Jurgen Klopp vows never to endanger players as Liverpool training resumes
Jurgen Klopp has vowed not to endanger any Liverpool players and reiterated none of his squad will be forced to train against their will.
The Premier League leaders returned to training at Melwood for the first time in more than nine weeks on Wednesday as football began its tentative return following the coronavirus suspension.
The global pandemic has changed training methods as we know them though, with social distancing measures and widespread testing in force to safeguard players and staff.
In an exclusive interview with Sky Sports, Klopp explained how player safety at Liverpool’s first sessions was of utmost importance and how the decision to return rests solely with each squad member.
“It is the players’ choice and that is clear,” Klopp said. “I said before the session, ‘You are here on free will. Usually you sign a contract and you have to be in when I tell you, but in this case if you don’t feel safe, you don’t have to be here’.
“There are no restrictions, no punishment, nothing. It’s their own decision and we respect that 100 per cent.
“The boys are all here, the first group of 10 players, then the next session will start, and another 10 players will be in, and then another five in the afternoon. We will see if they show up but so far, we know they will because they would have called us.
“The boys are fine. We would never put anybody in danger to do what we want to do. Yes, we love football, yes, it’s our job, but it’s not more important than our lives or the lives of other people.”
Positive first impressions
Asked how it felt returning to Melwood and reuniting with his players, Klopp added: “Brilliant, I really enjoyed it. The weather is fantastic, and the boys are in good spirits.
“This morning we had to come already changed so I felt a bit like a policeman in my uniform – finally, for the right reasons again. That felt pretty special.
“Then coming to Melwood and seeing all the boys was nice. Before the session we had to give an introduction to make sure everything went in line. It was a short meeting and then a little bit more about the targets and then we started training. That was the best part for a while, really good.
“The first 10 players were here, we have groups of five that train at the same time on different pitches obviously, far away from each other. It looked like football and that is what we want to do.
“For the boys, they had the longest break ever, around nine weeks. The international players usually have around two weeks in the summer, so we need to get used to a lot of things again. But the first impression was really positive.”
‘Targets still to be achieved’
Liverpool’s relentless title challenge was halted with the Reds needing just six more points to secure their first top-flight crown in 30 years.
It remains unclear exactly when Liverpool will get the chance to resume their campaign, but Klopp insists the return to training is key in ensuring his players are ready to fulfil their targets whenever the opportunity arises.
“We cannot play football with social distancing, obviously, but the first phase is absolutely possible and then later on we have to go to the normal things we do in a football game,” he explained.
“You saw in Germany last weekend, there were proper football games. There was intensity in the games. So far, we have only discussed when we will start and all that stuff, but when we do start, there are real targets to achieve and things to fulfil. For us and other teams as well.
“That will give the games the intensity, but we have to be as creative as possible at the moment because pre-season usually starts differently.
“First and foremost, when you have a pre-season you know when the seasons starts. We don’t know that at the moment, so that is of course different, and also we are not allowed to do a couple of things that we would usually do in the first few sessions.
“We just needed to start because we prepare a body for physical work. We can’t start today and then start playing tomorrow. That doesn’t work. We need time to get match fit and that’s what we are doing at the moment.”
‘Preparing for proper competition’
In addition to containing the spread of coronavirus, concerns remain over the physical demands placed on players following weeks in lockdown and how this may affect the Premier League’s footballing product.
Klopp has dismissed such concerns though, insisting Liverpool will do everything in their power to prepare for what he expects to be a competition as competitive as usual.
“We will be in the best possible shape we can be,” he said. “You know from pre-seasons, managers usually say, ‘We don’t know where exactly we stand at this moment, we need maybe one, two, three or four games to know more about our situation’.
“But now, the challenge is that we all have to be ready for the first game, whenever it will be. That’s interesting. Our game is, for different reasons, always different.
“You never have the same game again. You never have the same situation again. Everything can be perfect for a second, then you have injured players and you have to adapt to that.
“Now it’s a situation we don’t know. None of us know when we will start. The earlier they can tell us, the better it is, of course.
“But for all the teams, it’s the same, and that’s what makes a competition. If all the teams have the same circumstances, then you have a proper competition. That’s what we are preparing for.”
‘Shorter break between seasons should be expected’
Jurgen Klopp also believes there will be a shorter break between seasons due to the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic – but his side will be well-prepared.
“We don’t know exactly how long we have, but we have some time to prepare the rest of this season and already the next season because I don’t think there will be a massive break between the two,” Klopp told the club’s website.
“We don’t know exactly but we should prepare for a rather shorter break between the two seasons.”
“It’s like a pre-season for us. We don’t know how long and we will not have test games or friendlies.”
‘I hope Neville gets some time off!’
People have had more time on their hands during the lockdown and Klopp is no different, with the Liverpool boss admitting to tuning into some of Gary Neville’s comments throughout the pandemic on The Football Show.
Klopp joked about Neville “having an opinion on everything” in one interview this week, and now he’s looking forward to football’s return giving the media something else to talk about.
Asked about his comments, he said: “I usually don’t watch that kind of stuff. Now, in lockdown, I obviously had too much time and I watched a lot and read newspapers.
“I don’t think it’s [Gary Neville’s] fault. If you get asked a lot of questions, you have to give a lot of answers. But I realised it in this time more than ever before!
“Hopefully we can fill the newspapers again in the future with some different stuff, and then he can have a bit more time off! I would wish it for him at least.”
(c) Sky Sports 2020: Jurgen Klopp vows never to endanger players as Liverpool training resumes