On Saturday night in Kiev, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp will have his second tilt at winning a Champions League final.
As his side face Real Madrid, arguably the biggest club in the world, Klopp will go through a maelstrom of emotions on the touchline, an animated figure who has taken Liverpool to the brink of a high not reached since that famous night in Istanbul 13 years ago.
But when I caught up with him last week at Liverpool’s training camp in Marbella, he was relaxed and insightful as he discussed the people who have shaped him and his career – as well as Saturday night’s intriguing final.
Recharging the batteries
The previous occasion I was supposed to meet with Klopp was at Melwood, Liverpool’s training complex.
That got cancelled because he had to go to hospital, for something subsequently described to me as a ‘precautionary measure’.
There do not seem to be any issues this time as we sit by the pool, with Klopp cutting a calm and relaxed figure in the Spanish sun. But last week’s trip was about much more than topping up the tan.
“It isn’t about bonding, because we are already bonded as a team,” Klopp told me.
“It isn’t even about the weather because we have that in England at the moment. But we need a moment together to concentrate our minds and our forces.”
Five years ago at Wembley against Bayern Munich, his Dortmund side fell just short of the finishing line as a late Arjen Robben goal won the Champions League for their arch rivals. Many felt an exhausting season and an exceedingly demanding coach had finally taken its toll.
“Back home when we have the day free we dedicate them to doing all sorts of things and I just wanted us to have a few days together doing the absolute minimum.
“To recharge our batteries, do things well in training, have tactical meetings and all that sort of stuff. We need to go into the final with refreshed legs and minds.”
Klopp is preparing for the biggest match in domestic football as a man at the top of his sphere. But it has been a long journey for the 50-year-old.
My dad? It was like living with a coach
To understand Klopp it helps to know where he is from and how he was raised.
He was born in the sleepy, natural beauty of Glatten – a small town in the Black Forest, in the region of Swabia.
According to Klopp it is “a great place to grow up, but a bit boring for a young adolescent”.
Klopp threw himself – or perhaps more correctly, was hurled – into the world of sport, by his ever demanding and sports-mad father, Norbert.
A non-stop regime of exercise, drills and sport were put in place by Jurgen’s father, who was desperate to see his son achieve the targets that circumstances and fate had prevented him from reaching.
Jurgen’s two sisters, who had been the sporting focus of Norbert’s attention prior to Jurgen’s arrival, were relieved. Pressure on the girls stopped immediately and they were able to devote time to their favoured hobbies such as ballet and music.