Jurgen Klopp guiding Liverpool to a drought-ending Premier League title has the potential to be his finest achievement, according to former Borussia Dortmund goalkeeper Mitch Langerak.
Liverpool were on the cusp of claiming their first league crown since 1990 before the coronavirus pandemic suspended the Premier League in March, with Klopp’s side 25 points clear on top of the table.
Klopp has already delivered a Champions League trophy to Anfield following last season’s triumph as well as UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup silverware, having won back-to-back Bundesliga titles during his time at Dortmund.
However, asked if leading Liverpool back to the top of English football would be Klopp’s finest achievement, Langerak told Stats Perform: “Potentially, because the Premier League is hard to win.
“It’s not just Dortmund/Bayern Munich or Dortmund/Bayer Leverkusen battling it out. The Premier League you probably have three to four or five teams that could win it. So maybe it would be his finest achievement.
“However, obviously winning the first Bundesliga that we won in Dortmund was huge. Then to go back-to-back, win the cup that year doing the double. That was a huge, huge thing, with such a young and relatively unknown squad.
“There were a lot of players many people didn’t know, they brought [Shinji] Kagawa from Japan’s second league and came in straight away first game and killed it.
“He did some amazing things with a lot of players who had just come in. I think he has a lot of achievements, so potentially you could say the Liverpool one would be his finest.”
Langerak was plucked from Australian side Melbourne Victory as a 21-year-old in 2010, immediately thrust into the first team by Klopp.
During his five years at Dortmund, Langerak was involved in back-to-back Bundesliga triumphs, to go with two DFL-Supercup titles and DFB-Pokal glory, while Klopp’s side – boasting the likes of Robert Lewandowski and Ilkay Gundogan – also reached the 2013 Champions League final.
The Australia international knows the charismatic Klopp better than most and he said of the German: “It feels like he’s always on in his head. He is never not 100 per cent in his mind, in his thinking, in what he’s doing.
“You’ll never catch him off guard. For example, he will never be stumped or not sure what to do, or not sure how to speak or what to say. He’s that sharp and that sort of flows onto the team.
“He’s full power, so everything in training is 100 per cent and when we were at Dortmund, it might’ve changed now, but with him there was no GPS or radar saying you’re hitting your upper threshold today. It was all his feeling.
“For example, when I first arrived, I didn’t know what a training camp was because I hadn’t been on one with Melbourne Victory. We turned up and my agents were saying ‘oh wait for the training camp, wait for the training camp’. I’m like what’s with the training camp? I thought we’d just go and do a bit of training.
“We were doing three sessions a day, then the next day we’d have a double, then the next day we’d have training in the morning, a ‘friendly’ game at 4pm that afternoon but a friendly game with Dortmund is in front of 30,000 people.
“The next day you’d have a double, a triple. So you’re up at 7 in the morning. You’d do lactate testing, so they would know if you’re in the fast group of five players or next group. You’d do 5km or 6km in 1km time-trials and you just have to keep your pace.
“The boys would be blowing, they’d be wrecked. That was at 7am in the morning before breakfast. You’d go back to the hotel, have a quick bite to eat, you’d get showered and changed and then you’d go training.
“You’d do a proper, proper training session. Go back, have lunch, maybe sleep for an hour and you’re back at 4pm for the third session of the day. This is day one of training camp, day two could be a double, day three is training and then at 4pm a friendly game in a stadium live on TV in front of 30-40,000 people.
“It’s actually so nuts but it wasn’t like ‘oh he needs to have a rest today, he’s 32, he’s coming back from injury so he needs to have a light one today’. It was none of that, if you train, you train.
“That was the biggest thing for me. It was just like, obviously after seven days of training you’re a bit sore, bit tight maybe we should have an easy session. Nah, you learn to just get on with things and grind it out.
“Some of the training sessions were intense but then when he could see the players getting tired, he was like ‘that’s it we’re finished for today, come back tomorrow and we’ll smash it again’. I think that with a lot of young, hungry players it worked really well.
“He was obviously the alpha, the boss. You can see that within the whole club – he was the one in charge and everyone had so much respect for him.”
“That was the most crazy thing, you’d have all the sports scientists saying you should do this, do that,” the 31-year-old Langerak continued.
“I think was rooming with [Mario] Gotze at the time and I remember asking, do we have breakfast? Do we eat before we go running like sprinting? What do we do? ‘Nah, nah, you just wake up and we just jump on the bus and go’. I was like ‘wow, okay’.
“A lot of the sessions were really hard, especially in pre-season and that built the foundations for a lot of success for the team because we were always much fitter. Even for the goalkeepers, the training but was brutal.
“There were times you just couldn’t move anymore because you’re up and down, diving, doing shooting sessions for an hour, 20 minutes. The number one [Roman] Weidenfeller was getting through it and so me as a 21-year-old, what am I gonna say? I’m doing the same, I can’t say I’m a bit sore.”
Langerak, who now plays for J1League outfit Nagoya Grampus, added: “Another layer of that, he was absolutely the nicest guy you’ll meet. He can talk about anything and he would talk to you about anything. He would come up to you and have a chat about your family or about your friends in Australia.
“There were times I had friends come from Australia and after the game we would be in the family room and I’d introduce them to the coach. He’d be chatting to them, speaking English, making them feel like the most important person in the stadium.
“That’s the type of character he was and somebody you’d never not give 100 per cent or do something dodgy because everyone has so much respect for him.”