Mario Gotze has paid tribute to the influence of Jurgen Klopp on him as a young player, and revealed a brilliant story of when he recommended a hair transplant.
Klopp gave Gotze his debut at Borussia Dortmund in 2009, in a 0-0 draw with his former club Mainz, before promoting him to the first team on a full-time basis.
The forward went on to hone his craft as Klopp’s protege, winning the Bundesliga twice with Dortmund, but left his mentor heartbroken as he decided to join Bayern Munich as a 20-year-old in 2013.
Now 26 and back at his old club, Gotze has remained vocal in his praise of the Liverpool manager, reflecting in his column for The Player’s Tribune how his “outstanding” coaching forced him to focus as a young player.
“He was my first manager, and he was the one who believed in me and gave me the chance to debut at 17 years old,” he wrote.
“It’s funny to see him now with Liverpool, because he’s such a natural guy in front of the media.
“He’s so authentic and he says whatever he wants. But I think most people just see the version of him standing on the touchline.
“There’s a very serious side as well. When I was 17 or 18, and not giving 100 percent in training, he would be so intimidating.
“He used to come running over and get right up in my face and start shouting at me.
“I can’t really translate from German perfectly, but you know how he talks, with his teeth grinding: ‘You have to have more passion! You have to give everything! Fuck! Come on!!!’.
“Then after training, he would be completely calm again, and he’d take you aside and say, ‘Mario, how are you? Let’s talk about life. What’s happening?’.
“He knew how to handle me. He was an outstanding coach, but his personality was the most important thing for me as a young player.”
With his big, white teeth and wild hair, Klopp has a very distinctive look, and explained his trip to get dental implants in an interview with Soccer AM in April.
But Gotze opted to focus on the 51-year-old’s hair transplant, and how he showed his “naturally funny” side when he bumped into his boss on his way to the clinic.
“I have never met a manager in football who was so naturally funny,” he continued.
“I will never forget the time I ran into him in Dusseldorf during the summer. He was going to see the specialist there to have his hair transplant done.
“This became big news in Germany, but he was so funny about it. He was smiling, telling me all about it—how cool it was going to look and everything.
“And then as he was leaving, he just gave me a wink and he said, ‘Mario, don’t worry, I will save the phone number’.
“I said, ‘what do you mean?’. He said, ‘the doctor’s number. I’ll save it for you. In a few years, you might need it’.
“Then he laughed and walked off. Most people would be embarrassed or not say anything, but he didn’t care at all.
“He was such a funny and positive influence on everyone around him.
“I have to thank him, because he gave me my start, and we achieved some great things together at Dortmund in those years.”