Jens Haas still remembers the first time he suspected his schoolmate Jurgen Klopp had the mind of a football manager.
They were 11 years old, being driven to play football for SV Glatten’s youth team, listening to their beloved Stuttgart’s latest Bundesliga match on the radio.
Young Jurgen began to analyse Stuttgart’s tactics – and suggested a couple of substitutions to alter the course of the game. Moments later, the commentator confirmed that Klopp’s suggested switches were being made.
Podcast: Klopp‘s journey – Black Forest hills to Anfield thrills
“I was amazed by his knowledge and understanding of the game,” recalls Haas. “Sometimes I thought he was already a coach.”
Klopp’s school days in the Black Forest offer the first clues as to how he grew up to become the ultimate modern football manager.
He is revered at Mainz, where he went from player to head coach overnight and took the club into the Bundesliga for the first time; at Dortmund, where he toppled Bayern Munich; and now at Liverpool, with a sixth European Cup and a march towards a 19th league title before coronavirus intervened.
Equally at ease with players, fans, executives and journalists, this smiling, gesticulating, bear-hugging coach seems to embody these clubs whose supporters demand an emotional investment from the man in control of their dreams.
There’s plenty more on Klopp’s personality and methods to come as we speak to some of the key figures in his journey to Anfield. The story begins in Glatten, the idyllic Black Forest spa village where he spent his formative years.
We meet Haas opposite the bakery, beside a fountain that flows into the River Glatt from which the village takes its name. This is where Jurgen, Jens and their SV Glatten team-mates would gather before travelling to away matches.
A short stroll along the river’s grassy banks, where the boys used to ride their bikes, takes you to Klopp’s childhood home, a large white-fronted house where his mother still lives, opposite the shiny new town hall and less than a corner kick away from the primary school that Klopp and Jens attended.