There is laughter when Erik Meijer is asked about the character of the man who will soon help implement Liverpool’s transfer policy.
Meijer became a cult hero at Anfield thanks to a highly committed 18-month spell following his departure from Bayer Leverkusen in 1999, so news this week that Jorg Schmadtke – his former Leverkusen team-mate – is on the verge of becoming Liverpool’s new sporting director, as successor to Julian Ward.
“Ah, George!” Meijer tells Mail Sport. ‘Well, Jorg was a keeper and you know keepers – they think a bit differently! I would be with him a lot, he was a hard trainer. He wore nice, colorful shirts and you always knew he was around. He was never afraid to speak his mind.’
Stories about Schmadtke abound. One from his time as Cologne sports director is about how he was fined £8,000 for throwing chewing gum at then Hoffenheim manager Julian Nagelsmann in 2016. Schmadtke broke the ice the next time he saw it by giving him a package to say sorry.
There have been squabbles with coaches such as Oliver Glasner at Wolfsburg and Mirko Slomka at Hanover over recruitment and Meijer, who is now an analyst for Germany’s Sky, acknowledges that sometimes diplomacy isn’t always Schmadtke’s first resort.
Jorg Schamadtke is in advanced talks to become Liverpool’s new sporting director
Schmadtke is expected to sign a deal until 2026 – the same time Jurgen Klopp’s deal expires
Anfield cult hero Erik Meijer (L) says Schmadtke will be the perfect counterpart to Liverpool boss Klopp
“If you want to be good, you have to be tough,” he says. “Sometimes other people don’t like that.”
Jurgen Klopp won’t be the least bit frustrated by it though. It is not uncommon for him to have looked to Germany for a major appointment to Liverpool’s coaching staff and Schmadtke will be aware of the role he has to play during the last three years of the manager’s reign.
Meijer, now 53, believes he will be a perfect counterpart to Klopp and will fit into a recruitment team in which Barry Hunter and Dave Fallows remain integral parts; they have been working with Ward, who succeeded Michael Edwards, on goals for the coming period.
While there has been no official announcement from the club, talks about Schmadtke have continued and Liverpool’s wish is for him to be ready to start when the market opens in early June.
‘Jorg was always a smart boy, very intelligent,’ says Meijer. “Every club he has worked for, from Aachen to Wolfsburg, always had a good period, but they never did it by spending a lot of money.
‘Aachen was in second class when I went there (2003); Jorg said “come here, we’ll have some fun!” – he was right. Within 12 months we had reached the final of the German Cup (lost 3-2 to Werder Bremen).’
Meijer adds: ‘Jorg finds managers who can make clubs better and players who can make managers better. And that’s what Jürgen Klopp likes: players you can make better. He never wants the finished article, preferring to be with those who know their best days are ahead of them.
“Jurgen, I believe, has a lot of respect for him. He wants people around him who are the best at their jobs. Jurgen has never said that he knows the answers to everything. He doesn’t want people who just say “yes” or do what he says. Jorg is his own man and not afraid to speak out when he has a strong opinion.
Schmadtke played for his local team Fortuna Dusseldorg, Freiburg and Leverkusen
He was fined for throwing chewing gum at then Hoffenheim boss Julian Nagelsmann
“When you look at Jorg, he always seems to have a stern face, like he’s waiting for criticism, but that’s just that he wants to get the best out of a situation. He is always looking for perfection, if possible. Sometimes it means he has to be tough with what he says, but he’s not afraid to speak up.’
It will be fascinating to see how the summer unfolds for Liverpool, who need to strengthen their midfield, and Meijer – a popular character in Gerard Houllier’s dressing room – will be a keen observer.
“I will always look at Liverpool,” says Meijer. “They are part of my life. If you get goosebumps when you hear it
then you know that the club is in your blood. I was very proud to play there. I hope Jorg helps to make us champions again.’