Jurgen Klopp has suffered a blow ahead of Liverpool’s Champions League semi-final second leg against Roma after his key assistant Zeljko Buvac stepped aside for personal reasons.
With Liverpool due to face Roma in the Italian capital on Wednesday, the club confirmed on Monday that Buvas will be away from the team until the end of the season.
Klopp has described Buvas as “the brain” behind his coaching set-up in the past, and his absence is an unwanted distraction as Liverpool look to hold onto their 5-2 first leg lead against Roma.
Initial reports on Sunday evening suggested that the Bosnian had quit, but Liverpool dismissed that claim on Monday morning by stressing Buvac remains a Reds employee whose overall position going forward is not affected by his sudden absence.
However, the a report in the Times has speculated that the departure may be made permanent a the end of the campaign, in what would be a huge blow to Klopp and the Liverpool backroom team as a whole. Buvac is reported to have been a distant figure at Liverpool’s Melwood training base in recent weeks amid talk of possible tension in his relationship with Klopp.
Buvac, who was on the bench with Klopp for Saturday’s goalless draw against Stoke, has been the German’s trusted right-hand man for the last 17 years.
The pair played together at Mainz in the early 1990s and were reunited when Klopp made him his assistant having become manager in 2001.
Having won promotion together the pair moved to Borussia Dortmund in 2008 where they won back-to-back Bundesliga titles and reached a Champions League final before moving to Liverpool.
His importance to Klopp was underlined at the end of the 2015/16 season, as when the manager was given a six-year deal by Liverpool, he insisted on similar contract lengths for both Buvac and fellow coach Peter Krawietz.
© Agence France-Presse (with additional edits from Simon O’Keeffe)