How often do two managers/friends get to go toe to toe on such a big stage with such high stakes? A great feel-good vibe will be happening at Anfield on Saturday as life-long buddies Jürgen Klopp and David Wagner seek to best one another with the world watching.
Klopp and Wagner met as players at Mainz, playing in the second tier in Germany. It was 1991. Bryan Adams “(Everything I Do) I Do It for You” was top of the charts. Klopp went on to manage Mainz, seeing the team promoted to the Bundesliga while Wagner had moved on as a player. The two were reunited at Borussia Dortmund when Wagner was hired on to Klopp’s coaching staff. Then, of course, Klopp came to Liverpool and Wagner took the position he’s so impressively held at Huddersfield. This match will be the first time that the two have met in a competitive fixture.
Surely the two mates will be anxiously anticipating this game.
“It’s another week to be honest,” said Klopp with a giddy grin. “After our game we had a little chat. Then Monday again a little bit. But then it was clear for both of us that it would not be more.
“I didn’t ask him, ‘how would you line up?’ He didn’t ask me. I didn’t ask him, ‘will you play like against Man United or like you played against West Ham or whatever.’
“It’s exciting. One hundred percent. You can imagine. I’m really happy about this, that we play now against each other in the Premier League. Nobody would have expected that twenty or thirty years ago. So, that makes it even nicer.
“When I was young, when I was a kid, I played all the time against my best friends. And enjoyed actually nothing more than winning against my best friends.
“He is my best friend. We have a really close relationship but it changes nothing for the game.”
Huddersfield has shown themselves to be a decent counter attacking side that could certainly cause Liverpool problems. They also got a very good result last weekend against Manchester United by parking the bus. So, it’s up in the air as to how they’ll play. Wagner, like Klopp, is proving to be an astute tactician and both managers will be setting aside friendliness to focus on a win on Saturday.
“I think it’s a special story,” said Klopp, “so I have no problem that people think it’s a special story, but that’s all. Our friendship will last for the rest of our life, whatever happens in this game.
“I want to win that game. And that means we have to beat Huddersfield. And that’s it. And I know him well enough that he thinks exactly the same.
“Nothing that we say to each other in the game will rest a second longer in our mind than the final whistle. We played together and I said worse things to him than to any other person in the world and we are still friends.
“In the game, 90 minutes, absolutely nothing to do with our friendship.”