Why high profile referee accused Jurgen Klopp of being “sarky” and “strange”

Jurgen Klopp is no stranger when it comes to controversy with referees, and we can add one more name to the list of those the Liverpool manager has a history with.

While he has calmed down this season, Klopp has been known in the past for his visible emotions on the Anfield touchline, which has sometimes taken the form of exasperation with the officials.

During his time at Borussia Dortmund, he was just as animated, if not more, and came across one of England’s most high profile referees, Mark Clattenburg, in the Champions League.

In April 2014, Klopp’s Dortmund have just been beaten 3-0 by Real Madrid at the Bernabeu, in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final.

In his book, Whistle Blower, with quotes via the Mirror, Clattenburg explained how after the match, Madrid’s “Marcelo and his wife ask for a picture.”

This is slightly strange, you might think.

DAP2PA Head coach of the Bundesliga team BVB Borussia Dortmund Juergen Klopp (L) and Ralf Rangnick (Image; dpa picture alliance archive / Alamy Stock Photo)

Klopp thought so too, and Clattenburg recalled his comments: “Klopp walked past just as the photo was being taken, ‘Oh, so that’s why we got beat is it?’ he said.

“He was not being humorous or friendly, he was being sarky.”

While we don’t know the full context behind the referee’s relationship with Marcelo, in this instance it is hard to blame Klopp for his bemusement at the situation.

Clattenburg didn’t help matters by replying to the coach: “‘You’re lucky you only got beat 3-0.’

“The fact we were in Madrid probably gave me a bit of bravado to answer back. It annoyed me when managers could not be gracious in defeat.”

Klopp didn’t forget the incident and Clattenburg went on to write about a meeting with the coach three years later, at Anfield.

In January 2017, the Reds drew 1-1 against Chelsea, and before the match Klopp “stared at” Clattenburg for “about 30 seconds,” the referee remembers.

He explained: “Managers rarely came into my dressing room for the exchange of team sheets an hour before kick-off. On this occasion, Klopp came in with Jordan Henderson.

“It was bizarre, he stood and stared at me for about 30 seconds. I just stared back at him. I could see Jordan was a bit like, ‘What the hell’s going on?’

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Tuesday, January 31, 2017: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp embraces Chelsea's manager Antonio Conte after the 1-1 draw during the FA Premier League match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

“Did Klopp think I was stupid? I was not going to be bullied by him. He left and all I thought was ‘What a strange bloke.'”

Clattenburg went to Saudi Arabia soon after, but his exchange of words with Klopp didn’t end there. In 2021, the Liverpool manager responded to comments from the ex-referee claiming he was trying to play mind games like Alex Ferguson.

The German replied: “When people like Mark Clattenburg speak like they speak, it always says much more about them than it could ever say about me.

“If he would be in my situation he obviously would play mind games – unfortunately, I have no skills for playing mind games, that’s my problem.”