Jurgen Klopp and Diego Simeone bond over a passion for Champions League glory
- Two of the most passionate and committed managers in the modern game meet on Wednesday, and their desire for European success is unmatched.
They are defined by their touchline persona and are considered to be two of the most charismatic figures in the European game. On Wednesday evening, Jurgen Klopp and Diego Simeone go head-to-head in the UEFA Champions League as Liverpool host Atlético Madrid at Anfield, and another special European night is expected.
A slender 1-0 win from the 1st leg offers a marginal advantage for the side from the Spanish capital, but Liverpool have turned around far greater deficits in recent years, with Barcelona learning last season just how influential the passion and togetherness of the Kop can be when it comes to welcoming the elite of the European game.
With one hand on the Premier League trophy following another defeat for Manchester City at the weekend, Klopp can afford to concentrate more of his efforts on the defence of their Champions League trophy.
His approach to the FA Cup this season has shown he is willing to take a pragmatic view in prioritising competitions, and should this trend continue once the Premier League trophy has been delivered, they will not be breaking any domestic records.
Making Liverpool champions of England, Europe and the world has been the reward of a well-calculated process for Klopp, and while his side have suffered the pain of losing out on titles and trophies by fine margins under his guidance in the past, the disappointment has played an important role in developing the character that exists within the squad.
But the challenges keep coming, and the focus this week will be on reversing the score on Wednesday.
The passion to succeed
Klopp is a perfect fit for Liverpool, and his character is an extended representation of the city. Wearing his heart on his sleeve and unafraid to express his emotions, the German’s background in the game brings an extra appreciation for the status that he currently holds. Although he enjoyed a professional playing career, the heights he reached as a player do not match his achievements as a manager.
By comparison, Atleti manager Diego Simeone does not show any poker face when it comes to expressing his feelings, and the energetic figure plays through each and every fixture with the same athleticism as his squad.
His actions have brought more touchline suspensions than his peers, but ‘El Cholo’ is unlikely to change anytime soon. It is his desire and commitment to succeed with the club close to his heart that has ensured they have continually defied the odds over the years.
Champions League pain for Atleti
But while he has delivered domestic success in Spain, Champions League glory has eluded him so far, and beaten twice by their city rivals in the final in 2014 and again in 2016 has only added to the frustration. Atleti are a club that appear to be a permanent cycle as star players move on, but they have recovered from these setbacks under Simeone, and maintained their status as one of Spain’s leading clubs by continuing to challenge both home and abroad.
And that is testament to the character and fighting spirit of Simeone. Like some of his star players over the last few years, he has had offers to take up new challenges elsewhere, but it is his desire to become European champions with this club over any other that keeps him at the Wanda Metropolitano.
Success elsewhere would not match achieving success with the club he holds close to his heart, and the club he continues to represent with the same passion he did as a player.
It is that character that brings inevitable comparisons with Klopp, and the nervous energy on the touchline on Wednesday will not be matched as other decisive Champions League ties take place across the continent.
A charged atmosphere at Anfield is assured with the taste of last season’s success still fresh in the memory, and the decision to host the final in Istanbul this year brings another dimension to the competition following their comeback heroics of 2005.
Klopp and Simeone share a passion for their respective clubs that is similar to that of an international manager leading his country. The cold financial realities of the modern club game are yet to pollute the international environment, and long may it continue. Players represent their country through nationalistic pride rather than for profit, and it is a quality that the club game lost many years ago.
But the aforementioned pair who will meet on Wednesday are a throwback to a different age in the way they represent their clubs. Prior to his appointment, Klopp had no connection with Liverpool other than a respect for their history. He has become an adopted son of the city through his love for the people and what he continues to achieve there, and he gets as much out of the club as he puts in.
Simeone enjoyed two spells at Atleti as a player, achieving the domestic double in 1996. He returned as manager almost a decade ago, and has delivered the La Liga title, the Copa del Rey, the UEFA Europa League twice and the UEFA Super Cup twice.
But it is the two runners-up medals in the Champions League that hurt him, and there is a feeling that his work at the club will not be fulfilled until that elusive title is won.
While such passion and emotion may be expected from Simeone through his South American heritage with Argentina, a colder and more calculated approach would usually be expected from the German.
However, Klopp has bought into the history of Liverpool as a club and a city, and he knows that the value of delivering success for a community that turn to their football club for hope through hard times.
Although Klopp has already brought the Champions League trophy back to Anfield, and is on the verge of achieving their first league title in 30 years, his passion and drive to bring more success does not waver as his list of achievement grows.
But while his career ambitions are clear, it is his ambition to achieve so much with this club that makes him such a unique character in the modern game.
Club at heart
Having the emotional attachment with their clubs does set Klopp and Simeone apart from the majority of their peers, and while their careers will eventually take them elsewhere, whatever success they achieve would not have the same meaning.
It was the great Francesco Totti who said that winning one league title with Roma was worth more to him than winning ten with Juventus or Real Madrid.
And that is why Wednesday night has such an special edge to it. Understanding the respective characters of Klopp and Simeone provides an understanding into their emotions during the game.
Whatever happens on the night, there will be no bigger contrast in emotions than between these two figures. Their touchline actions are not for show, but merely reflect the passion they have to lead their clubs to European glory.Published 09 Mar 2020, 23:50 IST