Calmer Mourinho flatters Liverpool but still finds time to aim Klopp dig

Sport

José Mourinho made the point that he could speak only about himself and his own behaviour on the touchline rather than that of Jürgen Klopp, with whom he clashes on Thursday night at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

The way the Spurs manager tells it, he is glad to have calmed down, to have “felt an evolution on the emotional control”. It is fair to say Klopp has yet to undergo the conversion; he remains an energetic and sometimes volcanic presence. Mourinho called him out for it last month, after Spurs’ 2-1 defeat at Anfield, claiming Liverpool’s manager had gone beyond the bounds of acceptable exuberance.

“I felt an evolution in the calmer I am, the better I can read the game,” Mourinho said. “I’m even happy that my assistants look to the touchline sometimes for communication and I stay in a privileged position. I felt that I had to change my behaviour, which I’m really happy with.”

Cue the hand grenade. “What I can say is when I didn’t behave well I paid the price,” Mourinho said. “I paid the price in two ways: one was to see matches on TV in the dressing room and another price was big‑money fines. I feel that, for some of the other guys, it doesn’t happen the same. But, if the referee and the fourth official are there to do that job, I just hope they do that job and act the way they have to act.”

In other words, a memo to those in charge – do not allow Klopp to wield undue influence. Mourinho had a barb, too, for Thomas Tuchel, the new Chelsea manager, who he faces next Thursday in another big home game. Call it a welcome to England after Tuchel’s spell at Paris Saint-Germain. “You can’t compare the job at Paris Saint‑Germain with the job in the Premier League,” Mourinho said. “It is not possible to compare.”

Generally, though, Mourinho was in conciliatory mood, choosing to flatter Klopp and Liverpool rather than pile in as they endure a sticky Premier League run of three draws and two defeats in five matches. He did not want to give Klopp anything to pin up on the dressing-room wall.

Mourinho described Liverpool as having been “phenomenal” since their run to the Champions League final in 2018 – which they lost against Real Madrid – and said that Klopp and the team were now “the same or better”. He believes they could still retain the title they won last season and added that it was perfectly normal for a top English club to endure a downturn. All of them have done this season. “There are leagues where the champion is decided in pre-season,” Mourinho said. “This is not the Premier League.” Was he talking about Ligue 1 and PSG?

Mourinho was most interesting when he discussed the impact of Virgil van Dijk’s absence on Liverpool. The centre-half has been out since 17 October with knee ligament damage and there is no timeframe for his return.

“We can say what we want, we can try to hide things, but some players are special and they are impossible to replace,” Mourinho said. “Sometimes the defensive process has a relation with losing an attacking player and the attacking process also is related to a defensive player that you have lost. It is not a contradiction. A team very stable defensively is a team with much better conditions to attack and vice versa. They lost Van Dijk. It’s very, very important for them.”

Mourinho was asked about his relationship with Klopp and there were no frills about his answer: “I’m not a friend of Jürgen because I never had time with Jürgen. With Jürgen, it’s five minutes before or after match. He’s a colleague I respect. I don’t have any problems with him and I believe he’s the same with me.”

He was a little more dramatic when discussing his team news, saying he had more issues than the doubts over Ben Davies and Matt Doherty but refusing to divulge them. It is believed Sergio Reguilón has a muscle injury.

Mourinho, who remains without Giovani Lo Celso because of a hamstring problem, did say Dele Alli would not play because of an injury. He said he did not anticipate Alli leaving on loan or any other significant incoming or outgoing business before the deadline on Monday. “If something happened it would be a huge surprise for me.”