said it was always an ambition at some stage in his career.
He has the English to do it. He has the command to not say yes, without saying no, and focus a few minds within the Fenway Sports Group.
So, what a guy for playing it straight. He had the bargaining chip and he tossed it aside. Had the bargaining chip and instead remained focused on right now.
There was a 2-0 lead against RB Leipzig to protect and a disappointing season to turn around. That was Klopp’s priority, not some future boardroom battle over recruitment.
He recognised that, at this point, Liverpool needed a declaration of faith and loyalty. On top of the many crises, to have the manager wobbling over his future would be devastating. The uncertainty could further undermine a team already low on confidence.
So Klopp became their rock and was rewarded with a performance that might change Liverpool’s season.
It is not the first time this has happened, either. In the build-up to the Champions League final in 2019 he was linked with Juventus.
On that occasion he went with one word, but two syllables —‘Bulls***’. Compare that to Mauricio Pochettino, manager of final opponents Tottenham, who by then was talking in riddles about his intentions that summer.
Klopp was honest when Liverpool needed it and he admirably refused to play politics
Next season, Tottenham lost their way, Liverpool won the league. It is hardly coincidence.
Does Klopp want to coach Germany? Maybe one day. Yet when he spoke, there was no fear of upsetting the national association, no worry that they may take offence and wipe him from future shortlists.
Equally, if he does want investment in the summer, he is prepared to enter those discussions on merit, without an ace up his sleeve. Stefan Kuntz, currently Germany’s Under 21 coach, may well have the job by then and while Klopp knows he will never be without alternatives, he could have strung both sides along for longer.
He chose honesty instead — because it was the right and decent thing to do. When Klopp goes, eventually, no Liverpool manager will be harder to replace.
Mike Ashley’s regime at Newcastle has, as we know, taken the club to lows never previously imagined, so it was no surprise to read this week that under his ownership the average league position is a desperate 14th. Compared to the 70 years prior to Ashley when Newcastle’s average finish was a mighty… 17th.
Interesting, too, that players are frustrated at being given time off and not being made to work harder in training.
If they want to run around more, of course, they could always try it in matches. Starting on Friday night against Aston Villa.
Steve Bruce’s Newcastle are in a relegation battle but perhaps some perspective is needed
Wright’s wrong apology
Ian Wright says he has made amends with Alexandre Lacazette, after mocking the Arsenal striker for screaming following a tackle by Erik Pieters during last week’s draw with Burnley.
Wright, and others in the Match of the Day studio, ended the show rolling around and shrieking in imitation of Lacazette’s exaggerated show.
‘I got that wrong,’ admitted Wright. No, he didn’t. Lacazette’s reaction was ludicrous — he carried on and played the rest of the game — and just because a few Arsenal fanatics think Wright should have ducked the issue as a former player doesn’t mean he erred. With Gary Lineker and Dion Dublin, he caught the mood of the nation. Screaming —audible without supporters in stadiums — is now a source of irritation up there with diving.
Sir Nick Faldo apologised, too, for wondering whether Rickie Fowler’s declining form is linked to his many commercial activities.
‘The good news is, if he misses the Masters he can shoot another six commercials that week,’ remarked Faldo, acidly.
The comment provoked such a backlash he issued a two-minute apology. Yet Faldo wasn’t wrong, either. And even if he was, as a six-time major winner, like Wright he’s entitled to his opinion. We should scream a lot more in defence of free speech.
Gary Lineker, Dion Dublin and Ian Wright (left to right) poked fun at Alexandre Lacazette on Match of the Day after he went down screaming against Burnley
Lacazette writhed around on the floor after an Erik Pieters tackle in their draw at Burnley
More ‘genius’ ideas from Agnelli – Juve’s reverse Robin Hood
There are surely not enough hours in the day to come up with as many bad ideas as Andrea Agnelli of Juventus.
He had two beauties again this week. Up for discussion, apparently, is a ban on transfers between Champions League clubs. ‘No triple-figure moves would maybe mean focusing on champion players in smaller countries,’ he said.
So plunder the little guys, safe in the knowledge that the same cannot happen to you? Another fine principle, dripping with fairness.
Here’s why it would be disastrous. For a start there are some Champions League clubs — Borussia Dortmund, Ajax, anyone in France bar Paris Saint-Germain — whose entire business model is centred on the nurture and expensive sale of talent. Dortmund are not planning to keep Erling Haaland for ever — and he isn’t expecting to stay.
As it stands, this is a fair exchange. Dortmund have been good for his career, he will one day be good for their continued investment in similar individuals, such as Jude Bellingham.
Juventus chairman Andrea Agnelli has proposed a couple of ludicrous ideas this week
Yet if the option of selling Haaland for triple figures was unavailable, Dortmund’s revenue stream would suffer. Equally, players would only agree shorter-term contracts and let them run down, rather than be trapped. Restrictions couldn’t apply to free agents, so all that would change is the ability to command a fee.
Agnelli’s other brainstorm is to sell off the last 15 minutes of matches to attract younger fans who consume entertainment in bitesize morsels. He’s stolen this one from basketball because the NBA have packages giving access to the final quarter. And there’s a reason for that. The last quarter in basketball has a 40 per cent influence on the outcome of a game.
Football, being lower-scoring, isn’t the same. With 15 minutes to go in the Champions League second legs this week, RB Leipzig needed four goals, Barcelona three and Sevilla two.
Only Juventus’s match with Porto was finely balanced. Equally, in the previous round of Premier League matches — last weekend’s fixtures, plus Manchester City v Southampton — six of 11 games had a difference of two goals or more with 15 minutes remaining, and two were goalless stalemates unlikely to appeal.
No matter how brief your attention span, life really is too short for West Brom 0 Newcastle 0, in any format.
One game had its outcome altered between 75 and 90 minutes in the Premier League, Leicester scoring late at Brighton. Maybe Agnelli can package that. He just needs to accurately forecast the future. Don’t worry, he’s probably working on it.
In shackling Bryson, golf has denied us brilliance
Bryson DeChambeau is the most interesting golfer since Tiger Woods, although not if those at the top get their way. At Sawgrass this week, DeChambeau announced a different approach to reaching the 460-yard par four 18th. Many professionals regard this as the hardest closing hole on the circuit.
It was designed to intimidate. The fairway is big to the right, but more visible from the tee is a giant expanse of water left. The traditional route crosses the water, skirts the bank, stays left of the trees and leaves about a six iron to the green. Miss left, splash. Miss right, the dread crack of ball against wood.
DeChambeau saw a better way. He would go left, across the width of the water, a carry of roughly 310 yards, to a small patch of short grass near the ninth fairway. He could then hit a short iron across water again, having a much clearer view of the green. He didn’t say he would, merely that he might. Depends on the wind, depends on a lot of factors.
The tour will not allow Bryson DeChambeau to bludgeon his way over the water at Sawgrass
It was too much for the tournament organisers. Overnight, they placed that landing area out of bounds.
‘In the interest of safety for spectators and other personnel,’ was the official explanation. It was claimed DeChambeau could endanger the grandstands.
What tosh. That shot, that anticipation, was exactly what spectators pay to see. Would he take it on? Would he pull it off? That’s the thrill. And watch out. Everyone who attends golf knows that, too.
Even if DeChambeau led the way and several rivals tried to follow, it would only add to the drama for paying customers. Now they get to see 150 golfers play the same hole, the same way, some better than others. There are worse ways to spend an afternoon, but even so. Plenty of people are not interested in golf beyond the majors.
But if they were told DeChambeau was about to attempt a shot that was possibly beyond any other player in the world, that it might fail or succeed spectacularly — they would change channels. This is the moment the PGA outlawed.
Bryson DeChambeau’s plan to tackle the 18th hole at Sawgrass has been prevented
There is precedent. At the 1979 US Open at Inverness Club, Toledo, Lon Hinkle — three wins on the PGA Tour, tied third at the PGA Championship and US Open in 1980 — devised a way to cut off the dogleg at eight by hitting on to the 17th fairway.
He awoke for his second round to discover that, overnight, the USGA had planted a sizable tree in the vicinity of his landing space. He finished tied 53rd.
Hinkle, though, was simply crafty. DeChambeau’s schemes are box-office and game-changing. He is Kevin Pietersen switch-hitting or Cristiano Ronaldo making a free-kick travel through air, unlike any player in history. Imagine if rules stifled that? As a first-time visitor to the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa, I was advised to stand near Eau Rouge, back to the action, and listen.
‘You’ll hear when Michael Schumacher comes through.’
It was right. He sounded different. What he did, how he approached one of the great challenges in Formula One, was unique.
DeChambeau has that quality. Why golf would wish to limit his spectacle at a time when it seeks audiences is a mystery.
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