'I prefer a different type of football': Jurgen Klopp condemns Atletico Madrid's negative style

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Liverpool head coach Jurgen Klopp reacts during the UEFA Champions League group B soccer match held at Dragao stadium, Porto, Portugal, 28 September 2021. FC Porto vs Liverpool, Portugal. - JOSE COELHO/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Liverpool head coach Jurgen Klopp reacts during the UEFA Champions League group B soccer match held at Dragao stadium, Porto, Portugal, 28 September 2021. FC Porto vs Liverpool, Portugal. - JOSE COELHO/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Jurgen Klopp offered an unapologetic reminder of how much he loathes Diego Simeone’s football style, but the Liverpool manager warned his players they will be "eaten up" if they do not meet fire with fire against Atletico Madrid on Tuesday.

The last meeting between the clubs was in the round of 16 in 2020, Liverpool beaten in an ill-tempered tie just before Covid-19 forced the world into lockdown.

The first leg in Madrid was memorable for Klopp accusing Atletico’s players of play-acting to try to get Sadio Mane sent off, with the Senegalese subbed early to avoid suspension.

“He (Mane) was targeted. It was clear. They wanted to make sure he got a yellow card,” said Klopp in February, 2020.

“It is part of the game but I do not like that. In the first 30 minutes three of their players went to the ground, I don't know what for.”

Klopp was reminded of his criticism by Spanish media ahead of his return to the Wanda Metropolitano.

“What I said was, for sure, influenced by the mood I was in on that specific day one and a half years ago,” said Klopp.

“I was angry and disappointed about a lot of things - life a little bit as things were going wrong at that moment (with the pandemic) and we had to concentrate on football in a really strange circumstance.

“Then of course we played against a team full of first-class players who defended with all they had and that was probably the reason I said the things I said. Diego Simeone is doing everything absolutely right. He is the current Spanish champion, very successful there, has a bunch of world-class players who he keeps on their toes and they fight for all their life. That says a lot about the quality of Diego so I couldn't have more respect for what they do.

"Do I like it? Not too much, only because I prefer a different kind of football. Other coaches prefer other styles so no-one has to like it, it just has to be successful and that is what Atletico is. In very difficult times for football in Spain they did a very impressive job with signings and have a proper team and look possible La Liga champions again this year.”

Atletico Madrid's Argentinian coach Diego Simeone gestures during the Spanish League football match between Club Atletico de Madrid and FC Barcelona at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium in Madrid on October 2, 2021. - GETTY IMAGES
Atletico Madrid's Argentinian coach Diego Simeone gestures during the Spanish League football match between Club Atletico de Madrid and FC Barcelona at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium in Madrid on October 2, 2021. - GETTY IMAGES

Asked specifically about his different view on football, Klopp added: “Would it be the style I wanted to play? No. I couldn't. I'm not the person for it, but we are all different and that is why it is fine. We will face it. It is all about winning football games. You have to play a top-class game and be incredibly brave. If you don't do that they eat you.

“Atletico are the best of them (those sorts of teams) because they have the best players. It's a proper, proper fight.”

Liverpool head to Spain in majestic form, Klopp’s press conferences rapidly turning into a vehicle for him to pay tribute to an assortment of players; he was invited to praise Sadio Mane - who scored his 100th league goal last weekend; rejuvenated, Roberto Firmino, and Virgil Van Dijk, whose loss to the side with a serious knee injury was exactly one year ago. The Dutchman’s comeback has been seamless.

Inevitably, Mohamed Salah continues to dominate most attention given his extraordinary run of goals, so Klopp was asked if the Egyptian should win the Ballon d’Or.

“Yes. But I have no idea how exactly you win the Ballon d'Or," said Klopp.

"If it's about being in the Champions League final, scoring the most goals, then it could be slightly difficult.

“But if it's about performances over the last two years then he has a chance from my point of view. Does he get the recognition finally? Internally he always got it, externally I don't know. After two goals he scored, now people think all of a sudden he could be the best player in the world. It is a bit strange. He scored goals like this and performed for years at an incredibly high level. My concern first and foremost is that he will do it again and again.”

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