Arne Slot making hometown proud as Feyenoord boss prepares to replace Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool

Arne Slot making hometown proud as Feyenoord boss prepares to replace Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool

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Arne Slot is set to replace Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool this summer; Sky Sports News reporter Gary Cotterill travelled to the Feyenoord boss’ hometown of Bergentheim to speak to those who helped him on his journey to Anfield

Arne Slot was all smiles again at the weekend after another win – this time against PEC Zwolle, the club with which he started and ended his playing career.

Slot is used to winning. In fact, he’s never lost two league games in a row at Feyenoord. The team remain on course to secure more Eredivisie points this season than they did in their title-winning season 12 months ago.

Now he’s going to swap Rotterdam for Liverpool. Swap the Nieuwe Mass for the Mersey. Swap one football-crazy river city for another.


The deal isn’t official yet – but it’s done.

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Feyenoord coach Arne Slot says he’s confident an official announcement will be made about joining Liverpool but until then it wouldn’t be ‘honest’ to discuss another club

Near the docks in Rotterdam, just down the road from De Kuip – Feyenoord’s stadium – is a posh part of the city with an apt name. ‘KOP Van Zuid’ has apartments used by Feyenoord players and staff.

But Arne Slot prefers a quieter life whenever he gets a break from his daily football routine.

He moved to Zwolle, around a 90-minute drive from Rotterdam, when he played there. It remains his home city. For now.

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It’s a beautiful place, packed with ornate architecture. Sassenpoort – the old city gate – has a cannon guarding it. Just like the one on the Arsenal badge. It’s a regular reminder for Slot, whose house is a few yards away, of the challenges ahead.

But Arsenal, Manchester City et al are a world away from where it all started.

“Go to Bergentheim, my hometown,” Arne Slot urged me after his news conference last Thursday. “It’s a good place.”

So I did. I was warmly welcomed by Jan Ophof, who is still involved at VV Bergentheim, Slot’s first club.

Young Arne was special even then, says Ophof, who was his first coach. At nine years old, Slot was promoted to the U12s – and already showing signs of being a coach.

“As a little boy, he was smart,” Ophof recalls. “And he was technical, very good”, he adds, proudly showing me a photo of the two of them together almost 40 years ago.

Arne Slot during his days in youth football
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Arne Slot during his days in youth football

“He made other players better. At nine years old, he was a leader on the field.”

Ophof added: “He would come up to me and say, ‘coach, can we do this? Can we do that?’

“He was very intelligent for his age. He was not a quick player for a No 10 but he had vision. He is very intelligent.”

Slot’s father, Arend, was a headteacher and part-time coach. He still lives in Bergentheim and also remains involved with the club.

“His father was a good footballer, too. A good family and Arne was a good boy,” says Ophof.

Slot regularly returns to the club to coach youngsters and raise funds, and Ophof is proud of what he calls his “three per cent” role in Slot’s rise to prominence.

“I’m proud,” he says. “We are a small town of only 3,500 people. Now one of us is going to be coach of one of the biggest clubs in the world.”

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Melissa Reddy shares the latest on Arne Slot’s proposed switch to Liverpool to replace Jurgen Klopp

Ophof adds that Slot has a totally different personality to his Dutch counterpart and current Manchester United manager, Erik ten Hag.

“He makes players good,” explains Ophof. “He makes them better by making them happy.

“It’s not like [Cristiano] Ronaldo with Ten Hag,” he suggests. “With Mohamed Salah, maybe, he’ll say, ‘Salah, come here, let’s talk’.

“They will talk it out for two hours. He will make Salah important for the team.

“The players love him. His arguments are good. Other trainers have arguments and you think, ‘oh, that’s not good’. But with Arne it’s always good. He explains everything well. He’s very good.”

At De Kuip, the media centre has a head coach hall of fame. Slot and all his predecessors are pictured – Ruud Gullit, Giovanni van Bronckhorst, Jaap Stam, Dick Advocaat and Ronald Koeman among them.

Arne Slot has pride of place among the gallery of Feyenoord's greats
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Arne Slot has pride of place among the gallery of Feyenoord’s greats

But Feyenoord fans I spoke to rate Slot highest of them all – and local journalists agree.

What’s more, they back him to succeed in the Premier League where other Dutch managers have failed.

“I am quite hopeful,” says De Telegraaf’s Marcel van der Kraan. “I’ve seen other managers go to England and some of them I could kind of forecast that it will not work, because you cannot be blind to the English culture.

“But I only have to look at this guy and the way he presents himself, always with a smile. He is a very optimistic guy, a great communicator in the dressing room.

“The language in the Feyenoord dressing room from day one was English. His command of English is very good, as you can see in his press conferences.”

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Feyenoord boss Arne Slot gives an inspirational team talk following a huge win against Ajax last season – his side then went on to win the Eredivisie

Van der Kraan has described Slot’s football as “sexy” but believes his personality will be just as important in helping him deal with top stars for the first time, as well as bringing through youngsters.

“Personality is what you need in England to succeed in the Premier League as a foreign manager,” says Van der Kraan. “You must have good communication with the media.

“He’s been brilliant at that in the Netherlands and assume it will be the same in England. His personality may be just as important as his ideas and his philosophy about football.

“We’ve seen here that in every team he’s coached, players have developed and improved. He leaves every club in a good financial situation because he’s made sure that players have gone up in value and others come through to replace them.

“When he arrived here there was hardly any money. Now, even he says that the money is banging against the window.”

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Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp appeared to endorse his potential successor Arne Slot, describing him as a ‘good coach and a good guy’

Television reporter and Feyenoord correspondent Dennis van Eersel agrees that Slot has the confidence, belief and personality to fill the boots left by Jurgen Klopp.

“I think Slot can manage even those expectations,” he says. “He can cope with this circumstance, which is huge – dealing with world-class players and a world-class club.”

Back in Slot’s home town, a former neighbour and boyhood friend, Albert Ligtenberg, can’t wait for Slot to put little Bergentheim on the map.

Asked for his abiding memory of young Arne, he said: “He was always with a ball. Always playing football on the street or in the fields. A good boy.”

Albert, two years older than Arne and now coaching a local boys’ team, said: “Arne Slot is an inspiration.” Liverpool will be hoping so.

Can he achieve by the Mersey the success and trophies he’s managed by the Nieuwe Mass? Slot and those who know him believe he can.

As the Beautiful South once sang – almost – this could be Rotterdam or Liverpool.

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