Jürgen Klopp is back in London after last year's Champions League final, saying: 'Today we had 20 people in front of our hotel … last time five. So, still not too many'
Having made no shortage of new friends en route to last year's Champions League final at Wembley, the Borussia Dortmund manager Jürgen Klopp was pleased to report a massive surge in popularity for his swashbuckling side from the Westfalenstadion on their return to London.
He was, however, quick to point out that Die Schwarzgelben's arrival hadn't exactly brought the streets of the capital to a standstill. "We know people have respect for us now," he said, his goofy grin signalling the imminent arrival of one of his trademark self-deprecating jokes. "Today we had 20 people in front of our hotel … last time five. So, still not too many."
A lot done, more to do. It's a drum Klopp bangs with all the gusto of Keith Moon in his pomp and on Monday the man who firmly believes he is overseeing what he labels "the most exciting project in European football" embarked on another lengthy solo.
"It's always difficult to talk about developments in football," he said. "You always look back at what has happened so far, at what has brought us here. All teams have the possibility to develop. I can say Arsenal have kept their style despite the criticism. I have the impression that their style has always been modern, and now it is working well with the right players at the right time.
"Now, one year after [the sale of] Van Persie, Arsenal are back, playing much more flexible and that's why I am impressed by their development. I could have said it before the draw: two teams developed well, playing well [on Tuesday night]. If I have to pay for a ticket, I think for tomorrow I will think about it."
Another grin, this time somewhat bashful. His reference to having to pay to get into the Emirates for tonight's match against the Premier League leaders is a nod to the second match of a touchline ban he must serve for a snarling attack in the face of a fourth official during his side's reverse at the hands of Napoli in the first match of this year's Champions League campaign. An unedifying, if not entirely unprecedented spectacle for which he has since expressed contrition, Klopp suggests the punishment handed down by Uefa may actually benefit his players.
"Maybe its better for my team, one or two games when I'm far away," he says before paying tribute to Zeljko Buvac, who will be manning the technical area in his absence. "Assistant coach is not the right word," he says. "He is my partner, my friend … my genius-partner. We speak about football for the last 15 years each day … every day … [sometimes] do totally different things. I want to bring this player, he wants the other – everything is OK. When my players come into stadium they'll know everything about the game. If something happens during the game, he is a very experienced coach to handle this."
An English journalist asks a question about quotes attributed to Klopp in which he said he was approached to manage Chelsea and Manchester City in recent months. His accent prompts a momentary look of bewilderment from the German, who reaches for his headphones for the only time during his press conference and signals to the on-site translator for assistance. "Sorry, I'm from Liverpool," explains his interrogator with a smile, prompting laughter from the top table and around the room.
"It's very important in life for me and all the other guys to be the lucky guy in the right moment at the right place and we all feel it's the right moment and the right place," explains Klopp, having denied telling anyone he'd been courted by either English club.
"I am 46 and in some cases of life it's not so young and in some cases it's young enough. I have to work and I want to work for a few more years and maybe in the future when my English is better, maybe I will come to England and work in Manchester … or Liverpool! But in this moment, there's no chance to think about it. It's a message – you don't always have to wait for something that seems better. The grass isn't always greener and my biggest skill is to see luck when I have it. So I don't think about different clubs and I never said the name of one or the other."
The rumoured mass summer exodus from the Borussia Dortmund dressing room never materialised and Klopp seems to have recovered from the trauma induced by the sale of Mario Götze to Bayern Munich. News of the move broke before Dortmund's Champions League semi-final win against Real Madrid and Klopp likened hearing it to suffering a heart attack. His squad has since been bolstered by the addition of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from Saint-Etienne and Henrikh Mkhitaryan from Shakhtar Donetsk.
"It is not important to think about the players you lose," Klopp said. "It is important to think about the players you have. It's not so easy to develop a team watching the past. Everybody say: 'You reach the final, what can you do this year?' We are not a club to go each year in the final. We have to play the football our supporters want to see."
Klopp concluded his media duties on Monday by describing Tuesday night's match against Arsenal as "a joker game" (he may have meant wild card), pointing out that whatever the outcome, Group F will remain undecided on his team's return to Dortmund. Fans of both teams and neutrals everywhere will be hoping for a breath-taking, exhilarating exhibition of attacking football from two sides playing the kind of football all supporters want to see.