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Jurgen Klopp says Guardiola “made me a better manager” – but there’s “no rivalry”

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Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp paid a glowing tribute to Manchester City counterpart Pep Guardiola ahead of what could be the pair’s final meeting, anointing him the best manager he has ever seen.

The pair have shared many memorable battles over the past decade, first in the Bundesliga and then at the vanguard of the Premier League, and face one last top-of-the-table clash at Anfield.

With Klopp leaving Merseyside at the end of the season, only the possibility of a meeting in the latter stages of the FA Cup could now add another chapter, leaving the German to reflect on their long battle for supremacy.

While Liverpool have a slender one-point lead going into the match and Klopp boasts a marginally superior head-to-head record in their 29 contests together, with 12 wins versus 11, he happily places the former Barcelona man as peerless in the modern game.

“Pep is the best manager in the world. I have a really good life being not even close to that,” he said.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - Saturday, November 25, 2023: Manchester City's manager Josep 'Pep' Guardiola speaks with Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp after the FA Premier League match between Manchester City FC and Liverpool FC at the City of Manchester Stadium. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

“I don’t know how could I judge managers from the past but in my lifetime he’s the outstanding manager. I see excellence when I face it and Pep is definitely that.

“I was never frustrated, I knew round about 3,000 footballers who were better than me and I still loved the game; the others who were better than me, I didn’t know them.

“I just got told I have a positive record against Pep… I have no clue how that happened to be honest.

“It made me a better manager trying to find solutions. I know I’m quite good at what I’m doing as well, I don’t want to sound like, ‘Oh my God, I’m just happy to be here’, but you ask me about the best: he’s the best. Bam.”

While lavish with his praise for Guardiola, Klopp did take issue with any negative characterisation of the duo’s relationship, insisting they were bound by similarities rather than differences.

“I don’t feel it’s a rivalry, but I understand why you call it that,” he said.

“There’s no rivalry. We are both really competitive, we both want to win football games and we are both blessed with really good players in our teams.

“If we meet in the future it will be full of respect. We have not had the opportunity to meet each other more often, but we would have a lot to talk about. Definitely.

“On Sunday it’s not about me having that opportunity (to beat him) for the last time – it’s not sure anyway, maybe in the FA Cup we could meet again. It’s a big game. City games always were, always will be probably.”

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - Saturday, November 25, 2023: Liverpool's (L-R) Luis Díaz, Ryan Gravenberch, Darwin Núñez and Cody Gakpo form a defensive wall during the FA Premier League match between Manchester City FC and Liverpool FC at the City of Manchester Stadium. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Klopp rejected the notion that the match was effectively a title decider, with 10 more games still to play and Arsenal also firmly in the trophy hunt, but could not hide its significance.

“I don’t know who is playing on the weekend in the other leagues but it’s probably the game of the weekend and being able to be part of that is massive.

“Title race decider? I don’t know who thought that up. It’s really early, we could go through all the possible scenarios.

“Whatever the result, I don’t think anybody should open the bottles of champagne.”

Liverpool have a major doubt over defender Ibrahima Konate after he came off injured in the second half of Thursday’s 5-1 Europa League win at Sparta Prague, meaning Jarell Quansah could get the biggest start of his career alongside Virgil van Dijk.

Klopp could also welcome Mohammed Salah back to his starting XI, with the Egypt forward making a timely return from the bench in midweek.