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South Korea warn against LVG, AVB rumours

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 By Paul Murphy

Christian Ziege talks Liverpool, Spurs as he starts new chapter in Thailand

Thai stars Teerasil Dangda, Teerathon Bunmathan and Chanathip Songkrasin out on loan to the J-League for the 2018 season.
At a young age, Charyl Chappuis' passion for football was ignited. Delve into the story of how his love for the game has evolved.

From playing in some of Europe's greatest cities at the game's most decorated clubs, to working in the modest surroundings of provincial Thai side Ratchaburi, former Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur wing-back Christian Ziege can vouch for the rapid passing of time in football.

And the German sees little in common with the Premier League today and the one he starred in between 1999 and 2004, which included a year at Middlesbrough, in addition to the more celebrated clubs mentioned above.

As he was presented as Ratchaburi's new head coach earlier this month, Ziege acknowledged Thailand's huge interest in the Premier League. But he insisted it was difficult to compare the Liverpool and Spurs of today with the teams he played for more than a decade ago.

"You can't really compare these two teams because it's so different from when I played," Ziege told ESPN FC. "Now, you have six or seven teams which are contenders for the title at the beginning of the season. In my time, it was maybe two.

"It has changed a lot already, and it is really hard to become the champions. In my time at Spurs, it was always a team that played good football and I think they do that today as well, so they haven't changed the philosophy in the club. Things have maybe changed a little more at Liverpool under Jurgen Klopp."

Ziege's coaching career has been a slow burner. Despite an illustrious playing career featuring a European Championship title, an appearance in the 2002 World Cup final, Bundesliga titles with Bayern Munich, a Serie A crown with AC Milan and being part of Liverpool's treble-winning squad in 2001, he has taken slow and steady steps as he seeks to make his mark.

Christian Ziege at Ratchaburi in Thailand
After a decade as a coach, Ziege makes his first foray into Asia at Ratchaburi.

Having cut his teeth with the youth teams of Borussia Monchengladbach and the German national side, the 45-year-old stressed that he was lucky and grateful to have a job, given the high number of coaches around the world who are out of work.

After filling various roles at Monchengladbach, Ziege had something of a false start in his first spell in charge of a senior side, lasting just six months as head coach of Arminia Bielefeld in 2010.

He went back to youth coaching with Germany for three years before returning to management at the senior level, first with SpVgg Unterhaching and then spending two years with Atlético Baleares in Spain's third tier.

Despite the cultural differences between Thailand and the clubs he has played for and coached in Europe, Ziege was reluctant to suggest he would adopt his approach to reflect this.

"I don't think there's a big difference [in how you coach]," Ziege said. "Maybe you can talk about the Premier League and the players being at a different level but working with players, it is more or less always the same.

Christian Ziege makes Liverpool debut in 2000
Christian Ziege made his Liverpool debut in 2000, coming on for future captain Steven Gerrard.

"You have to convince them, you have to work with them and teach them and show them the way to play. This is the reason why I wanted to become a coach as well. I wanted to give something back to football and use what I learned as a player."

While Thai football is excited to have a former World Cup finalist in the league, Ziege stressed that the expectations may be somewhat different to playing at the likes of Bayern, AC Milan, Liverpool and Germany, where success is expected and demanded.

But he is keen to use the winning mentality he adopted as player to toughen up his new charges away from home in particular.

"If you play at this level, you always have a lot of pressure because you have to win every game," Ziege said. "At (Ratchaburi), there is a lot of ambition. I think they are really strong at home, but I have seen that they sometimes have more problems away from home.

"As a player, I preferred to play away from home because you know that everybody is against you. You can go out and make them quiet because you play well.

"At home, people expect a lot, so it's easier for me to play away from home. If you tell (the players) step by step the things that they can take from pressure and turn it into positive situations,that can work for you."

But while Ziege will be very much in the spotlight given the career he enjoyed as a player, he played down expectations by refusing to set any specific targets, preferring to trot out the well-worn line that he would try and win every game and see where the team ends up.

For now, the German insists he will look at the players he has at his disposal before making any rash predictions about either the team's aims or the style of play he will adopt.

Ratchaburi celebrate Thai league win
Ratchaburi finished just outside the top five in Thailand over the last three seasons.

Ratchaburi possess two of Thailand's brightest young talents in 20-year-old Kevin Deeromram and 23-year-old Phillip Roller, both born and raised in Europe, with Kevin Swedish-Thai and Roller, like Ziege, originally hailing from Munich.

It will be intriguing to watch these wide men develop under Ziege, who was a dynamic wing-back in his playing days.

It is too soon to know if he will get the opportunity to add some German talent to the squad, as he simply said, "You have to ask the president," when asked the question.

But all eyes will certainly be on Ratchaburi in 2018 as they seek to move up a level, having finished just outside the top five for the last three years.

The club play in a brand new purpose-built football stadium less than two hours drive from Bangkok, and Ziege's arrival will ensure that more people make the trip from far and near in the year ahead.

Bangkok-based Paul Murphy has lived in Asia for a decade, writing for ESPN FC since 2014. He is a former Daily Express sub-editor. @PaulMurphyBKK

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