Liverpool will rise under Klopp says Dortmund's Lars Ricken
Dortmund's youth head Ricken confident that German will transform Liverpool
REPORTING FROM DORTMUND
If Liverpool fans are disillusioned with the current squad, fret not.
In a couple of years' time, there will be a new-look Reds team that will hopefully be challenging for the English Premier League title.
Lars Ricken, Borussia Dortmund's head of youth academy, expects Juergen Klopp to carry out a major overhaul in his bid to bring the glory days back to Anfield.
Former Dortmund coach Klopp, 48, took the reins of the Reds last October, but his short spell has seen a mixed bag of results.
While he masterminded impressive victories over Chelsea, Manchester City, Leicester City and led them to the League Cup final and the Europa League quarter-finals by beating arch-rivals Manchester United, the Reds have also lost to Watford and West Ham.
"At this point in time, his problem is that his Liverpool team are not as good as the team he left behind in Dortmund," the 39-year-old Ricken, best known for scoring the winning goal for Dortmund in the 1997 Champions League final against Italian giants Juventus, told The New Paper at the club's headquarters yesterday.
"When he came to Dortmund from Mainz, it was the same. Some players had to go.
"For example, we had the oldest defence in the Bundesliga, but Klopp signed (Mats) Hummels and (Neven) Subotic, who were both 19 then.
"In fact, after one or two years, he changed the whole team, and I think this is what he will do with Liverpool.
"Right now, it's very important for Liverpool fans to stay calm.
"Sometimes, the results have been good for them, but they have also lost matches which people didn't expect them to.
"But Klopp will improve the current players in Liverpool and he will also get new ones.
"This season has been very difficult but, in the next two or three seasons, Liverpool will be very successful."
Klopp, who coached Dortmund from 2008 to 2015, earned a reputation for having an eye for talent, signing the likes of Hummels and Subotic as teenagers and nurturing them to be among the best centre backs in Europe.
He also signed players like Lukasz Piszcek and Shinji Kagawa on free transfers, as well as current Bayern Munich hitman Robert Lewandowski for under £3.5 million ($6.8m).
At Liverpool, he has already signed Red Star Belgrade's 19-year-old Serb midfielder Marko Grujic for £5m and Schalke's 24-year-old Cameroonian international centre back Joel Matip on a free transfer, for next season.
Reds fans are no doubt praying that Klopp can pull off a few more coups in the summer, such as Dortmund's Marco Reus and Bayern Munich's Mario Goetze.
But Ricken reckons Klopp could also promote from within and make world-beaters out of so-called "no hopers".
When asked about Klopp's strengths as a coach, Ricken said: "His eye for talent and his ability to develop players' talent.
"Marcel Schmelzer (current Dortmund and Germany left back) is a good example.
"(Schmelzer) played for our second team and nobody at the club thought he would be a professional player.
"But Klopp saw him and said, 'He's great', and he brought Schmelzer in for (Brazilian veteran) Dede, who was then considered a legend here in Dortmund. Before you know it, Schmelzer became a national player. So that's the great ability of Klopp."
Here in Dortmund, Klopp is still held in high regard.
Outside the club's Signal Iduna Park Stadium yesterday, a family of four wore matching T-shirts that read "Danke Juergen" (Thank you, Juergen in German). His T-shirts are still being sold in the official club store.
Dortmund's faithful will always remember how their former coach took the team from the brink of bankruptcy to two consecutive Bundesliga titles in 2011 and 2012, as well as an appearance in the Champions League final in 2013.
Such is the love affair between the club and their former boss that Dortmund are not worried about media reports that Klopp might raid his former club for their stars.
Said Ricken: "Of course, it's possible, but I think the friendship between Klopp, (Dortmund sporting director) Michel Zorc and (chairman) Hans-Joachim Watzke is so great that he won't ask a player to go to Liverpool without asking the two first.
"Maybe, if there's a player (not playing) at Dortmund and Klopp wants to have him, and Liverpool can pay... It might be possible."
- Sazali's trip to Germany was made possible by the Bundesliga.
KLOPP ON NEXT SEASON
"Man City will get Pep Guardiola, and we will all be flabbergasted at how this team will change. Man united are also restructuring. i have no clue what will happen, but a lot of money will be involved. arsenal appear to have missed the title (this season), but this does not mean they will say, ‘We’ve tried so many times and don’t want to continue.’ and Chelsea will get a new coach. in England, things are really happening."
KLOPP ON HIS TRANSFER PLANS
"We will not sign a player because he is German. That would be nonsense. We are looking not only in the bundesliga. We are really global at the start, but it is much more important not where the player comes from, but that it is the right player for us."
KLOPP ON TOTTENHAM CLASH
"Maybe for Tottenham, it is like a final. They have to win it to put pressure on leicester. if you know about the pressure, you want to use this: when Tottenham play against liverpool, it is usually not a birthday party - it is a hard fight. it will be a high-intensity game and we have to use this."
Germans too strong in Euro 2016: Ricken
Having a squad of world-beaters naturally makes Joachim Loew's Germany one of the favourites for the European Championship in France in June.
But it is not just the quality of the team that will win Die Mannschaft titles, mental strength is what will carry them past the finish line.
That is the opinion of former Germany midfielder Lars Ricken, who believes Loew's men can add the European Championship trophy to the World Cup title they won in Brazil two years ago.
The 39-year-old, who played 16 times for his country between 1997 and 2002, said he was impressed with how Leow's men have not rested on their laurels after winning the World Cup.
"It's nice to see that after winning the World Cup, the coach and the players kept going," said Ricken, who is now the head of youth academy of German giants Borussia Dortmund.
"They went straight for the next target: the European Championship."
Ricken admits that qualification for this summer's tournament in France was "a little bit difficult", with Germany suffering shock losses to Poland and the Republic of Ireland.
But he added: "We are still one of the favourites because we won the World Cup.
"The team didn't change much... (and) in such a major tournament, the Germans are so focused, disciplined and strong.
"So, of course, we have the opportunity to win.
"But France are also great. The tournament is held in their country so they have the spectators behind them.
"Spain are also rivals. And maybe England, because they beat us (3-2 in a friendly last week). But I don't think so."
England's come-from-behind 3-2 win in an international friendly in Berlin raised some question marks about the Germans' backline, especially with the absence of Bayern Munich defender Jerome Boateng.
Boateng (above, in red) picked up a groin injury in January which is likely to sideline him till the closing stages of the season.
Even if he makes the Germany squad in France, he is likely to be far from fit.
"It would be great if Boateng is fit for the Euros, because a German defence with (Mats) Hummels and Boateng is (stronger)," said Ricken.
"Also, we have a little problem with fullbacks, after (Philipp) Lahm retired (after the World Cup win).
"But, at the World Cup, we played with (centre back Bendikt) Howedes on the left side, and he was not a specialist in this position.
"So I don't think that will be too big a problem."
- SAZALI ABDUL AZIZ