Manager outbursts – are they justified?

It’s been quite a week for heated post-match conferences for managers of German teams. Admittedly, the managers didn’t reach the ‘Giovanni Trapattoni’ level (that’s the best way to measure an outburst) of anger but they have made their fair share of headlines for different reasons.

First of all we saw Gertjan Verbeek refuse to sit next to Christian Streich in the post-match press conference of his side’s 3-2 defeat at Freiburg, although this is not what we want to focus on; the real focus here lies on what external (i.e. non-football) reasons lie behind the outbursts of Pep Guardiola (although it was more of a teacher’s telling off) and Jürgen Klopp.

Let’s start in chronological order. In the post-match press conference of Bayern’s 1-1 draw at Old Trafford, Pep Guardiola had a tense moment with Guardian journalist Jamie Jackson after he, allegedly and according to the Catalan manager, had put words in his mouth about Manchester United’s tactics. Guardiola was annoyed at the question and stated regarding the quote that he “did not say that”.

His annoyance did not stop there as he immediately reproached the journalist for not looking at him while he was answering, with a tense back-and-forth dialogue following before they moved onto the next question, which many deemed as a lack of respect from Guardiola.

Now, one can look at this situation in two different ways: 1) Guardiola was particularly edgy after the draw (it’s not often that Bayern don’t get wins) and was on the defensive or 2) the journalist was looking for Guardiola to bite and the question had no substance. Guardiola’s stance in press conferences since his time at Barça has been mostly polite, almost too polite, showing levels of humility that can even become irritating, which is why his ‘outbursts’ are given more importance in the media.

His press conference before the first leg of the Champions League semi-final in 2011 against Real Madrid in which he called José Mourinho “the f**king boss” was most definitely the only time in which Pep has altered his usual speech, the difference being that what triggered his response back in 2011 were the quotes from his Portuguese counterpart, whereas this time it was the press.

The Guardian is considered as one of the UK’s best newspapers in terms of quality, especially in comparison to sensationalist tabloids like The Sun or The Mirror, which is why a question like that looking for the bite and the headline is uncharacteristic of such a publication. Jackson went onto say in a subsequent interview on Talksport Radio that Guardiola had seemed edgy for the whole press conference and the general gist of the interview implied that Guardiola was a bad loser.

Well, if Guardiola is a bad loser then perhaps Jackson is a bad journalist. The question posed had no substance to it as well as little relevance after the match. One cannot help but sense that there is quite a bit of hidden (or not so hidden) jealousy from the English press of Guardiola’s success and that, added to his rivalry with Mourinho, a man venerated in the British Isles, translates into small digs from the English media whose questions and publications about or to the former Barcelona manager leave a lot to be desired from a journalistic point of view, merely waiting for a small slip-up to go for the jugular or, in this case, a reaction. Well played Mr. Jackson, you got what you wanted.

On the other hand, we have Jürgen Klopp. However, in this case, his reaction came to a question made by ZDF presenter Jochen Breyer. Breyer asked Klopp whether “the thing (meaning the tie) was through”, a question which clearly angered Klopp, who replied that how could he get paid for his job and stand there saying it was over.

That set the tone for the interview (if that’s what it can be called) and Breyer’s embarrassing false laughter did nothing to dispel the mood, as Oliver Kahn stood there with a look on his face of “here we go again”, since the former Bayern goalkeeper had had a heated exchange with Klopp on the same programme after the defeat against Zenit just two weeks before. Going back to the post-Madrid chat with Breyer, Klopp added that “stupid questions get stupid answers” to which he proceeded to ask if the interview was over.

He then chucked the microphone on the table, shook Kahn’s hand (“Super today, us two!” making reference to their previous encounter) and patted Breyer’s back before storming off. And still, more uncomfortable laughter by Breyer. Enough to make you cringe.

Again, we ask ourselves the same question: what was the point of that question? Everybody knows that managers, especially managers like Klopp, are never-say-die managers who will never admit to defeat in the same way that they will never admit to victory, like he did when Borussia beat Madrid 4-1 last season.

Asking Klopp that question after the frustration of a 3-0 defeat, minutes after the final whistle, is poor journalism from Breyer, the reason being that a reaction like that from a passionate man like Klopp was to be expected, especially after the Kahn ‘incident’. Everybody in their right minds, and probably Klopp too, knows that the tie is over and that unless a miracle happens Madrid will go through to the semi-finals. However, asking him that on live television so soon after the final whistle is a waste of TV air time and breath.

Breyer could have conducted the interview a little bit better and been smarter by asking him relevant questions that would have given the spectator an insight into what Klopp thought of the game – basically the whole point of post-match interviews. Instead, Breyer tried to be clever and it backfired heavily.

Should ZDF be angry at Klopp for storming off or at Breyer for asking a stupid question and ruining an interview with the manager of Borussia Dortmund? My opinion edges towards the latter, because anyone who knows anything about Jürgen Klopp could have foreseen the reaction; perhaps not as strong as walking out but something along those lines.

Then again, the video went viral on YouTube and everyone was talking about it but, again, is this good journalism? Is Klopp being a bad loser as many rival fans implied all over social media? In this case it’s a bit more understandable than Guardiola’s case due to the result and the manager’s character and it has nothing to do with being a bad loser but rather with having to endure pathetic and irrelevant questions after a low personal moment.

It would be something like a man getting sacked from his job and someone asking him “so, you can’t pay the rent now can you? You’ll get evicted” or “well, now you can’t pay child maintenance and you’ll lose shared custody of your son. A shame, isn’t it?”. Okay maybe not as drastic as that but you get the point; the reaction wouldn’t be all smiles. Spite someone and they will bite back and when you have teeth like Klopp’s the bite is even bigger.

All in all, they were two ideal situations for the media, since two high-profile managers were involved in controversial situations with the media itself that has given their respective publications or channels plenty of attention from the public. This brings us to think about what role does the media have in pre or post-match conferences: are they looking for insight and information or merely for a bite and a headline?

A lot of people like controversy and nothing better than seeing the Guardiolas and Klopps of this world lose their cool but for real football fans who want to hear the manager’s impressions (Klopp’s more than Guardiola’s usual humility lecture, I imagine) it’s a shame because it leaves us with nothing other that smug journalists laughing away a situation that benefits nobody but themselves.

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Aleix Gwilliam

Is a 27-year-old living in Barcelona who gets more pleasure from watching German lower-league football than from going to watch his hometown team at the Camp Nou every other week. Passionate about European football, its history and culture, you can follow him on Twitter at @AleixGwilliam

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