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Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Emile Heskey, Jason McAteer on Liverpool, Jürgen Klopp and the ‘holy grail’

From bringing the Anfield experience at the doorstep of every Liverpool fan to the Premier League title challenge to Jürgen Klopp's man-management ability — the pair revelled in all.

Written by Debkalpa Banerjee , Rahul Asnani | New Delhi | Updated: March 14, 2020 5:46:05 pm
Emile Heskey (L) and Jason McAteer (R) at the India Gate. (Special Arrangement)

Despite a dip in form of late — losing three out of their last four in all competitions — after a 44-match unbeaten streak, Liverpool are on the brink of history as they are just 12 points away from their first league title in thirty years.

When Emile Heskey, who was at the club for four years till 2004, was asked about his observations about manager Jürgen Klopp and the team, he credited it to the emphasis on teamwork and how the Reds have become a well-oiled machine.

“I think Jürgen has really emphasized on the team and not unsung heroes. You take out one cog and put in another and it will work smoothly,” Heskey who was promoting Liverpool’s annual roadshow ‘LFC World’ said.

Jason McAteer, a former Liverpool midfielder in the mid-1990s, opined that Klopp was the best man-manager. “I think he is the best man-manager out there. Tactically he’s very astute as well. He’s the best at getting players to perform at their highest level for long periods. He knows when players are mentally tired, not just physically. He takes them out of the team but he makes them still feel a part of it. I think that’s the secret,” said the 48-year-old former Ireland international.

With a mix of youth and experience, one would struggle to pinpoint a particular beacon of light for Liverpool. While both men raved about the self-sufficiency of the team, the remarkable performance of captain Jordan Henderson piqued their interests.

“To captain Liverpool is one thing, but to captain after Steven Gerrard is something else. When Jürgen came in, he was the perfect model for the manager to have. Jordan should win the PFA Player of the Year. He certainly gets my vote,” said McAteer.

The UEFA Champions League trophy and the UEFA Super Cup trophy were in display at the briefing. (Express Photo)

Heskey too had high praise for the captain, “I think Jordan Henderson has been playing out of his skin.”

The former World Cup-star also commented on forward Roberto Firmino and his role in the side, “I like watching him play. Because, as well, it fits into the way the other two (Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mané) want to play. He draws people out and gets the space on. I think everything just fits in perfectly when it comes to Bobby.”

Even with Klopp’s system — the tailor-made players, and the sheer doggedness of the team’s spirit working like a treat — McAteer believes there’s one more added ingredient to it.

“In sports, you need the rivalries, you need the opponents who push one another. The way Manchester City have set the bar so high, it’s why we are seeing Liverpool breaking records, leading the league by 20-odd points, and winning the Champions League,” he said. “Manchester City have played their part in the way Liverpool are at the minute, and I would like to thank them for that.”

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Adding to it, he indicated that the juggernaut nature of Liverpool can be credited to the team learning from their mistakes.

“You got to ask yourself, why didn’t we win the title last year? Because sometimes, you don’t win matches by playing flamboyantly for the whole of 90 minutes. Now, we are a little bit pragmatic — shifting from 4-3-3 to 4-2-3-1 at times — which has led to so many late goals, so many 1-0s, and that’s how great teams get over the line. It’s not always about winning 4-0 or 5-0. The Premier League is like the holy grail and I came very close with Roy Evans in the 1990s. But we didn’t and it still hurts,” he added.

Heskey took a trip down memory lane as well when asked about his 22-year senior career, spanning from 1994 to 2016, and the reason for his longevity. “Probably a desire to keep learning and keep on performing. I never stopped learning from the younger lads, even when I was finishing up at Bolton. I went from one era to another, so I was always learning and always willing to learn.”

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