Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has elaborated on his decision to sign Schalke defender Joel Matip on a free transfer prior to Thursday's UEFA Europa League showdown opposite Bundesliga outfit Augsburg.
Speaking to the media ahead of the round-of-32, first-leg clash, Klopp spoke on why he decided to move for Matip, who will arrive on a free transfer this summer, per the Mirror's Hamish Mackay: "Matip is a very good player. I didn’t just get him because he’s from the Bundesliga. He’s a young guy who wants to develop and he already has a lot of experience. We’re really happy that we have him."
After Klopp joined Liverpool in October, it was inevitable that many of those rumoured targets linked to the manager's new team may hail from Germany—his area of expertise after managing in its top divisions for some 14 years.
Will Liverpool advance past Augsburg in the Europa League?
That being said, Reds fans can be excited to hear it was Matip's quality and not merely the ease of his situation that identified him as a target for Klopp, who is already going about improving his squad this summer.
Klopp became accustomed to leading Borussia Dortmund to the later stages of the UEFA Champions League in his last few seasons at the club, but he also knows the strength of the Europa League, saying: “We all know how important this competition is.”
The tactician confirmed he was last in Germany for Oktoberfest, and although he hasn't been away long, he did request a traditional pretzel for his dinner, according to German outlet DW Sports:
Klopp: "It's good to be back. I asked for pretzels for dinner because you can't really get them in England." #FCALFC— DW Sports (@dw_sports) February 17, 2016
Augsburg most likely won't be accommodating hosts in Thursday's first leg, but Liverpool can take heart in the fact Markus Weinzierl's men have failed to win any of their last four outings.
The Merseysiders' chief also added that his family connections mean he's comfortable in the area, but he's paying full respect to his upcoming opponents, per the official Bundesliga Twitter account:
Liverpool recently bounced back from a glum run of their own after ending a five-match winless run with a 6-0 demolition of Premier League relegation favourites Aston Villa.
Per Mackay, Klopp is no stranger to the gulf in calibre that separates Liverpool and Augsburg, too: "They’re different stories. Liverpool have a very big history in England and in Europe. If you go to Asia, Africa everyone knows Liverpool. With all respect to Augsburg they’re not so well known.”
While eighth-placed Liverpool endeavour to make the most of their Premier League campaign, a fine Europa League run could provide Klopp with a happy distraction in his maiden term at the club's helm.
Former rivals Augsburg sit between his team and a place in the competition's last 16, and Klopp is hoping his return to his native Germany will be a happy one this week.