Jurgen Klopp and Carlo Ancelotti are not just two of the most successful managers in world football, but by all reports also two of the kindest.
Ahead of renewing their on-pitch hostilities tonight, Klopp had an admission to make in the official match program; when the two met in Scotland for preseason, Ancelotti congratulated Klopp for joining the Champions of Europe Club (only 4 more to go to catch Carlo) with a bottle of wine.
Unlike the countless bottles of Carlsberg Klopp enjoyed during Liverpool’s victory parade (or maybe “three”), that bottle of wine remains unopened and imbibed.
“We played Napoli in Edinburgh pre-season and I think it’s fair to say they got the better of the game that day,” Klopp explained. “However, my positive memory of the occasion in Scotland was the incredibly classy gesture from Carlo. He bought a very lovely bottle of red wine and wrote a touching congratulations message on it, for what we had achieved the season before.
“I was suitably embarrassed in the moment he gave it to me, to the point I was lost for words. People who know me well will tell you this is a very rare occurrence.
“Carlo is one of the all-time greats. His achievements as a player, coach and manager would take up the entirety of this programme if I was to list them. And achieved in different countries. Wow – so hard to do.
“I have a confession to make to Carlo and that is that I still haven’t drunk the wine. It takes pride of place at home. I’m sure one day I will, but for now the sentimental value of the gift means it remains unopened.
“However, as has been proved since, Carlo’s generosity of friendship never extends to when our sides face each other as competitors.”
Indeed, Ancelotti’s Napoli have given Liverpool more problems than just about any other side in Europe. In three competitive matches over two years, they’ve beaten Liverpool more times than the last season and a half worth of Premier League opponents combined.
Even if the club are currently in turmoil, they remain a talented squad, and one managed by one of the all-time greats. Liverpool—and Anfield—will have to be at their best to get all three points tonight.
Regardless, these sorts of behind-the-scenes stories of the relationships between managers are great to hear, and give a key insight into the real characters of these men roaming the sidelines.