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‘Never call me again!’ – How furious Klopp was snubbed by Hamburg before Dortmund & Liverpool success

The former European champions considered hiring the then-Mainz coach in 2008 but decided against doing so for the most ridiculous of reasons

On the night of June 25, Jurgen Klopp celebrated leading Liverpool to a first English league title in 30 years.

Just three days later, Hamburg suffered a humiliating 5-1 loss at home to Sandhausen that ended their hopes of securing a return to the Bundesliga.

The two events may appear unconnected, but Hamburg actually had the chance to hire Klopp in 2008.

Back then, the former European Cup winners were looking for a new coach, after Huub Stevens had announced his intention to step down at the end of the season.

Fred Rutten, who was coaching PSV at the time, Christian Gross (Basel), Bruno Labbadia (Greuther Furth) and Mainz boss Klopp were all put forward as potential successors.

In early February 2008, Hamburg CEO Bernd Hoffmann, chief marketing officer Kakja Kraus and sporting director Dietmar Beiersdorfer travelled to Klopp’s family home.

Hoffmann and Kraus were full of praise for their host, intent on selling the club to Klopp.

Beiersdorfer, though, was unconvinced. According to those present, he openly mused whether a coach known to Mainz players by the nickname ‘Kloppo’ was really the right kind of figure for a respected footballing institution like Hamburg.

“Don’t you have a sports director named Didi?” countered a smiling Klopp, alluding to Beiersdorfer’s Christian name.

Klopp’s characteristic wit did little to dispel Beiersdorfer’s doubts, so he hired scouts to draw up profiles of the candidates.

In truth, the scouts were little more than spies, as they were instructed to secretly watch Klopp & Co. from eight in the morning until the end of the working day at their respective clubs.

Each subject was evaluated by a points system based on training, tactics, motivation, punctuality, clothing and appearance, as well as interaction with supporters and journalists.

Rutten received the highest rating; Klopp scored poorly.

 

 

Indeed, Beiersdorfer was no longer solely concerned with the nickname. The Mainz boss was allegedly a smoker who was always late for training and turned up sporting a scruffy beard and wearing jeans with holes in them.

“The jeans were not well received on our supervisory board,” Hoffman admitted to Sport Bild. “We board members were given the clear indication that hiring Jurgen Klopp was not a good idea.”

Klopp was furious when he found out why he had been overlooked by Hamburg.

“The smoking was true, unfortunately, but the lack of punctuality is an absolute falsehood,” he later told RND. “I was never later in my life if I could somehow prevent it.

“They said I was flippant in dealing with the press. What even is that?

“And then the nickname ‘Kloppo’, which was associated with the question of authority, I don’t find it disrespectful.

“When I started at Mainz as a coach, the players were my team-mates. The next day I was their coach, so should they have had to start calling me ‘Mr. Klopp’?

“In Hamburg, they thought people didn’t respect me if they called me ‘Kloppo’!”

In reality, Klopp felt it was Hamburg who did not respect him, as he was left further upset by the fact that they waited so long before telling him his services were not required.

Indeed, he had already begun looking at houses in the city when Beiersdorfer finally informed him that he was no longer in the running for the job.

“Back then, I said: ‘Well, friends, if there is still interest, I just wanted to say: no way. Never call again, I won’t take it,'” Klopp later told RND.

“‘I am a football coach and if things like that are important to you, you are the wrong person and we cannot work together.'”

Hamburg certainly came to regret their reasoning.

After Hamburg ultimately turned to Martin Jol, Klopp instead moved to Dortmund, where he would establish himself as one of the best coaches in the world.

In the space of five years, he led a club that had been struggling, both in a sporting and financial sense, to two Bundesliga titles, a DFB-Pokal and the final of the 2013 Champions League.

He has since proven his remarkable powers of recovery by putting Liverpool back on their perch in England, just over 12 months after masterminding the Reds’ sixth European Cup triumph.

Hamburg, by complete contrast, are again facing an uncertain future, languishing in the German second division, after 12 years of gross mismanagement, on and off the field.

“If we had signed Jurgen Klopp back [in 2008], we might not have reached the Champions League final,” Hoffman recently lamented in Sport Bild, “but the club would probably be different today.”

Of that, there is little doubt. Klopp revived Dortmund and Liverpool. He could easily have done likewise at Hamburg…

 

 

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