Exclusive Interview: Jurgen Klopp’s assistant ‘The Brain’ opens up on everything Liverpool

Zeljko BuvacGETTY

Zeljko Buvac has been an integral part of Jurgen Klopp's journey as a manager

It is the morning after the titanic struggle with Arsenal and Zeljko Buvac, whom the Liverpool manager credits with being one of the tenets of his success, is among the first to arrive at the training ground.

“I think that there are titles which are not as positive as this one,” says Buvac with a smile. “If anyone says you are ‘the brain’ then you take that, but I am not someone who gets into the public and says, ‘I am this’.”

Clutching a coffee in a plastic cup there has already been an initial discussion with Klopp, but the analysis of the 3-3 draw comes later, together with Peter Krawietz (‘The Eyes’), and it is then that the deliberating begins for the visit of Manchester United.

Buvac will speak his mind. He and ‘Kloppo,’ as he invariably calls him, were team-mates at German club Mainz where they struck an agreement that their careers would forever remain interwoven.

The pecking order says manager and assistant, yet Klopp regards Buvac as an equal. They truly are inseparable.

“As players there was a direct connection straight away,” he said. “Kloppo as a player was the same as he is as a manager. His character was the same, he wants to win, you cannot help but like him.

“Both of us were looking to become managers and we promised each other, ‘If I am the first manager, I will take you and if you are the first manager you will take me.’ He came first. It is a friendship.

“Before every training session and after every training session we talk together. Before every match and after every match we talk.

“In training I am observing and watching and if I have the feeling something needs to be changed I will speak to Kloppo. We discuss it, ‘Why should this be? Why that?’ But it is a decision we come to together. That is the way in training and that is the way in the match.

“If it is necessary, I get up from the bench and that is okay. I don’t need to ask. Together with Peter we have six eyes. You see more than if only one man is looking.”

That managerial break for Klopp came at Mainz in 2001 before moving onto Borussia Dortmund and it is difficult to imagine the dynamic being the other way round.

Klopp is forever a coiled spring on the touchline where Buvac appears calmer, although rival Premier League benches may disagree.

Buvac had visited his parents in his native Bosnia following the departure from Dortmund last summer when the call came outlining a new adventure. It says much that Klopp told Liverpool’s owners during negotiations he comes as part of a triumvirate.

“I was enjoying the sunshine, but I always knew that I could get a call from Kloppo if he had been contacted by an interesting club,” said Buvac, 54.

“Liverpool is more than an interesting club that is clear. I knew that after Dortmund this was a good step as the next club. I don’t think he needed a long time to think about Liverpool. You must say ‘yes’.

Zeljko Buvac Jurgen KloppGETTY

Assistant manager Zeljko Buvac and Jurgen Klopp overseeing Liverpool's training at Melwood

“Liverpool has big tradition and the feeling was that with hard work you can create maybe a new era, new successes. That was part of the attraction.”

How hard is becoming clear. Buvac studies a sheet which shows Liverpool sit top of a mini-league of the so-called Big Six (Arsenal, City, United, Chelsea, Tottenham are the others), one which jars with their ninth place overall.

The inconsistency is obvious.

“It is just paper you know,” he said, brushing aside the significance of the mini-league. “The squad knows it is able to win against these clubs but it is important to have the same mentality to play against all the teams.

“The next step is to play as well as against Manchester City or Arsenal as against West Bromwich, for example, to play good consistently. And you need a little bit of luck and no injuries!

“It is difficult to compare Liverpool and Dortmund, but when we went there it was 2008 the quality of the players was not as high as it is in Liverpool now.

“There were very young players. Subotic was 19, Hummels was 19. We took these young guys in the centre of defence where before we had Robert Kovac and Christian Worns, who were both experienced. The quality of the players here in Liverpool is higher.”

The perception of their time at Dortmund is often of a sustained ascent. There were bumps in the road – a 5-1 defeat home defeat in Der Klassiker against a Bayern Munich side coached by Louis van Gaal being one.

Yet the following season, 2010-11, Dortmund won in Munich for the first time in 20-years en route to a league and cup double. It is a familiar theme in their career: pain followed by triumph.

“You learn by experiences like this,” said Buvac, whose focus when not on football has been getting to grips with English and driving on the left hand side.

“When you are always at the top you do not learn as much as when there are valleys and mountains. You don’t want to go through it, but it can be helpful.

“But even after a defeat the next day Kloppo is 99 per cent positive. He does not play that role. That is his character. He is not an actor.

“You can see in his face anything that he is feeling in his heart.”

And it was in those moments that ‘the brain’ gained his knowledge, too.

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Schlüsseldienst Berlin

Love this place. I’ve been here at least 1/2 a dozen times with friends from work. This time I brought my 7 year old son. He loves it.