Jan Mølby is regarded as one of the finest passers of the ball to have donned the Liverpool shirt. The ‘Great Dane’ has enjoyed a successful career at Anfield, winning three league titles and two FA Cup medals. Valhmor Camilleri met with the former Reds midfielder who gave an interesting insight on Liverpool’s transformation under Jurgen Klopp.
When Jan Mølby joined Liverpool in the summer of 1984, not many Reds fans were sure of what the club were getting into.
But the powerful Dane soon let the pitch do his talking as he evolved into an influential figure at Merseyside, helping the club to three English league titles and two FA Cup triumphs.
During his 12-year stay at Anfield, Mølby’s love for Liverpool FC blossomed to a point that he was made an ‘Honorary Scouser’ by the Lord Mayor of Liverpool in 2009.
“Liverpool have become a very special club for me,” Mølby told The Sunday Times of Malta.
“I think that many clubs that you can play for don’t necessary come part of your life. You play for them and then move on. But Liverpool was different as you become part of the city and culture of the club.
“I played for Liverpool for 12 season and lived in the city for 35 years. Sometimes you go somewhere and say that I was meant to be there and that is what happened to me at Liverpool and can’t see myself somewhere else. Probably you can say that I have become a Liverpudlian now,” he added with a smile.
Mølby was quite a unique player in that although he started his career as a defender, he had the tactical ability and technique to also adapt himself to an excellent midfield player, forming a formidable partnership with Steve McMahon.
Mølby admits that his understanding of the game and technique were crucial for him to adapt to different positions on the pitch.
“I think you can owe that to my knowledge of the game and more importantly the fact that I was technically very good despite being quite big physically,” the former Danish international said.
“As a young boy I used to play as a sweeper but when Ajax bought me they converted me into a midfielder.
“In Amsterdam, I played in a variety of positions and that surely enhanced my football knowledge.
“But when I came to Liverpool, the best thing was that they were not concerned about having to play me in different positions.
“The first time I had to play as centre half in a flat back four I looked at the manager and told him: Really me? And he said ‘Not a problem’ and that confidence surely helped me to settle down and just focus on doing the job I was asked to do without any pressure.”
In the 1980s and 90s, Mølby played alongside legends such as Alan Hansen, Steve McMahon, Ronnie Whelan, Kennie Daglish and Ian Rush that helped the club retain their stranglehold on the English game.
Thirty years on, Jurgen Klopp’s team are looking to get back at the top of English football with the likes of Virgil Van Dijk, Mohammed Salah and Sadio Mane at the heart of the current Liverpool team.
Mølby says that it’s difficult to compare the two sides, given the different generations they played in.
“It’s difficult to compare teams over generations. The only thing we could do at the time was to beat teams on a regular basis. What we did we sort of maintained success for a long time because we had the best players.
“This team today also have some good players but I think that some of them are over-achieving and I don’t know how much you can continue to do that. Certainly not for more than one or two seasons.
“Having said that I think it will be interesting to see where this team will be in two or three years’ time. But no doubt, the best players in this team will remembered as good as anyone Liverpool has ever had.”
With Liverpool, Mølby enjoyed some memorable moments but he singles out the 1986 FA Cup triumph over Everton at Wembley Stadium as his highest point in a Reds shirt.
In that final, he helped his team come from behind and beat Everton 3-1, setting up two of the three goals scored by his side on the day.
“For me, the biggest moment has to be the 1986 FA Cup final,” Mølby said.
“Playing in an FA Cup final was the main reason why I wanted to play in England and I did that. That final was special as apart from facing our neighbouring rivals Everton, it was also the first for many of our players.
“So it was big occasion for us and to win it was a marvelous feeling for us as we had helped the club create history by securing the first league and cup double.
“On a personal note, it was a day I will remember forever. When you play football you hope to make people remember you in big matches and certainly when discussing the 1986 FA Cup final you have to mention my name for what I did.”
It has been almost 30 years since Liverpool were last crowned English champions. Last year, the Reds came agonisingly close to upstage Manchester City only to miss out by a mere point.
Liverpool made up for that disappointment by winning a sixth European crown by lifting the Champions League trophy after defeating Tottenham 2-0 in the final in Madrid.
After that European triumph, Mølby has no doubt that Liverpool’s main focus next season will be to win the Premier League.
“I firmly believe that Liverpool are now ready to win the league title,” Mølby said.
“Liverpool have played at a very high level for the past 18 months, reaching two Champions League finals and I’m sure they are ready to challenge for all the major honours again.
“There is a lot of self-belief in the players who know what they are capable of. The only problem is that they are against one of the best teams in the Premier League era in Manchester City.
“Should City rack up 100 points next season it will be difficult for Liverpool to win the title but should City get more human and collect 92 points then Liverpool can win it.”
Van Dijk was without doubt one of the key factors behind Liverpool’s success this season.
The Dutch defender’s influence at the back has turned the Reds into a strong defensive force and Mølby thinks his leadership qualities are what is making the difference for the Merseyside giants.
“I think a lot people realised that Van Dijk was a good player during his time at Southampton,” he said.
“But what people didn’t notice was his personality and the things he could do for the people around him.
“When Liverpool bought him for £75 million many said that it was a lot of money but looking at what he gave to Liverpool I think it was a bargain.
“Liverpool always had players who scored a lot of goals – Kevin Keegan, Ian Rush, Robbie Fowler, Fernando Torres and Luis Suarez – who were popular. But what Liverpool were looking for was a defensive giant and when he came everyone fell in love with him as it was exactly what we needed.
“He has a fascinating personality. He looks into your eyes and tells you ‘you need to do this and that to improve’, and the young players are seeing him as a great role model.
“No doubt, he is one of the best defenders in the world.”
The summer transfer window is already under way and there is a lot of speculation on where Liverpool need to invest to become even stronger next season.
Mølby has quite a clear idea of where he wants Liverpool to do business.
“The one thing Liverpool fans said during the season was the strength-in-depth of Manchester City,” Mølby said.
“Liverpool need to buy more quality players to match or even better the quality of players Manchester City have.
“Personally, I would like to see a midfield player and a striker coming in. A lot is being said on young Liverpool striker Ryan Brewster while the club is being linked with Leipzig striker Timo Werner but I don’t know if he is the right kind of player for us.
“Liverpool have played at a very high level for the past 18 months, reaching two Champions League finals and I’m sure they are ready to challenge for all the major honours again.”
“I would love to see Wilfried Zaha coming to Liverpool as I think with his pace and power he is tailor-made for the club .
“We also need a new midfield player in the mould of David Silva or Kevin De Bruyne that would give us something different but we just have to wait and see.”
Mølby admits that he was impressed by the work carried out by Klopp at Liverpool since he took charge and believes the German has managed to achieve one thing that his predecessors have failed in recent past – to gain the trust of the club owners.
“When Jurgen Klopp came to Liverpool many people said that he was a great appointment as he embodied what Liverpool was all about,” Mølby said.
“Personally, I didn’t think he could achieve so much success at the club. I thought that he could only make Liverpool play fast-flowing football but it was not the case.
“Klopp managed to change the team’s tactical philosophy and that was mirrored in the Champions League final. Liverpool scored an early goal and managed to administer the game with great maturity.
“Jurgen has managed to win the trust of the club owners and that is something not many managers have achieved at the club. Now when Liverpool sign a player everyone knows that it’s going to work out well.
“When Sane and Salah came there were a lot of question marks on them but Klopp managed to dispel all those doubts and now nobody will question the decisions he will make.”
While Liverpool are thriving under Jurgen Klopp, their biggest rivals, Manchester United, are passing through a very lean spell after missing out on Champions League football next season.
Mølby thinks that the main problem at United is that they think they can fix their problems in six months when in reality it’s a far longer process.
“The problem at United is that seeing Manchester City and Liverpool so successful the club owners are trying to put the team back
in place in a short spell of time but they surely need more time to get back at a high level,” Mølby said.
“United must follow Liverpool’s approach with Klopp and trust their manager and let him try and get the best of the players he has. Once he has done that they can start to bring in more quality players.
“There are some clubs who are well-equipped to sign big stars like Alexis Sanchez and Paul Pogba but that is not the way for clubs like Manchester United and Liverpool.
“The secret behind United’s success under Alex Ferguson was that he brought in good quality young players and turned them into great players and that is what he did with Cristiano Ronaldo, David Beckham, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs.
“It will take time but now that they have confirmed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as manager they need to have faith in him as I think he has the biggest job since Alex Ferguson came to the club in 1986.”
Another English club in the news in recent weeks are Chelsea, who after losing Eden Hazard, to Real Madrid, they are looking to appoint a new manager after Maurizio Sarri left for Juventus.
Frank Lampard is reportedly set to land the job and Mølby thinks it’s the right appointment for the London club.
“Giving the job to Frank Lampard is the best decision for Chelsea,” Mølby said.
“There has been a lot of unrest at Chelsea in recent years, even with Sarri, and Lampard is the right man to pull everyone together.
“United must follow Liverpool’s approach with Klopp and trust their manager and let him try and get the best of the players he has.”
“Chelsea’s objective is quite straightforward, even with their transfer ban, to try and finish into the top four and Lampard has a big decision to make.
“I don’t know what he wants to do, if he wants a long career in management or not but I’m sure he is keen to manage Chelsea having been a club legend for many years.
“Should he be offered the job I have no doubt that he will accept.”