Ricken predicts success for Klopp's Liverpool; could raid Germany for players
Following seven highly rewarding years as Borussia Dortmund manager, Jurgen Klopp moved to Anfield in October last year, so far enduring an inconsistent start to life in English football.
Seven points and a significant goal difference outside the Premier League’s top four ahead of this weekend’s clash with Tottenham, Klopp’s Reds also crashed out of the FA and League Cups.
They have a chance to salvage their season via the Europa League, however, with Liverpool to face Dortmund in a mouth-watering quarter-final this month, with the first leg at Signal Iduna Park next week.
Ricken, who was born in Dortmund, spent his entire professional career with his hometown club and is now head of its youth academy, naturally hopes his former side will prevail and reach the semi-finals.
But the non-playing member of Germany’s 2002 World Cup squad remains confident Klopp will arrest Liverpool’s flagging fortunes.
“The problem at this point in time is his team is not as good as the team (he built) in Dortmund,” Klopp told a gathering of journalists at Borussia Dortmund’s headquarters in Germany on Friday.
“But when he moved from Mainz to Dortmund, it was the same.
“Some older players had to leave. For example we had the oldest defence in the Bundesliga and Jurgen Klopp transferred (Mats) Hummels and (Neven) Subotic in, who were 19 at that time.
“After one or two years he changed the whole team, (so) it’s very important to be calm in Liverpool.
“Sometimes the results are good, and often they lose matches nobody thinks they will lose, but Jurgen Klopp will improve the players that are in Liverpool and he will get some new players.
“This season is very difficult, but the next one, two or three seasons, I think Liverpool will be very successful.
“But I hope not this season, especially in the games against Dortmund!”
Ricken was asked what he felt was the greatest strength of the German manager, who secured two Bundesliga titles and a Champions League final defeat to Bayern Munich during his time in Dortmund.
“His eye for talent and also his ability to develop players from a talent to a professional player,” Ricken replied.
“Marcel Schmelzer is a good example. He played in our second team and nobody thought that he could become a professional player, but Jurgen Klopp saw something (in him) and said ‘he’s so great’.
“He substituted him for (former Brazilian defender) Dede, a living legend here in Dortmund, and then Marcel Schmelzer became a national team player.
“That’s one of Klopp’s great abilities and there are lots of other examples. Mario Gotze was a great player, but Klopp made him better and better, and Subotic and Hummels (were the same).
“He can improve players.”
Ricken was also quizzed over whether Klopp was likely to raid his former club for talent to boost his new regime in Liverpool.
Klopp has been linked with a number of German players, notably former Dortmund star Mario Gotze and FC Cologne defender Jonas Hector.
“Of course it’s possible, but I think the friendship between (Dortmund sporting director) Michael Zorc, Hans-Joachim Watzke our CEO and Jurgen Klopp is so great that he won’t ask a player to come to Liverpool without speaking to them,” Ricken said.
“Maybe there is a player here in Dortmund’s second team and Jurgen Klopp wants him and wants to pay some dollars or Euros, it might be possible, yes.”