In football, you actually can go home again.
The Bundesliga club held a special testimonial on Saturday for Macedonian defender Nikolce Noveski, who retired in 2015 after eleven years with the team. Klopp took to the touchline as the manager of one of the teams contesting the match, with the other side led by Thomas Tuchel, his successor at both Mainz and later Borussia Dortmund.
Klopp himself spent most of his playing career at Mainz, plying his trade in Rhineland-Palatinate from 1990 to 2001. He was appointed manager almost immediately after his retirement and led the team from 2001 to 2008, during which time he shepherded the club into the Bundesliga for the first time and won a place in the UEFA Cup for the 2005-06 season. Following a tough relegation and no clear path to return to the German top flight, Klopp ultimately left Mainz to pursue an irresistible opportunity at Borussia Dortmund. The rest, as they say, is history.
Klopp has said previously that Mainz continues to hold a special place in his heart.
"It’s the place where I grew up. After the town where I was born, Mainz is my home town. I still have a lot of friends there. I love the club. It’s a wonderful club. And I love the idea that I can introduce Liverpool to Mainz and Mainz to Liverpool.”
Needless to say, Klopp was quite happy to visit back home.
But the real star of the day was, of course, Noveski. It’s a testament (no pun intended) to how much he was respected and loved at Mainz that they gave him this send-off, even two years after he officially left. So many footballers don’t get a chance to say goodbye, beyond maybe a short press release or social media post. Noveski obviously was a special player to get this testimonial and this outpouring of love.