Liverpool-bound RB Leipzig midfielder Naby Keita should have little trouble adapting to his new surroundings next season, with Ralph Hasenhüttl describing his footballing philosophy as identical to Jürgen Klopp’s.
Klopp’s Liverpool will contest the UEFA Champions League final against Real Madrid at the Olympic Stadium in Kiev on 26 May following their 7-6 aggregate victory over Roma. Keita will swap the Red Bull Arena for Anfield in August, joining Roberto Firmino, Emre Can, Joel Matip, Loris Karius and Ragnar Klavan as a Bundesliga-honed player at the potential European champions.
Hasenhüttl, who steered Leipzig to the quarter-finals of the UEFA Europa League in the club’s maiden European campaign, thinks the Guinea midfielder will experience a similar set-up, both in terms of tactics and dressing room atmosphere, when he moves on.
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“[Klopp and I] did our coaching badges together and we know each other very well,” Hasenhüttl told bundesliga.com in an exclusive interview. “I think we appreciate a similar philosophy on football – we want to play a high tempo game, we want our guys to sprint around, press well and these are elements which make the game livelier and varied and get people excited.”
Runners up in the Bundesliga last term, Leipzig have defied sophomore slump – or second-season syndrome – for the most part in 2017/18, with Champions League qualification still a distinct possibility with two games – against Wolfsburg and Hertha Berlin – still to play.
Although Die Roten Bullen have suffered four more league defeats than last season, the 43,000-capacity Red Bull Arena has been full to bursting most weeks, and Hasenhüttl thinks the fans in Saxony compete with those anywhere in the world… although Leipzig’s attacking brand of football certainly helps.
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“I think no matter where I've worked, in Aalen or Ingolstadt or here, the stadiums have always been full as a result of how we played,” he continued. “It’s successful, attractive and represents a particular way of life and that's down to our philosophy. There's a saying: ‘either you give the people what they want to see or one of you looks for a new stadium’. I agree with that 100 percent.”
As for those similarities with Klopp, it is not just tactically where the two share certain tendencies.
“I don't know, at times I run a bit too far onto the pitch,” concluded the 50-year-old with a smile. “But that's only in exceptional circumstances, and Jürgen does it too when a goal is scored!”