Just a minute from seeing his Borussia Dortmund side take the UEFA Champions League final to extra time in May, Jürgen Klopp is ready to start anew as they bid to go one better.
Having lifted two straight Bundesliga titles before getting to Wembley last May, Klopp and company won plenty of friends and admirers – not least the inspirational and enlightening coach whose sheer weight of personality seems to be driving the club's resurgence.
Dortmund's 2012/13 campaign – topping a group containing Real Madrid CF, whom they would beat in the semis, AFC Ajax and Manchester City FC before a dramatic quarter-final comeback against Málaga CF – was finally ended by FC Bayern München. However, Dortmund are now considered true contenders for the first time since their 1997 triumph and subsequent run to the last four.
The 46-year-old Klopp spoke to UEFA.com about last season, his coaching philosophy and Dortmund's 2013/14 bid – with SSC Napoli, Olympique de Marseille and Arsenal FC awaiting in another tough group.
UEFA.com: What stands out from last season's run?
Jürgen Klopp: There were great moments, with the matches against Málaga and Madrid. Our group stage was just unbelievable, we played some great matches. Every game was just unbelievable – even Shakhtar Donetsk in the last 16, we played very well against them, they were a strong opponent who had troubled Chelsea and other big clubs. So every single game was really fantastic and we made it into the final. But in the final we just didn't have enough power in our bodies. We lacked the power to play our best football over 90 minutes.
UEFA.com: How did you do it?
Klopp: Well, first of all, my colleagues and I are no magicians. We cannot make good players out of bad players. Or very good or excellent. We can't do that. The first point is to get the right players, try to recognise the potential, try to develop it and turn it into skills with the help of everyone involved. That's the most important thing. That's how you can find success somehow.
Generally I think we can make a team better with the way we work, with the way we train ... but they have to be good already, that's one condition! And then a playing philosophy that reflects your mentality, that reflects the club, that gives a direction to follow. That means taking the passion to its limits. Borussia Dortmund don't just play for a result, Borussia Dortmund means an experience.
UEFA.com: Can you do it again, or go one better, this season?
Klopp: We haven't reached our peak in terms of performance yet, but if we look at our results [last season] then we almost achieved it. I don't think you should compare one team with another similar team, because we are just not the same team. We still don't have a clue how well the team can play, we still have to show that.
If you look at the results, then you can't really achieve a lot more than reaching the final – but you only reach the final by also being lucky in some situations. No team makes it to the final just because they're the best and strongest team. And we're certainly not the best team and therefore we needed a bit more luck. You need a big heart, great desire, and then we can make it a long way – we did. But we might also be knocked out in the group stage.
This is the Champions League, the quality of the other teams is just too high. So we want to try to develop and at some point in the season play the best football this team can play. I still can't tell what it will look like, but we will learn more about it day by day, and hopefully one day we can say: that is what it should look like.
UEFA.com: But you have already come a long way ...
It would have been crazy if we had won the Champions League last season. I think we would have lost our minds thinking about how it could be possible. Only a few lads thought they would become Bundesliga players, and five years later they managed to become domestic champions twice and win the German Cup once. And to have then become Champions League winners, that would have been an incredible story – I would have loved to watch that story if it was a movie. A story like, I don't know, the Cleveland Indians [Major League], so the Dortmund Indians. But it really would have been very crazy. So that is why everything is OK, and still very special. But it's not over yet – there is still a lot of time for us to win even more.
©UEFA.com 1998-2016. All rights reserved.