Tue. Oct 19th, 2021

Initially, Mona Nemmer was not entirely sure why Jurgen Klopp was reaching out to her.

It was over five years ago when Klopp’s agent got in touch to broach the idea of a conversation with the Liverpool boss.

Klopp, at the time, was searching for someone who could revolutionise the way nutrition was handled inside the club as he prepared for his first full season as a Premier League manager.

After a promising early few months had resulted in League Cup and Europa League finals, Klopp set about putting his fingerprints across all aspects of the football club in the summer of 2016.

And as he searched far and wide for off-field innovation, there was one name that was repeatedly being brought up.

“I didn’t know Mona when I worked in Germany, but I had heard of her reputation,” Klopp says in the foreword of Nemmer’s new book ‘A Taste of the Liverpool Way’.

“The importance of nutrition to professional athletes was becoming more obvious and I wanted the best for Liverpool Football Club.

“I asked players, coaches and managers from around the world and the same name kept coming back: Mona!”

Armed with a series of glowing recommendations, Klopp got in touch with the woman who would soon become his Head of Nutrition.

It was a conversation that changed her life and helped shape the course of Liverpool history.

“I was working at Bayern Munich at the time and I didn’t know Jurgen Klopp personally,” Nemmer tells the ECHO in a chat to coincide with the release of the book.

“His agent gave me a call and said: ‘Jurgen would love to talk to you’ and I wasn’t really sure what it would be about, so I said yes, of course.

“He gave me a call and we had a fantastic conversation, much longer than I expected and he said: ‘Do you think we could arrange a meeting somewhere?’

“So we met in person and there was fire from the first moment from both sides with regards to what we could achieve here.

Liverpool FC Head of Nutrition Mona Nemmer signs her new book at the Anfield Club Store, 09/10/21. Photo: Nick Taylor/LFC

“That’s how it happened and it’s grown from there. I owe him a lot for bringing me here.”

Nemmer’s work at Melwood, and later the AXA Training Centre, has been lauded by those in the inner circle.

Her cutting-edge techniques mesh well with a personable and down-to-earth demeanour and it is that combination that strikes a chord with those on the playing staff.

Over the last five years, some have come to regard her as an almost maternal figure at the training ground.

The early welding of that close bond began around 40 miles south of San Francisco on the California coast when Nemmer was introduced, eventually, to the Liverpool squad during a pre-season tour.

As the gruelling sessions of the summer began to take their toll on the squad, Klopp noticed the players were hanging around the lunch tables longer than he was used to seeing.

Clearly enthused by the choice on offer, the Reds stars were delightedly refuelling as much as possible, unaware that the menus in front of them were the work of a new colleague.

Nemmer’s output was speaking for itself as the players gorged themselves on the buffet in front of them before Klopp belatedly introduced Liverpool’s new Head of Nutrition to his players.

“How it all started was in 2016, it was my first pre-season in Palo Alto,” Nemmer recalls after a book signing event inside Liverpool’s official Superstore at Anfield.

“So after being with the club a few days, almost, it was one of those things where you meet in the evening for a quick catch-up and all the departments are there.

“The likes of Jurgen, Billy Hogan and Mike Gordon were all there, this very unique group, and we started chatting about nutrition and the possibilities of what you can achieve and what we can do in the club with it.”

Since then, Nemmer has helped oversee the diets and nourishment at Liverpool, keeping the menus tasty and enjoyable without ever compromising the nutritional value needed for elite athletes at the top end of sport.

From the venison loin with roasted plums, through to the buttermilk chicken and ‘the 9.30’ – a soy yoghurt with granola and berries – Liverpool’s players want for little in the ‘worldwide kitchen’ at their Kirkby base.

Perhaps the biggest challenge for Nemmer and her team came in March 2020 when the club took the decision a week earlier than the UK Government to enter the lockdown period.

The mood was a sombre, tense one at Melwood on that mid-March morning, and Nemmer and her team knew they had to be as proactive and as inventive as possible going forward.

Nemmer and her team, during those early days of lockdown, had to work out how to cater, quite literally at times, for the varied nature of the lifestyles within the Liverpool squad.

For example, the nutritionalist had to effectively help players like Takumi Minamino, who lived alone in a city centre apartment in the same way she did West Derby-born Trent Alexander-Arnold, who employs a personal chef and has a strong family support system around him.

“Straight away our brains were already working,” she recalls. “So it was like ‘uh oh…what will this mean for us as a team with regards to performance factors and all these things?’

“First of all, we tried to actually make sure that we had the essentials around without taking things away from people in need in case something happened that we would need to minimise things.

“We realised super quickly that this was going to be a longer thing so we had to look into it.”

A series of menus were drawn up on Microsoft Excel spreadsheets and dispatched to the players in an effort to ensure they stayed as close to peak condition as possible while the world waited on its next move.

With Liverpool 25 points clear at the top of the Premier League at the time, the onus was on maintaining that level for where and when it would be possible to resume the campaign, something that eventually arrived three months later.

“They were really nutritional menus to keep their body composition in shape to match their home workout regimes and that was happening every day with all the players,” says Nemmer.

“And I already knew that some of them would forget to place their orders so I had to send them out to the team to prep them, drivers were allocated food deliveries and then after a while I thought I could not do this from the kitchen table any longer!”

While gym equipment was sent to the homes of those who needed it, Nemmer helped develop an in-house app to make it easier for the players to keep their nutrition levels up during those uncertain days of spring 2020.

She adds: “It was a massive challenge for us to look after the single players or the players whose families or partners were not in the UK.

“So we tried to keep them safe, not only from coronavirus, but also their mental health and things like this.

“The longer the lockdown went, the more creative we tried to be.

“We had family cooking packs to bring the whole family together in the kitchen and we had periods where the weather was so beautiful, so we had BBQ packs.

“We learned a lot and we tried to adapt as best as possible.”

With a diverse squad that features players from areas such as Japan, Brazil, Africa and various parts of Europe, Nemmer says the plan within her team is always to be as creative as possible with the food at the AXA Centre.

“What we have established since I’ve been at the club is to be innovative where the menu planning is concerned.

“We also like to use the international kitchens. It’s a really nice thing for us as it keeps everything colourful for us.”

A Taste Of The Liverpool Way, an official Liverpool FC book published by Reach Sport, is on sale now from the LFC online store or reachsportshop.com.

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