Everybody needs good neighbours
Living next to Liverpool boss Klopp sees familiarity breed content for Lallana
Published 17/05/2016 | 02:30
Adam Lallana is detailing how Jurgen Klopp makes players believe the impossible can happen when a shadow cuts across the Melwood interview room and everyone present looks towards the tall figure at the window blocking the sun's rays.
Blinds are pulled back, a lock is turned and Klopp enters the conversation voluntarily.
"So, what are you doing here?" he enquires with the level of high enthusiasm you'd expect from him.
"Speaking about you!" Lallana responds, causing Klopp to wheeze with laughter.
It has already transpired that Lallana keeps in touch with Mauricio Pochettino, the Tottenham Hotspur manager - his former coach at Southampton.
"We are very good friends off the pitch now," Lallana explained. "I am delighted he has had a very good season and I wanted him to win the league. I am disappointed that he didn't."
The reply was to a question about the rumours linking Lallana with a summer switch to White Hart Lane, which he passed off as speculation.
Perhaps that clarifies Klopp's next move. "Ask him if he knows when Spurs start pre-season training…"
"Too late, we have already spoken about that!" Lallana interrupts. Klopp: "I asked him and he said July 1!"
Should Klopp be organising Lallana's preparations for the 2016-'17 season, indeed, the midfielder will have to get used to triple sessions and 7am working day starts.
He does not seem to mind the prospect, though. It is Klopp whom Lallana proceeds to talk about with the greatest endearment. Through their exchange there is a sense the humour shared is not standard training ground banter. The mood between them is neighbourly because they live next door to one another on the same street in Formby.
Lallana was there first and he probably has to say that he is happy with the arrangement. It comes across genuinely, though.
"It is nice actually," Lallana says. "He has got a nice family, nice kids and I see him walking the dogs. When I take my little boy (Arthur) up for a bath, we have a landing. One time he (Klopp) was taking out the bins so I put Arthur on the balcony and he was shouting, 'Klopp' and giving it the fist pump celebration. He just looked at him and gave him a wave. Brendan [Rodgers] was my neighbour before."
Rodgers's departure and Klopp's arrival has been transformative for Liverpool. The decision had already been taken to remove Rodgers when, in his second to last game in charge, Liverpool could only muster a 1-1 draw with Swiss minnows Sion at Anfield. Klopp has turned a pointless-looking Europa League campaign into one that could prove to be defining. Liverpool face Sevilla in the final tomorrow and will qualify for the Champions League if they win.
After being signed for £25 million in the summer of 2014, Lallana was viewed as an expensive mistake until Klopp came along. Although he will not admit it, inwardly he must know that he will be a certain starter in Basel when the German announces his team.
"It was a disappointing season for me last year and for the club, especially coming off the back of a season when Liverpool challenged for the title," Lallana says. "The last seven months have been very important for me. I feel as though I have established myself at Liverpool. I'm really enjoying it."
The main reason is Klopp, who in a short space of time has implanted his personality across the club.
"He doesn't ask anything more of me that he does the other players," Lallana continues. "He demands hard work. He demands 100 per cent. He doesn't do passive. That is a word he uses a lot. He says if you defend passive there is no point in playing. You are entitled to make a mistake and he accepts you will have a bad game but he really won't be happy if you are not giving it your all.
"He is animated and emotional on match days and that makes him who he is. But when you come away from that onto the training pitch he is very affectionate, and has a laugh and a joke. People speak about the hugs he seems to give everyone but sometimes that can mean a lot to a player. It can make you feel wanted and shows he appreciates the hard work you have just put into a game."
There have been occasions when Lallana has got on the wrong side of his manager, however.
"The worst thing you can do in that situation is gesture, 'What do you mean?', or dismiss it. The best thing is to just nod your head even if you don't understand what he's saying. I made the mistake of saying I couldn't hear him away at Leicester and that didn't help, but after the game he will always explain that he was just trying to help you.
"He is a great character to have around. I really like the way he is and I think his traits bring the best out of a lot of players. He doesn't get too angry. He's more disappointed that we haven't shown our best.
"He is emotional and aggressive in his demands but he doesn't get that angry after a game. He is very structured in what he says."
Lallana started to think that Liverpool could win the Europa League after the 1-1 quarter final first leg at Borussia Dortmund. He reasons that overconfidence contributed towards Klopp's former club holding two seemingly unassailable leads in the second leg only for Liverpool to fight back and secure progression in injury time, winning 4-3.
"Now, I can't wait for Wednesday. I've finished sorting the tickets out and making sure my family get over there. Obviously Liverpool have been to big cup finals before but for myself there was just the Johnstone's Paint Trophy (with Southampton) a few years ago. So I am really looking forward to this."
Lallana also played in the League Cup final defeat to Manchester City in February, where his penalty in the shoot-out that decided the outcome was saved by Willy Caballero. He admits Liverpool did not meet performance expectations that day and his thoughts drift back to a message delivered by Klopp in the build-up.
"I remember it vividly. In the team meeting he said, 'This will be the first of many finals we will have together'. The way he said it, the words he used, you just believed there would be more finals whether it was this year or next year or whenever. Three months later we are in another cup final. It just shows you his confidence and self-belief and I think that rubs off on the lads, sub-consciously or not. 'The first of many finals', he said, and it just stuck in my mind from the moment he said it. We were on the losing side that day but I certainly learned from it and I'm sure the other players did too. We will be better for it and more prepared for this final.
"Getting to two finals is difficult in the same season," Lallana concludes. "There is no luck in that. The way we are playing regardless of how many changes the manager makes, I think you see the same type of performance. You see a Liverpool performance now and think, 'Yes, that's a Klopp team.'"