Dejan Lovren arrived at Liverpool in 2014 as the club’s new defensive anchor, a £20M man meant to provide the foundation for Brendan Rodgers’ side and fill the leadership void that had been left in the heart of defence when Jamie Carragher retired.
The results weren’t what the player, manager, or fans had hoped for or expected. The results were disastrous, and Lovren quickly rose through the ranks of the club’s costliest mistakes, his name mentioned in the same breath as Andy Carroll and Stewart Downing and Robbie Keane.
“When I came I was in good form,” said Lovren of his switch from Southampton. “I was really mentally strong. For the first three or four games I had confidence. It wasn’t about performing better. I was just searching for my form from Southampton.
“When the whole team is not doing well, it’s really difficult. Then, when you make mistakes, everyone is on you. People expect straight away when you pay so much for a player. But it’s in the small details. The small things are a big part to have a good result at the end.”
Those small details were all wrong, and so to were the end results for Lovren, Rodgers, and the entire team. Then, Jürgen Klopp arrived: “It changed everything. I had my confidence. I’m still growing better and better with him. I can be a better player.”
It’s not just Lovren whose Liverpool career has been revived by Klopp, and the former Southampton man points to a former and current teammate who has become to Klopp what Dirk Kuyt was to Rafa Benitez as the other main beneficiary of the managerial change.
Adam Lallana, like Lovren, arrived in a big money move from Southampton. And while his career didn’t suffer the same dip that Lovren’s did following the move, few were convinced he was justifying his own £25M price tag for the manager who brought him to the club.
Now, under Klopp, Lallana might well be the first name on the teamsheet, the man who sets the tempo in the middle and a player who has recently improved his end product to match his work rate. From fringe to key, it’s been a massive transformation for both ex-Southampton players.
“The most important thing is never stop fighting,” Lovren added. “We went through this and I think it says a lot about mental strength—and not just me and Adam, a couple more players have really improved. You need to be mentally strong if you want to compete.
“Every three or four days, there are big games and a lot of stress. You need to be ready to work hard. Nothing comes easy in life. But we never stop believing in ourselves and that’s the reason why we are still here and have positive comments about us. That’s what drives us for the future.”