LIVERPOOL, Nov 2 — Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp today downplayed the significance of Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone’s refusal to shake hands after their last Champions League match, insisting he had nothing but respect for his opposite number.
Liverpool beat Atletico 3-2 in Madrid last month, with Simeone appearing to snub Klopp’s attempted handshake after the game, sprinting down the tunnel instead with the German coach waving behind him.
“I respect a lot what he is doing,” Klopp told a news conference ahead of the reverse fixture at Anfield tomorrow.
“I said it before and after the game... we don’t know each other well, but I couldn’t respect him more. The things he’s doing at Atletico and how long he’s been doing it is absolutely exceptional.”
Simeone has since made clear he never shakes hands with his opposite number after games and meant no disrespect to Klopp.
“If I’d have known he doesn’t do it, and I didn’t know, then I wouldn’t even have tried it,” Klopp said. “I tried it and then I was waving or whatever. That was not necessary from me. I was really not happy with that.
“Now I know he doesn’t want to do it after the game, it’s no problem. Before the game we shook hands actually so we’ll do that probably before this game as well, but after the game no.
“It’s fine. And then we all can go home happily at least in that department but in between the two handshakes there’s a very important game for us and that’s what I’m much more concerned about.”
Klopp said he expected an intense, physical battle at Anfield, where a win would seal group leaders Liverpool’s progress to the knockout rounds.
Atletico are second in Group B, level on four points with third-placed Porto and five adrift of Liverpool, with AC Milan at the bottom having lost all of their games so far.
“Since Diego’s there, (Atletico) have never played a friendly game so we should not expect that,” Klopp added.
“We were so happy last year when we qualified for the Champions League because we knew we would have nights like this. And now a night like this is coming, we should celebrate it in a football way together with our supporters.”
Naby Keita will miss the match after injuring his hamstring, but fellow midfielders Fabinho and Thiago Alcantara have rejoined training and are in contention to play. — Reuters