Jurgen does not think of himself a difficult man to be with.
In the past, his lovers have told him that he was excellent in bed and loyal, perhaps to his own detriment. His close friends praise his sense of humour and the public knows him as a normal person, someone you could have a beer with. While he has not been averse to the odd one-night stand since his divorce, he prefers to focus on family first and his pressing work as a football coach second. He is not as married to his job as say, Pep Guardiola.
But why else would Ulla have left him other than her losing his attention?
That was years ago, and right now he is going to replace Brendan Rogers at the head of Liverpool’s coaching staff for the rest of the 15/16 season.
Jurgen grins widely for the cameras.
Leaving Dortmund had been bittersweet. He and the club have been through ups and downs, and when he had resigned, the Schwartzgelben had been struggling to stay afloat. When he retires, and Jurgen knows he will retire eventually, he may look back on those days with fondness, remembering the good moments instead of the bad ones, but at present, his mind is filled with nervous thoughts.
What if he did not fit in with Liverpool and lead it to even more mediocrity than Dortmund?
“Good afternoon,” He says to the press, burying his anxiety underneath a jovial appearance. A few reporters smile encouragingly at him, though most seemed tired. Maybe when the honeymoon period had passed, they would be at his throats. “It’s great to be here.”
Liverpool was a floundering side.
Even though Jurgen was optimistic about the team’s future, he cannot build a competitive team without tearing away at its unstable foundation. It was a less-than-perfect squad, but the board brought him in because he had changed Dortmund, he could easily change Liverpool given time.
“I reckon you’re doing alright.”
Jurgen raises his eyebrows at his assistant coach, Željko. “Are you fucking with me?”
“We’re in two cups finals,” The Serbian shrugs emphatically. “The Europa Cup is still very prestigious.”
They are watching the players train from an office (the war room, someone had introduced it as) in the second storey while devising a game plan for the two remaining Premier League games. Jurgen wishes that he could do something more about the full-backs. They were basically defenceless in some areas.
“Liverpool needs to grow stronger before we can challenge for the title.”
”In five years at this rate. We’re already out of the top six,” His other assistant, Peter, says with a heavy exhale.
“Don’t be so pessimistic. We can definitely build a first-team that can challenge for the Premier League title in three years.”
”In what universe?”
”Yeah, have some faith, Željko. We’ll sell some players and get Mane from Southampton as well as Karius from Mainz.”
”I still don’t think we should have bought Karius.”
”He’s already onboard.”
”Hmph,” the Serbian huffs. “He’s still young.”
”I think the team needs some time to get used to pressing,” says Jurgen. “There has been a ridiculous amount of injuries this season.”
"Through no fault of your own," Peter reassures him, knowing that Jurgen took comments that his coaching style led to injured players or exacerbated present injuries to his heart. "You inherited a damaged squad. Milner and Coutinho are healing."
"We'll do better next year."
Jurgen just hopes he had not underestimated the ferocity of the English game.
Pep looks adorable in a thick tailored coat with its collar turned up. It was a charcoal piece, likely worth more than Jurgen's entire outfit today, and very impractical for a Merseyside winter.
"Pep!" He greets the other man, failing to hide his enthusiasm.
The Spaniard gives him a squinty-eyed look- Jurgen is a bit unhappy that he had not stopped being suspicious of him despite their developing friendship- and takes his one of his gloves off. Pep shakes his hand, his expression turning cool. His hand was cold.
Pep relaxes slightly when they enter his significantly warmer house. The man rubs his freezing hands together. Perhaps being from a tropical region like Catalonia makes him unused to the cold in England, especially in the North.
They have tea and talk about trivial things.
If someone had told him in 2009 when he was starting his first season at Dortmund that he would one day be casually chatting in his house with Pep Guardiola, era-defining player and treble-winning genius, he would hardly have believed them.
"You don't understand, you see," Pep is saying with narrowed eyes, gesturing in a visibly restrained way with his arms. "The players have to maintain the formation even when passing the ball. They have to keep it and remain calm. Don't attack too much, because you will lose it."
Jurgen feels himself rolling his eyes, a childish thing for him to do, but something about the City manager made him feel like a frustrated teenager again. "That is not the best way."
Pep glares at him, though there was no real heat in his gaze.
"So you direct your players to charge down the field and chase the ball? I like the way Liverpool plays, but you overwork your midfielders."
"I like the way your team plays, but you guys are too slow."
The other man appears to be personally offended, but Pep was a dramatic son-of-a-bitch so Jurgen did not mind.
"Well, I think when it comes to possession, it is better to be organised. The team that has the ball for a longer time, has a higher chance of winning."
Sometimes Jurgen cannot believe this man's stubbornness. Then again, he was also the same when it came to his tactical style.
"Freedom means that players have more opportunities to score. Push opponents until they make a mistake."
"Like I have- what I said before was that it is important to play elegantly. Liverpool plays like they are giving a show. The game is not purely about attack- you should know that. Dominating possession is different from pressing hard."
"It's working out nicely for City, I suppose. Didn't you come to the match with us against Stoke, just to watch interesting football?"
Pep sighs. He had looked younger, back in Germany, with fewer stress lines around his eyes and less grey in his beard. Halfway through his first season in England, and he seemed to have aged years.
"If only I had better players."
"Not everyone is a Lewandowski, Pique or even a Messi."
"Not even with ten Messis can I fix this side. My assistants tell me to be patient and that I need more time."
Jurgen can relate to that.
"Would you like to go outside for a walk?"
For a moment, he thought that Pep would decline, being so clearly uncomfortable with the cold, but the other man nods wearily.
"What are you thinking of?"
Jurgen tilts his head upwards to meet Pep's warm brown eyes.
"Just when you came to my house for the first time."
They are relaxing on a balcony somewhere in Spain, preparing to meet Pep's parents in Santepedor. Jurgen is determined to ensure it goes well, as well as any middle-aged man coming out to his more conservative parents would go.
The other man shudders theatrically. "It was so fucking cold."
"Shut up," Pep says with a carefree laugh as Jurgen pulls him down on top of him.
When they kiss, he tastes sweet summer wine on his tongue.
Jurgen was not sure what was going on with Pep.
Maybe it was something he said. What happened after that first kiss was something of a blur for him, but
"Bad day boss?" Hendo comes up to him, still limping slightly.
He should really cuff him or at least tell the captain to get back to physio- it was December, the most important month of the season- but he does not.
And Hendo had previously opened up to him about his own injury in training and his fears of not being well enough in time for Champions League matches. It was time for Jurgen to do the same. They were friends.
"I have some troubles."
Jurgen gives Hendo his best deadpan look.
The skipper grins cheekily. "Those are the worse."
"Should I call- make the first call?"
Hendo shrugs. "Depends on the context."
The other man goes on when Jurgen hesitates. "Aww shit, mate, did you ghost her?"
He was not familiar with that term. "Ghost?"
"You know, when you ignore someone's texts and calls without warning. Did you?"
Jurgen nods carefully.
"Was it a mutual ghosting?"
Well, it had been quiet on Pep's side as well. The Spaniard had not contacted Jurgen since that early morning when he had left to get back to Liverpool on time for training. He missed him.
"Ah," Hendo slaps Jurgen on the arm after a moment of silence. "That's tough."
"Should I call?"
"Nah. Shows your desperation. If you really liked this woman, you would've texted her the night after a date or something. Too late now."
But Jurgen really liked Pep. They clicked together off the pitch. He should have called. Or should Pep had called to show his interest? This must be one of those 'lost connections' his secretary was always yabbering about.
He hasn't been this attracted to anyone like this since Ulla.
And look how that turned out.
"Don't be so down, man. Plenty o' fish in the sea."
"Hmph," Jurgen smiles at Hendo, who returns it. "Get back to training."
They had a match with City to win.
Jurgen recalls watching matches starring Barcelona's Dream Team when he was in his thirties. He had known deep down that he would never play at that level. He was too old and had no original style of play.
Even then Pep Guardiola had been untouchable. Catalonia's son. Johan Cruyff's playmaker. Captain of a club that was more than a club for a whole group of people.
All he was to a thirty-something Jurgen was a serious figure in a red and blue shirt in the midfield.
Pep the player was literally out of his league.
It is another thing to know the man.
It is a steamy night at Signal Iduna Park when Jurgen shakes the new Bayern manager's hand for the first time.
Up close, Pep was not that perfect.
There was the beginning of silver in his beard and he had slapped Thiago on the pitch- not in malice, Jurgen hoped.
"Congratulations," the other man had mumbled, meeting his eyes for only a second before looking away. His handshake, however, is firm. "Great game."
Pep is gone before Jurgen can even say thank you.
Pep's mouth is quirked upwards and he does not look angry at all.
"I've pinned down the reason why Liverpool keeps defeating City," he says.
"And what is that?"
The other man pretends to be hurt- or at least that's what Jurgen thinks it is.
"I thought you would be more flattered, you counter-pressing monster."
"Says the man who won the league using mainly pressing."
Pep sips his wine. Jurgen hates that sour stuff and how people pretend to like it when it was really fermented grape. His glass remains untouched.
"Don't worry your head about it. I don't hold it against you."
"Hold winning against me? That is not nice."
"We'll just try harder next season."
"I like it when you do."
Jurgen's heart clenches suddenly. Pep was basically deeming him an equal when their trophy count stated otherwise. This makes him more motivated to prove him right.
The City coach is handsome, in his own way. His brown eyes are incredibly soft as he stares at Jurgen. The way his movements are small and neat is endearing to him. He might just be falling-
He is not particularly good at boundaries. Making them, or keeping them.
Jurgen is the one to suggest renting an apartment in between their two cities. He is the one to suggest having coffee together every other week at different cafes that his friends recommend. He is nearly always the one who initiates contact after they had established a more intimate relationship.
He senses Pep's caution and like the good partner he is, does not pry.
The other man is not good at showing affection. His smiles, rarer now because they were starting the 18/19 season soon, are like flashes of beautiful sunlight through parted clouds. Or something- Jurgen is no poet.
He tries to be even more affectionate in response.
Pep never once says "stop holding me" or "don't touch my things", but Jurgen suspects that there was something he was afraid of. Something that was making him hold back emotionally.
And Jurgen, who is frequently in control of his life, hates feeling helpless.
What more do you want from me?
He sometimes feels like screaming that at Pep's face when the other was being especially distant.
"-I think I'm in love you," he says one day on a whim, just to get Pep's reaction.
It does surprise Jurgen when he realises that he fully means the words. Surely what they had was more than just casual sex. He could see them having a future together.
Pep's reaction is to have no reaction.
In fact, the other man appears to have shut down, blinking once. Jurgen does not dare to move or speak, for fear of spooking him.
Doesn't he love me back?
Jurgen falls into relationships deeply and quickly. His serious courtships were short, intense affairs. Pep could be the opposite. He had probably spoken too soon.
Still, he waits with bated breath.
Pep looks nauseous to Jurgen, his eyes betraying his uncertainty. He could almost hear imaginary walls being built up between them.
He lets himself be kissed, loses himself in the warmth of Pep's lips against his, moaning into his mouth. Jurgen curses his libido all the way to their bedroom- this could not continue. He wanted an answer.
And then he does not think at all.
"Who are you thinking of?"
Ulla looks at him sharply when his answer comes too swiftly, blue eyes piercing. Marc had long since abandoned his father and ex-step-mother at the restaurant for more attractive sportswear stores in the shopping centre.
When they were married, she could see everything he was hiding with one look at his face.
"You can tell me the truth, Jurgen. It's good that you are moving on- thinking of something else besides football."
A not-so-subtle dig at him.
He rubs a hand across his face. "I don't know, Ulla. It's complicated."
"What is it about? Let me help."
"There's someone who hasn't responded."
"You two must be keeping a secret well. There's been nothing in the tabloids," At Jurgen's frown, his ex-wife adds hastily. "Not that I read them."
"I told them that I loved them."
"Them?" Ulla raises an eyebrow. Jurgen wonders if she knows his bisexuality. She might have suspected back then, he supposes.
"Yes. Anyway, I might have moved too fast."
"You go too fast for a lot of people. Just give them time and a little push the next time you see them."
"I have no idea what to do."
"You cannot smile your way into someone's heart, Jurgen."
He gives her his best smile, as if to say, why not?
"Stop it," Ulla is unamused. "You've always gotten what you wanted relationship-wise, haven't you?"
He shakes his head slowly.
"You can't demand love. It is not controllable or predictable. All you can do is wait. Do you remember our second date when we watched that romantic movie? If this person truly loves you, they will show it eventually."
Ulla laughs mirthlessly. "Fifty years and you are only just understanding what it means to love someone who might not be ready to love you back."
He shoots her a dark look.
She scoffs. "Don't look at me like that, I'm being honest."
Ulla is as unimpressed as she was when Jurgen handed her the divorce papers, though there is fondness in her eyes. "Well, we're tied together for better or for worse. I can't get rid of you at all."
"You are a mystery to me," Jurgen had declared to Pep less than a year ago, and he was only half-joking at the time.
Pep looks up from his book- something about poetry and Italian society that Jurgen knows he would find impossibly dull. "Oh really?"
"I don't know anything about you."
"Where is this coming from?"
"You don't tell me everything."
"We don't have to tell each other everything."
"It's our six-month anniversary."
Pep places his book on the coffee table.
"Happy anniversary, you old bastard."
Jurgen chuckles. "Did you forget?"
Pep gives him an innocent look.
"Anyway, I have a gift for you."
He presents it with a flourish. Jurgen had wrapped it in blue paper.
Pep sits up straighter on the couch to unwrap it. His mouth falls open when he sees the unmistakable shape of a dildo.
"Quina folla?" Pep points the bright-red silicone appendage at Jurgen like a sword. "Què- is this... a sex toy?"
Jurgen does not bother to mask his laughter.
"Your face-" Pep's left eye is twitching tellingly.
"Tell me why am I with you again?"
"You know you love me."
Before Pep has a chance to reply, Jurgen gives him his actual gift.
It is a lovely pair of platinum cufflinks and a Spanish cookbook he thought Pep would like.
Pep is not letting go of the dildo. He smiles crookedly.
"You old, dirty bastard."
Jurgen's grin grows wider.
"I have the perfect gift for you."
He has not spoken to Pep face-to-face for more than three months, not that he was counting. His ex-lover had texted him last week, saying that he wanted to talk. Jurgen had texted back and called his personal number twice, keen on not making the same mistake twice, but there had been no response. It makes him think that it could really be over.
"Should I send a letter?" He says to no one before a match with Cardiff City.
"Are you talking to yourself again, Kloppo?"
He turns to find Peter staring at him with mock disapproval.
Peter chuckles. "Anything bothering you?"
"Just the usual."
"Ah, romantic troubles."
Jurgen snorts. "Why does everyone think I am having, uh, difficulties in that area?"
"You've been moping since January. It's obvious to everyone who knows you well."
Jurgen raises his eyebrows.
His friend waves his hand to the right. "Hendo might have told me."
They fall into step with each other.
He did want to check on the players who were warming up.
"You cannot be sidetracked. We have to prepare for semi-finals. Non-football problems can wait."
"I know. I just can't stop thinking about what went wrong."
"Are you sure you want to have this conversation here and not over a beer or two?"
They both laugh wearily.
"You don't have to tell me if you don't want to."
Jurgen has known Peter since they were both at Mainz. The other man would get the whole story out of him eventually.
"It's about a man."
That is Peter's immediate reaction. He already knows about Jurgen's real sexuality, unlike his ex-wives, but it was always in the background of their professional relationship.
Jurgen had never brought it up after a drunken confession in his late thirties. This was new for him.
"Do I need to get someone to put a hit on him?"
Peter mimics a film gangster, holding up finger-guns.
At Jurgen's answering look, he turns serious.
"Alright, what about a man?"
"I think he's mad at me. I am just at a loss for what to say or do."
Peter wisely does not ask who he is.
"When my wife is mad at me, I do something to show my love. It doesn't need to be big," he advises slowly. "You just have to mean it. I'm not sure if flowers and chocolates will work with a- a man, but you have to show that you care."
"I have. He's not a very emotional man and he hasn't called me back yet."
He sounds so immature when he says something like that. This is why Jurgen avoids phone calls like the plague.
"Alright. How important is he to you? Is he like Ulla?"
He would have turned down the Dortmund contract for Ulla.
"He is special to me."
"I guess if he hasn't replied, then maybe you could give up, but you won't be happy until you are with him again."
"Is it requited?"
Jurgen did not know, but he wasn't about to tell Peter that.
"I think so."
His friend appears sceptical, though he says. "Go after him. Find out what he likes. Send him presents. Write a big speech. Give him your Champions League medal."
"You might never get to touch one if we don't get a move on."
"Right," Jurgen smiles ruefully. "Can't lose sight of the goal."
They had to bounce back after the disastrous- and Jurgen was being kind when he called it that- match at Camp Nou.
"Winning the cup in Real's backyard," Peter says to him the day after the terrible loss. "Now that was the dream."
"Everyone's saying that it's unlikely that we will beat Barcelona," John says, arms crossed. "But I know we will. Stop being so cynical, Pete."
"We still have the league to think about."
"The Premier League is a lost cause," Pepjin says what was on everybody's mind, though they were all too polite to say it aloud. He was too like Željko, that man. "City is going to win. We have to prioritise our training."
Everyone in the Melwood conference room groans, including Jurgen.
He pinches the bridge of his nose. "The players are already focusing on the second leg with Barca. They understand what they have to do. I am sure when the time comes, they will play like they have everything to lose."
They look collectively at the whiteboard, where Jurgen has drawn out Liverpool's strategy for the most important game of the season and where Peter has placed photographs of Barcelona's players. Someone has childishly drawn a moustache and a sombrero on Messi's photo.
"We cannot lose sight of the domestic trophy."
"City slipping up against Huddersfield? Don't be naive, Peter."
Jurgen speaks. "We have to push them to the final day. I don't care if you think it is a lost cause, all that matters is we try."
"It's such a shame though, isn't it?" Andreas, the fitness coach, says softly as the strategy meeting wraps up. "97 points and we might not win the league. Hell, we might not get to the goddamn final."
Now it was his turn to soothe his colleagues.
"Because it is the end, it does not mean we can let go of our attacks or defense. It means that we spend more effort on winning the remaining three matches, grab nine points, and be the most ferocious challenger that Manchester City has encountered yet. There is still a chance to beat Barcelona four-nil, even five-nil. We have to throw them off their game. I hope we could cooperate and do that. The fans are counting on us. Don't fucking disappoint them."
Peter turns to Pepjin.
"And that is why we leave the motivational speeches to the big man."
"Are you up for this, Gini?"
It is before the second half. Liverpool is up by one and Robertson is injured. The dressing room is a flurry of motion. Jurgen could dimly hear Peter shouting at the assembled players about cutting through long passes.
The Dutchman has a flash of something in his eyes. Jurgen recognises it as burning anger at being left on the bench and determination to score.
Yes, he was definitely up for it.
"Do I even need to tell you, boss?"
Peter is talking about how Suarez and Messi were doing all the attacking work, so it would be "fucking great if someone could tire them out."
The dressing room quiets down when Jurgen shows them a video of what they must do.
"Listen, boys," he says, words loud enough for everyone to hear, but soft enough for them to really grasp the meaning behind them. "This means more than silverware. Before the game began, everyone thought we would go quietly. Now they are changing- changing their tune. All of you are mentality giants. I am so proud of how far you have come. Stay hopeful. The night is not over yet."
He hugs each individual player as they step out of into the corridor, pats them on the back. A game like this is not unlike a battle with high stakes.
Liverpool beats Barcelona in the second leg of the Champions League semi-final.
Nothing will ever be the same.
Jurgen has never experienced a night like this. Not even when Dortmund made it to the Champions League final. This was a hundred times better than beating Bayern ever would be. It is as though they have won the world.
They had done it. Gini and Divock had scored twice each, their defences had mostly held, and Barcelona had been denied any goals by the amazing Alisson.
He knows if Pep was here, he would smile and say that he should not believe in luck, but Jurgen thinks this is nothing short of a miracle. An Anfield miracle made possible by the sheer belief of the squad and their fans.
"How did we do that?" Mo asks him after they had sung the club anthem, beaming widely.
Jurgen hugs him again. His whole body feels light as a feather. He is floating on air. "No one could have done it but us."
"-so perfect!" Andreas shouts in his ear as the players bow respectfully to the Kop. The rest of his words are lost in the roar of the appreciative crowd.
"What a comeback."
It is Hendo speaking, and his eyes are red. Jurgen has also been close to tears tonight.
His boys have met and exceeded every expectation he had for them. They had made the impossible, possible.
Jurgen's heart swells with pride. No matter who they met in the final- Ajax or the Spurs- they would overcome them and win. He has no doubt about that.
"You are so hungover."
Jurgen moans, lifting a heavy arm to block out the sunlight. It is worse to be drunk as an old man. He used to be able to hold down six glasses of beer and still walk in a relatively straight line, recovering from hangovers quickly in the morning after. Now look at him.
Barely two full cans of beer last night and he was exhausted.
"Good morning," he says hoarsely. His throat is scratchy and Pep is being awfully loud. "Why don't you, ahem, come closer, Bärchen?"
"I am not kissing you," Pep tells him sternly as soon as he manages to open his eyes to slits. "Your breath could kill a conill."
Jurgen does it anyway, even though every movement feels painful.
"And his family," Pep amends.
After a moment that feels like forever, Jurgen sits up in Pep's comfortable bed. He yawns.
"It's nearly eight o'clock. You should get to training. I should have been there an hour ago."
Pep hands him a glass of water, which Jurgen drinks gratefully.
"I'm sure the team won't miss me."
"Hmph. You have to go. Right now."
Jurgen gets a better look at Pep, who is already dressed in track pants and a light sweater under a City track jacket. His left eye is twitching slightly.
"You go first. I still have to relearn how to behave like a human."
"You were never, ah, functional in the morning," Pep murmurs, moving forward to press a gentle kiss to Jurgen's forehead. "Text me."
Pep hovers by the door while Jurgen falls back onto the downy pillows.
"I love you."
It is an unprompted declaration. If Jurgen were less hungover and tired, he would have leapt from the bed and crushed Pep to his chest. He loves me.
"That wasn't so hard, was it?"
He could hear Pep sigh exasperatedly in the hallway.
"So how did it go with the man?"
Peter asks him when they start pre-season training. There are cameras beyond the fence. Reporters and photographers who were assigned to cover the current Champions League title-holders working at Melwood. Sharks, the lot of them.
Jurgen wonders how he looks in his friend's eyes. Perhaps tanned by the Barcelona sun, wearing new glasses, and happy with where he was.
"Hmm," Jurgen pretends to not know what he was talking about.
"Don't act shy with me."
"It was... not bad."
It must be the sweat, he wants to say.
Instead, he says. "You should see the other guy."
Peter tips his head towards the gathered press. "What are you going to do about that?"
"Why don't we worry about the Premier League first, and let me deal with the press."
"Could you at least tell me who he is?"
It seems that curiosity has gotten the better of his old friend.
"Would you believe me if I told you he is a football manager?"
Peter is referring to David Wagner, former Huddersfield Town manager and a good friend of Jurgen's.
"No!" Jurgen could not believe him. "David is married."
"I'm not telling you."
Peter exhales deeply. "Fine. Don't tell your friend the most interesting news in your life."
"You'll know sooner or later."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
In response, Jurgen walks away, hands tucked into his pockets, a smile on his face.
Liverpool Red @redsfanforever
okay,,, what just happened
Lindsay Graham @lindsaynot
I am speechless. This is disgusting behaviour. #guardiopp
Martin Hale @mhale97
Shut up @lindsaynot this is so brave of them #guardioppftw
Liverpool FC @LFC
LOVE IS LOVE.
[three pride flag emojis, followed by a photo of Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola passionately embracing each other]
Match of the Day @BBBMOTD
Pep Guardiola and Jürgen Klopp come out as bisexual and reveal that they been dating since 2018. What does this mean for the future of City and Liverpool? Our analysts tell it all. #guardiopp