The esteemed Anfield boot room belongs to another era but was still in existence when Liverpool won the league on 28 April 1990. In Ronnie Moran and Roy Evans, Kenny Dalglish’s assistants, it also housed members of the brains trust assembled by Bill Shankly. It would be another three years before the wrecking ball demolished rich tradition for the sake of a bigger press room.
Repeated conquests of English and European football were plotted in that confined space where Bob Paisley, Joe Fagan, Reuben Bennett and Tom Saunders, as well as Moran and later Evans, sat on baskets surrounded by rows of boots and posters of topless pin-ups. The latter would be obscured by an open cupboard door or a strategically placed jacket when a photographer was allowed access to the inner sanctum. Sometimes they forgot.
It was also the place where opponents were coerced into unwittingly divulging tactical secrets or information on a transfer target over a few post-match whiskies. Expert analysis was undertaken inside the minds of a former Desert Rat (Paisley) or headmaster (Saunders) and not university-educated sports scientists. Another era indeed.
Today, Liverpool’s website lists 21 members of Jürgen Klopp’s first-team staff and that does not include scouts, players’ liaison Ray Haughan, a replacement for Andy Massey as club doctor or part-time staff such as the specialist throw-in coach, Thomas Grønnemark, and the performance psychologist, Lee Richardson. There are more than 40 in total. But some things have not changed in the 30 years between titles 18 and 19. The importance of the team behind the team, especially.
© Provided by The Guardian The Liverpool manager, Jürgen Klopp, and the rest of the Melwood staff celebrate with the Club World Cup after the victory over Flamengo in December 2019. Photograph: Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images
Lockdown video calls provided a glimpse inside Klopp’s home in Formby and further confirmation of how highly the Liverpool manager values the collective. On one of the walls built for Steven Gerrard, bought by Brendan Rodgers and now rented by Klopp stands a framed Liverpool “6” shirt marking last season’s Champions League triumph in Madrid. Underneath is a photograph of Klopp holding the European Cup while flanked by his backroom team. In adding the Uefa Super Cup, Club World Cup and Premier League title to the recent roll of honour Liverpool have rekindled the finest boot-room tradition of all – consistent success. Some of the cast members who made it possible include:
© Photograph: John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images Jürgen Klopp celebrates last season’s Champions League triumph with his backroom staff: (left to right) Peter Krawietz, Pepijn Lijnders, Andreas Kornmayer, Klopp, John Achterberg and the goalkeeping coach Jack Robinson.
A nonexistent public profile suggests otherwise but the 40-year-old from Southampton is part of the most important triumvirate at Liverpool with Klopp and the Fenway Sports Group president, Mike Gordon. Edwards does not give interviews but what a story he could tell, with Liverpool’s transformation from wasteful spenders to profitable world, European and English champions at its heart. The club’s first sporting director was a right-back for Peterborough reserves but released without making a senior appearance. After graduating with a degree in business management and informatics, plus a brief spell teaching IT, he joined Portsmouth as a Prozone analyst under Harry Redknapp. He followed Redknapp to Tottenham where his work as the head of performance analysis impressed Damien Comolli.
© Provided by The Guardian Jürgen Klopp (centre) with the sporting director, Michael Edwards (left), and the FSG president, Mike Gordon, after the Liverpool manager signed a contract extension in December 2019. Photograph: John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images
In 2011, he followed Comolli to Anfield, initially as the head of performance and analysis, then director of technical performance, then technical director and finally sporting director. The ascent has not always been smooth – disagreements with Rodgers led to mistakes and criticism of Liverpool’s “transfer committee” – of which Edwards was part, but he has earned the absolute trust of Klopp and Gordon by pushing for the signing of Mohamed Salah, for example, negotiating Philippe Coutinho’s £142m sale to Barcelona and overhauling the club’s scouting and analysis departments. Liverpool’s new-found reputation for buying and selling extremely well is down to Edwards.
“The Eye”, as Klopp dubbed Liverpool’s assistant manager, became the German’s longest-serving coach after Klopp parted ways with Zeljko Buvac in 2018. Their relationship began at Mainz, where Krawietz was born and started his career in football as a video analyst. Klopp was playing for Mainz and, impressed by the one-to-one sessions conducted by the new analyst, plus his thorough preparation work on opposition tactics, promoted Krawietz to chief scout when he took over as manager in 2001.
Klopp took the chief scout with him to Borussia Dortmund and on again to Liverpool, where he remains in charge of analysis and video preparation. Krawietz was largely responsible for the huge improvement in Liverpool’s threat from set pieces from 2018‑19 and is a highly innovative coach. “Even now I am still amazed at the things he spots during a game,” Klopp said. “He’s always been essential to me but his personal development since arriving at Liverpool has been outstanding. He is so smart, so insightful and so important to us.”
Klopp was devastated when the popular Dutch coach left to manage Nijmegen in January 2018 and immediately invited him back when he was dismissed four months later, having failed to win promotion to the Eredivisie. Both reactions underline how highly Klopp regards the acumen and passionate opinions of the 37-year-old.
Lijnders’s grounding was at academy level with PSV Eindhoven and Porto, where he spent seven years developing the Portuguese club’s youth system. In 2014, he joined Liverpool as under-16s coach and then became the important link between the academy and Melwood as first-team development coach.
He was part of the backroom team when Rodgers was sacked and one of the few senior coaches retained by Klopp. Lijnders and Krawietz were instrumental in the tactical shift that followed the 2018 Champions League final defeat. The style that enabled Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mané to flourish en route to Kiev was not sustainable over the duration of a Premier League campaign, they decided, and so defensive solidity and restricting space to the opposition took priority the following season.
The criticism that flowed the way of Liverpool’s goalkeeping coach when Simon Mignolet and Loris Karius were toiling between the sticks has ceased since the arrival of Alisson. Rightly so, as the former Tranmere keeper was instrumental in a signing that, along with Virgil van Dijk, has had a transformational effect.
Achterberg first spotted Alisson’s rich potential as a 20-year-old playing for Internacional in Brazil following a tip-off from the former Liverpool keeper Doni. Five years of extensive scouting and profiling were rewarded in 2018 when Liverpool made the Brazilian briefly the most expensive goalkeeper in history – £65m well spent. The 48-year-old Dutchman, who joined Liverpool as the reserve-team coach in 2009 before being promoted by Kenny Dalglish two years later, has been credited by Klopp with Alisson’s continued rise.
Klopp showed the importance he places on marginal gains shortly after his arrival at Anfield by appointing Nemmer as the club’s first full-time head of nutrition. Liverpool, like most clubs, had employed part-time consultants. Nemmer, who worked with Germany’s youth teams before spending three years at Bayern Munich with Pep Guardiola, has had such an impact on players’ eating habits that Adam Lallana said he some consider her a maternal figure.
She devises diets based not only around individual players’ body fat and metabolic rates but their position on the pitch, their different cultures and body types. She installed a juicing station in the dressing room at Melwood and a kitchen in the home dressing room at Anfield, organises meals for the team bus and away trips – which can change according to different time zones and climates – and even provides cooking lessons for players and their families. During lockdown, Nemmer helped players maintain their diets by sending daily menus and recipes via WhatsApp.
© Provided by The Guardian Mona Nemmer devises individual diets based on players’ specific make-up and needs. Photograph: Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC/Getty Images
Like Nemmer, the head of fitness and conditioning was also lured from Bayern Munich during Klopp’s first summer at Anfield. The sports science graduate had spent 15 years with his hometown club, where Klopp believes Kornmayer’s work was a key factor in Bayern beating his Borussia Dortmund team to the Champions League and Bundesliga titles during their 2012‑13 treble-winning campaign.
That influence has continued at Liverpool, who are renowned for scoring and winning points from the 75th minute onwards. Kornmayer is the “drill sergeant”, according to Liverpool’s manager, who devises the individual training programmes that players follow at Melwood, while on holiday, while recovering from injury and during lockdown.