By Richard Martin
MADRID (Reuters) – Champions League finalists Liverpool are reaping the benefits of putting faith in their coach Juergen Klopp, former Liverpool player John Barnes said ahead of Saturday’s showdown in Madrid against Tottenham Hotspur.
The charismatic German manager has overseen a remarkable improvement in Liverpool since being named coach in 2015, taking them to two successive Champions League finals and earning a club record of 97 points in the Premier League last season.
Liverpool were pipped to the Premiership title by Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, and Barnes told Reuters the success of both teams showed the merit for clubs of trusting their managers.
“There are two teams whose fans and hierarchy have given the managers the power, Man City and Liverpool, and that’s why they’ve been so far ahead of everybody else,” the former England international told Reuters at a Champions League event in Madrid.
“Are they better than Chelsea or Man United? Not necessarily, but the harmony has been there, the fans believe in the manager, there’s no excuse when they lose,” said Barnes, 55, who played more than 400 games in a 10-year-spell for Liverpool, winning two English league titles and two FA Cups.
Referring to the apparent growth in the influence of players at some clubs, questioned Manchester United’s decision to sack Jose Mourinho in December because high-profile personalities including Paul Pogba had fallen out with the Portuguese coach.
“Regardless of what you think of Jose Mourinho, how can you sack him because the players won’t play for him? You would never sack Klopp if the players didn’t want to play for him,” Barnes said.
Klopp and Guardiola had a bumpy start to their English soccer careers, but Barnes said both managers were able to hone their skills because they had the support of their clubs.
“The fans and hierarchy knew (Klopp) was the right man for the job so they still supported him. Look how many times they came back in games because the fans stayed with him,” Barnes said, contrasting Klopp’s support with the stinging criticism endured by Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger before leaving last year.
“Guardiola came third in his first season but look what they’re doing now because they believed in him. Those two (Klopp and Guardiola) have been the two most authoritative and autonomous managers and that’s why they’ve done what they’ve done.”
Barnes also praised Tottenham coach Mauricio Pochettino, who has overseen a radical transformation into top-four regulars and Champions League finalists on a slender budget and without signing anyone since January 2018.
“If you believe you always have to sign players and the players start to believe that, that’s when you lose matches. Top managers, like Pochettino, Klopp and Guardiola don’t make excuses,” he said.
“Once you have players you like and a good enough squad there’s no need to spend money.”
(Editing by Helen Popper)