'I'm worried he's lulling us into a false sense of security'- Dortmund chief wary of Jurgen Klopp effect
The Borussia Dortmund chief executive is concerned that the club’s fans and players could be unduly preoccupied by their reunion with Jurgen Klopp when they meet Liverpool in the Europa League quarter final on Thursday night.
Klopp, who is universally beloved by the notoriously zealous Dortmund ultras, stepped down after seven years at the club at the end of last season.
While at the helm, the 48-year-old won consecutive Bundesliga titles and guided the team to a Champions League final in 2013, which they lost by 2-1 to arch-rivals Bayern Munich. The zenith of his success was argaubly delivering the club's first ever league and cup domestic double in 2012.
The Stuttgart native replaced Brendan Rogers at Anfield last October, and has enjoyed mixed success in the interim; Liverpool are currently ninth in the Premier League and were beaten in a penalty shoot out by Manchester City in the Capital One Cup final.
However, after bettering Manchester United in the previous round, Liverpool were paired with their manager’s old club in the last eight of the Europe’s secondary competition.
Dortmund have been revitalised by Klopp’ successor Thomas Tuchel and, aside from being second from top in the Bundesliga, they are the consensus favourites to win the Europa League.
The tag was firmly solidified when Dortmund easily dispatched of Premier League counterparts Tottenham Hotspur over two legs in the last round. Many thought that a meeting of Klopp’s previous and current clubs in May’s final would be fitting, but such convenient narratives rarely occur.
Speaking to German newspaper Bild (also reported in the Guardian), Dortmund chief executive Hans-Joachim Watzke claimed to be unsettled by what the sort of emotions Kopp’s homecoming may evoke at the Westfalenstadion during the quarter final first leg on Thursday.
“Most of all I fear that Klopp is trying to lull us into a false sense of security and that he will try to get our fans on his side to ensure that the match feels like a friendly,” he said.
Since their last respective European outings and the subsequent international break, both clubs have fared well domestically. Liverpool defeated Southampton before drawing Spurs over the weekend- and possibly gifting Leicester City the Premier League- while Dortmund have beaten Augsburg and Werder Bremen.
Klopp had initially expressed his desire not to meet Dortmund until the final, but soon changed his tune when fate intervened. Upon hearing the news of the paring, he delivered a typically emotive response, the sort of which Hans-Joachim Watzke may view as a dangerous distraction.
Klopp even went so far as to suggest that he may abstain from media appearances in the lead up to the tie.
"I still have three season tickets but my son uses them and is very often in the stadium - when he's not in Liverpool, of course - so, I am looking forward to going there."
"I loved this place, a few of the best things in my life happened there, so of course I am looking forward to it. But on the other side, I hate the hype around my person in these matches.
"I know about the business and all the circumstances but I don't like it to be honest. I will do what I have to do (in terms of pre-match media duties) and then we will see.
"During the game all the focus [should be] on these guys and then if somebody wants to talk to me after the game I am available then."