September 30, 2022

It says a lot about the mood within the building, that he would have liked to play more last season but he is still desperate to be there and he said he wanted to be a good team-mate…

Last year we had three centre-halves coming back from a long injury. Things are all to be explained, it’s not that difficult. Virgil obviously – man, we don’t really have to talk about that – started at a pretty high level. Joel is the one who arrived first and was able to train the longest, and we don’t have to argue about his quality. He was there. Ibou, new and long-term injured too, moreover, before that, needed to find his marks a little in the workforce. [He] delivered from the first moment but was still new and had to adapt to a few things. Joey needed that bit longer and that’s how it is sometimes. Then he needed a little more rhythm and [had] a small injury again – nothing serious but just a little, which is normal after a long period of inactivity. That got him in that position for a while, but I think we all know how often and how hard he played, especially in the second half of the season. Like I said, he’s a world-class defender, without a shadow of a doubt.

This season starts a little earlier and there will be a break for the World Cup. Does it change anything you do with the players in pre-season?

Not really. Our pre-season still lasts a long time [enough], for some not long enough. So we have to extend the pre-season again into the season, we can’t change that because we have our time limits. I’ve been in the business for more than 20 years in roughly the same position and we know everything we need to do in pre-season to create a base for the whole season. This time we have two different groups, if you will, but only from November. Because we have a group that is playing the longest season ever and if you go to the final or the semi-final of the World Cup it will be crazy, absolutely crazy. And we have the other band where there’s a real break in November. But until then, everyone must do the same. Players going to the World Cup obviously need to be fit there too; from that perspective it’s actually a good time, I would say. We’ll see how we can handle this later, but until then, everything should be fine.

In pre-season, nothing has really changed. We have our trip to Asia, which we are looking forward to because we weren’t there long. On the other side, hopefully we can train – we know what time of year we are there, so I don’t think we’ll get through without rain. But hopefully we can really train. We have tried everything to prepare as well; gardeners already there trying to prepare everything. In the end, we also need a little luck there.

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Both games are important and not important, so we can’t play United and say it’s a friendly. It’s not friendly. But it’s a pre-season game and we have to see who we can use then. The guys who came back from international [duty] now they fly tomorrow with us or some we pass directly there. From then on they train, but two days later we play the game, so we’ll see if we can give them 10 or 15 minutes or whatever. Then for the Crystal Palace game, maybe a bit more. Then we come back, spend five days here and leave for Austria; from Austria, pretty much straight to the Community Shield; and a week later we start the season. So it’s hard.

That’s what I mean, we have to extend it into the season. We play Fulham on Saturday and then we play [the following] Monday is therefore a long, long week that we can also use for training. Then again [we play] Monday I think, so those are the times to train. During the season we can’t train – we play every three days, so we recover. But this is when we really try to lay the foundation for the rest of the season.

Return to on Saturday for the second part of this interview, in which Klopp discusses the arrivals of Fabio Carvalho, Darwin Nunez and Calvin Ramsay this summer.