Liverpool in Evian: Triple training sessions, nothing but football - it's 'my week' for Jurgen Klopp
EVIAN-LES-BAINS, France -- Liverpool are now away from the hustle and bustle of the United States and the International Champions Cup. For the second straight summer, Jurgen Klopp has taken his side to a rural part of Europe for an entirely football-focused training camp.
Liverpool used Bavarian town Rottach-Egern as their base last summer and are now spending five days in Evian-les-Bains.
The small French town is a popular tourist spot, overlooked by the French Alps and on the shores of Lake Geneva. It's peaceful and picturesque. The bars and restaurants along the water are packed day and night. The sound of Lake Geneva slowly crashing into rocks seems only ever to be interrupted by the hourly boat that travels back and forth from the Swiss city of Lausanne directly opposite.
In many ways it's the perfect location for relaxing break away, but Liverpool will not use their time in Evian to recover. This is where preparations for the upcoming season ramp up. The squad are undergoing double -- on some days, triple -- training sessions in temperatures exceeding those that they were subject to in the U.S.
And unlike their recent three-city tour of America, there are no contractual player appearances or events in France. Media commitments are minimal, too. It's strictly football -- and that's just the way Klopp wants it.
In Michigan, Klopp said he was "looking forward" to the Evian camp, which he declared was "my week." Sources have told ESPN FC that, in 2016, the Liverpool manager held discussions with the club's owners, Fenway Sports Group, and the commercial department ahead of his first summer at Anfield. They all agreed to prioritise the team's preparations when it came to preseasons.
The camps after relatively short tours on different continents act as a compromise for a club with global demands.
Evian is where Germany based themselves for the Euros in 2016; while Leicester City, Southampton and newly-promoted Fulham visited earlier in July.
Liverpool's Premier League opener with West Ham United is less than two weeks away, and all of the training sessions here are closed to the public.
That was the plan in Germany last year, but every session at local club, FC Rottach-Egern e.V., were entirely visible to anyone. A low fence running alongside a footpath undermined plans for secrecy, meaning locals, most in Liverpool shirts, were able to observe Klopp and his men at work.
This time, it is different. Those fans climbing on walls or the roofs of cars to peep over the high fences and catch snippets of training at the Stade Camile Foumier are kindly asked to step down by patrolling security.
The tactical work done in these sessions is confidential and not for prying eyes. But wherever Liverpool travel, supporters will inevitably turn up.
Admittedly, it's not the same fanfare that surrounds them in America or Asia, but it's still enough for club security guards to set up barriers at the training ground.
Liverpool fan Chris Crieg made the three-and-a-half hour drive from Zurich, Switzerland, to catch a glimpse of his heroes.
"We set off around 5 a.m.," he told ESPN FC. "I've never been to Anfield, so I think this will be the closest I've ever been to the players."
Pavel and Igor Bucher left the Swiss city of Lucerne at around 7 a.m. on Wednesday morning. Their journey was worthwhile as Klopp, Sadio Mane, James Milner and Xherdan Shaqiri all stopped after training to sign autographs and pose for photos before they cycled back to base.
In the U.S., Liverpool's journey from Charlotte to New Jersey was marred by an eight-hour delay, owed to a technical issue on the team's plane. The team did not arrive at their hotel until the early hours and scheduled media interviews had to be cancelled.
There are no such logistical issues this week. Transportation around Evian is simple. Liverpool's five-star hotel resort, which is offering rates of over €700 for one night's stay this week, is around one kilometre away from the training ground.
As such, the squad are using bicycles to get around, climbing steep hills on their journey to training. The journeys form part of the warm-up.
Goalkeeper Alisson trained with Liverpool for the first time on Tuesday, wowing his new teammates when he denied Marko Grujic from close range. Meanwhile, Trent Alexander-Arnold voluntarily cut short his summer holiday and arrived at the team base later that evening.
On Wednesday, with the temperature rising beyond 31 degrees Celsius (87 in Fahrenheit), Liverpool were up bright and early for the first of three sessions. A running workout was conducted at around 7.30 a.m. before the 11 a.m. and late afternoon sessions.
Such a bruising schedule means the tennis courts and nearby golf course at the secluded team hotel may go unused during their stay. But the luxurious spa facilities, including an outdoor hydro-circuit and Jacuzzi, should be a hit among players looking to recover.
Liverpool stay in Evian until Friday before flying out to Dublin for their penultimate friendly of the summer with Napoli on Saturday. Their preseason will not end after the Torino warmup game at Anfield on Aug. 7, either.
The endeavour to build a physical base that can withstand what could be a gruelling 2018-19 season will continue well after the campaign has kicked off.
"Our preseason in these times goes into the season actually, Klopp said. "We cannot start the week before West Ham doing things like we would do in the middle of the season. That's normal."
The hard yards go on for Klopp's Liverpool. They may be away from home and soaking up the sunshine, but it's far from a holiday.