Presently plying his trade at Bayern Munich, former Borussia Dortmund defender Mats Hummels was recently asked about his time working under current Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp. Looking back, and speaking to the Mail, Hummels said a lot without saying a lot, noting that the relationship with Klopp was “was almost like family,” and that despite occasional differences, “[w]e never, ever had a big problem.”
Asked to look ahead, Hummels was less excited about a possible reunion with his old boss in the UEFA Champions League. For that to even be possible, Bayern will first have to negotiate a potentially tricky tie against an unfancied Sevilla, while Liverpool will need to conquer one of the sides tipped to win it all this season - their fellow Premier League club Manchester City.
Should it get to that point, however, Hummels knows that meeting Liverpool isn’t going to be much easier than coming up against City.
“I know how strong Klopp’s teams are,” said the defender. “I know how good his teams are when they get to this level.”
Hummels speaks of course from experience, not only as someone who has played under Klopp in some of the most memorable Champions League matches, but also as a member of the Dortmund squad that stormed out to a lead against Liverpool at Anfield before succumbing to the strange magic that the Kop can on occasion still evoke. On that occasion, it was a Dejan Lovren header that knocked Hummels out of the Europa League.
“But his teams always perform at the highest when they face the best teams,” added the 29-year-old. “That’s for certain. I don’t think there was a team remaining who wanted to face Liverpool. They work so hard, they play so intense and aggressively with the quality of players they have — especially up front.”
That latter quality is perhaps something new to Hummels and not something he has faced firsthand this season. That 2016 Europa League side was not exactly devoid of firepower, with Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho available together with Roberto Firmino, but Liverpool’s current forward trio are quite a different proposition. If the Reds can get past City, few defenders on the continent will be rushing to test themselves this Klopp side.