How a gut decision began Jürgen Klopp’s managerial rollercoaster

With relegation looming Mainz turned to their ‘emotional leader’ and, 18 years later, the German is in a third Champions League final

Eighteen years on Christian Heidel remembers it was gut instinct that prompted him to launch the managerial career of Jürgen Klopp in the desperate hope of saving Mainz from relegation to the third tier of German football. “Eight weeks after he started as coach our league position was secured,” says Mainz’s former sporting director, whose left-field choice propelled the team from the foot of 2. Bundesliga to safety on the penultimate weekend of his maiden season.

“Our last game was away in Mannheim. We drove 60 buses with 3,000 fans to Mannheim. They swatted us 4-0, but that did not interest us. We sailed fans and staff on a large passenger ship down the Rhine back to Mainz. It was a huge party and Jürgen and I sat together for two hours with a box of beer on the nose of the ship and neither of us could quite grasp what had happened in those eight weeks. By the time we got to Mainz the box of beer was no longer full.”

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