Colin Bell, presently the manager of the Republic of Ireland women's team, is highly sceptical of the rumours today linking Liverpool's assistant coach Zeljko Buvac with the vacant manager's job at Arsenal.
Buvac is spending the rest of the season away from the Liverpool first team, with his departure announced just days before Liverpool's Champions League semi-final second leg against Roma. It is believed to be for personal reasons, and Liverpool are adamant that Buvac remains an employee of the club and will return ahead of next season. Media in Buvac's native Bosnia today, however, are linking him with the Arsenal job.
Bell was reserve team manager at Mainz when Jurgen Klopp abruptly ended his playing career to take the managerial reigns at the club in February 2001 and subsequently appointed Buvac as assistant ahead of the following season. In total, Bell spent five years working with Klopp and Buvac, and speaking to Balls today at the launch of the 2018 SportsDirect FAI Summer Soccer Schools, he says he would be very surprised if Buvac were to become a manager in his own right.
Never [imagined he would want to be a manager]. I could not imagine that. He is a fantastic coach. You should never say never in football, but he is such a quiet and reserved person, he doesn't want that limelight. He is a fantastic guy and a fantastic coach, but I just couldn’t imagine in, but you never know.
Bell is in a good position to gauge what the pair's working relationship is like, having spent half a decade working in their hinterland at Mainz. Klopp has always been eager to accentuate the importance of his Buvac and fellow assistant Peter Krawietz to his managerial success. "I am not the worst manager in the world, but together with Pete and Zeljko we are a pretty good coaching team", Klopp told the Liverpool website on the day of his unveiling in 2015, and nicknames Buvac "the brain" behind his operation.
Bell admitted his surprise at the timing of the split, and hopes the pair can mend their differences.
We worked together for 5 years. Kloppo took over at February 2001, he saved the team from going down. In the new 2001/2002 season, he brought Zeljko Buvac in with him and they did a fantastic job. Zeljko is a football expert, he knows the game inside out, and is a fantastic coach. I haven't any inside information on what's happened. The timing is very suspect: every journalist and fan will be asking 'why now?'
I just hope, for both of them, that whatever it is, that they get back together. They are a very strong team together, they've been together so much. When Kloppo took over, that first full season they were in a promotion place the whole season, and on the last day of the season, they lost to Union Berlin and didn't get promoted to the Bundesliga. The same happened the following season [when Mainz won on the final day of the season but missed out on promotion on goal difference].
So those first two seasons, when you're looking for your biggest success, and it becomes a nightmare situation, they got through it. We were then promoted a year later to the Bundesliga for the first time a year later. They then took that Mainz philosophy to Dortmund, and they didn't just win the league twice at Dortmund: they annihilated all around them.
And they are having success now at Liverpool.
Colin Bell was speaking to Balls at the launch of the 2018 SportsDirect FAI Summer Soccer Schools. Bookings open now at www.summersoccerschools.ie