Jurgen Klopp and James Milner ‘almost started a fight’ after Liverpool drew at Sunderland in 2017


Jurgen Klopp and James Milner ‘almost started a FIGHT’ after a draw at Sunderland in 2017… before the Liverpool vice-captain ‘stepped back’, reveals ex-Red Ragnar Klavan

  • Klopp and Milner squared off in dressing room after 2-2 draw vs Sunderland
  • Liverpool manager ‘would have gone all the way to prove a point’, Klavan said
  • German ‘was under a lot of pressure’ to win trophies at Anfield
  • Milner eventually stepped back as dressing room scuffle was averted 


Jurgen Klopp and James Milner almost traded blows after Liverpool conceded a late equaliser against Sunderland four years ago and a fight was avoided only after the England international backed off, according to former Reds defender Ragnar Klavan.

Klopp’s penchant for wearing his heart on his sleeve has often been credited as a key factor in Liverpool’s success, but Klavan revealed the German ‘would have gone all the way to prove his point’ in a dressing room scuffle that was narrowly averted.

Back in January 2017, Liverpool drew 2-2 away against Sunderland, as two Jermaine Defoe penalties canceled out goals from Daniel Sturridge and Sadio Mane. The result left the Reds second on the table, five points behind Chelsea having played one more game. 

Klavan told Estonian football podcast Betsafe Eesti Podcast that Milner and Klopp squared off as tempers boiled over in the dressing room after the final whistle.

Jurgen Klopp and James Milner squared off in the dressing room after a draw at Sunderland

The German was frustrated by the late equaliser and almost traded blows with Milner

The German was frustrated by the late equaliser and almost traded blows with Milner

‘The biggest pressure was around Christmas and at the beginning of January,’ the former Liverpool defender said.

‘One time, I don’t remember who we played against. Maybe it was against Sunderland away.

‘Klopp and James Milner almost started a physical fight. It was the period when there was Boxing Day in England and they almost started fighting but eventually Milner stepped back.’

Klavan, who spent two seasons at Anfield before moving to Serie A with Cagliari, attributed the incident to the intense pressure Klopp was under in his second season on Merseyside.   

Two Jermaine Defoe penalties rescued a point for the Black Cats as Liverpool stayed second

Two Jermaine Defoe penalties rescued a point for the Black Cats as Liverpool stayed second

‘We saw from his eyes that Klopp would have gone all the way just to prove his point. It was the most stressful time for him as well. He was under a lot of pressure,’ the Estonian continued.

‘It was my first and Klopp’s second year. What are you going to do? You’re supposed to be a good coach. You are Jurgen Klopp who will make superstars of all players. The pressure started getting to him.

‘It’s not supposed to be easy, but if you don’t deliver against a team like Sunderland, then you can forget about the places you had hoped for.’

Having lost the Europa League final in Klopp’s first campaign in charge, Liverpool finished fourth in the Premier League in his second season, a result they matched the following year when they lost to Real Madrid in the Champions League final.

The Reds atoned for disappointment in 2019, beating Tottenham to clinch their sixth European Cup and then ended a 30-year-wait for a league title in 2020.  

While Klopp’s tactical approach has earned praise for Liverpool’s resurgence, Klavan believes the German’s man management has played a similarly key role.  

Klavan (right) has credited Klopp's man-management for Liverpool's resurgence

Klavan (right) has credited Klopp’s man-management for Liverpool’s resurgence

‘He sensed the player and the team so well. He knew when to say what,’ he added.

‘If he saw there were problems in the team, he could turn it around with a simple joke or vice versa, when the team didn’t take it too seriously, then he showed them who’s boss. 

‘That, for me, is his phenomenon. That he can read the team so well, and individually as well.’

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