After revealing the Liverpool boss addressed his squad ahead of the 2018 Champions League final wearing Cristiano Ronaldo-branded clothes, Georginio Wijnaldum gave a distinctive insight into the “special” man-management techniques of Jurgen Klopp.
The Reds boss created a reputation for his jovial conduct and, according to midfielder Wijnaldum, the German’s pre-match team-talk for the fight against Real Madrid-for whom then-star player Ronaldo was the principal danger-was no exception after lightening the atmosphere in his own inimitable style.
“We saw he was wearing the boxer shorts of Cristiano Ronaldo,” the Netherlands midfielder told The Athletic.
“He did the meeting with his shirt stuffed inside his ‘CR7’ boxers. The whole changing room was on the floor laughing their heads off. That really broke the ice. Usually in those situations, everyone is serious and concentrated. But he was relaxed and made this joke.
“He’s done hundreds of jokes likes that. If you see that your manager is really confident and relaxed, it will have an effect on players. He is a father figure in those things for the players. With his jokes and his body language, he takes the pressure off players.”
Liverpool ultimately lost the game 3-1 but went one better the following season, defeating Tottenham 2-0 to claim a sixth triumph in Europe’s premier competition.
It has cemented Klopp’s status as one of the world’s leading coaches and Wijnaldum has paid tribute to the German’s man-management style.
Wijnaldum said: “He always tries to empathise with the other person, to feel what they’re going through. He is a really special man for me. I see him as more than a manager – a really good friend.”
“He is the kind of manager that will be angry about things in the game, or will show emotion during a game, but when it comes to half-time, he speaks with you and gives you confidence. ‘You can do it better. You have to do this, have to do that…’
“He is one of the first managers I’ve had who doesn’t get angry when you try to do the things that you are good at. He will never be angry when you try to use your talent or quality. Even if it goes wrong.
“Since I am at Liverpool, he has helped me a lot. Not only with football, but also as a person, the way you think about things. That is why I enjoy every day of working with him. I can be really mad at him one day. But the next day the anger is gone and we will love each other again.”