Liverpool’s preparations for their crucial Champions League semi-final have been rocked following the sudden departure of assistant manager Zelkjo Buvac.
The Bosnian-Serb has been Jurgen Klopp’s right-hand man for 17 years, the pair having played together at Mainz, but Buvac has taken the decision to take some time away from the club for what have been described as personal reasons.
He remains employed by Liverpool and his position at the club has not been affected by this absence.
Liverpool have been stunned by the departure of assistant manager Zeljko Buvac
Klopp and Buvac pictured on Saturday following Liverpool’s 0-0 draw with Stoke at Anfield
The Bosnian-Serb was an attacking midfielder during his playing days and played alongside Jurgen Klopp for three years at Mainz.
He moved straight into management and took charge at German minnows Neukirchen in 1998, where he had ended his playing career.
But he returned to Mainz to work as Klopp’s right-hand man when he became manager in 2001.
The pair have worked together ever since, at Borussia Dortmund and until now Liverpool, with Buvac often regarded as ‘the brain’ who has helped develop the high-speed attacking style that has become Klopp’s signature.
Liverpool’s squad and staff were told on Sunday morning that Buvac would not be involved with team for the rest of the campaign and it has created a major issue before Wednesday’s trip to Rome.
Anfield observers had noticed that Buvac and Klopp, who used to be inseparable, have not interacted during games as they had done before, particularly in terms of talking.
But, even still, the announcement that came at Melwood the morning after Saturday’s 0-0 draw with Stoke City took the camp by surprise, given the timing, with Liverpool having a glorious opportunity to reach the Champions League final.
Liverpool have offered no comment but it is understood they considered the matter to be private and will continue not to speak about Buvac in respect of his privacy.
Jurgen Klopp’s closest ally is often referred to as ‘the brain’ behind the Anfield operation
Klopp talks with coach Peter Kraweitz during the 5-0 win over Roma at Anfield last week
Buvac, who had been on the bench as usual for the stalemate with Stoke, is a man who keeps a low profile but his importance to Klopp is huge and he was referred to as ‘the brain’, given his input into tactics and training.
He has never been afraid to challenge Klopp’s views and, along with Peter Kraweitz, they formed a three-man operation.
Klopp stipulated that when he joined Liverpool in October 2015, his backroom team came as part of the deal.
Klopp and Buvac have worked together at Mainz, Borussia Dortmund and Liverpool
The 56-year-old becomes the second major departure of Klopp’s backroom staff this season following Pepjin Linders’ decision to become head coach of NEC Nijmegen in January.
No decision has been made yet as to who will fill Buvac’s position in Rome, with Klopp’s focus solely on preserving Liverpool’s 5-2 first leg advantage.
Some, however, will draw parallels to the Rafa Benitez era when he fell out with his former trusted assistant Pako Ayesteran three years into his reign at Anfield.
The pair had been together for 12 years before splitting in 2007.