Jurgen Klopp’s finals record explained: Pragmatism v idealism?

Our resident LFC blogger Dave Tindall reveals his rollercoaster of emotions as his beloved Reds prepare to take on Real Madrid in the Champions League final.

 

1977 Liverpool 3 Borussia Moenchengladbach 1

“That’s nice. That’s McDermott. And that’s a goal!”

“Oh yes! And what a delighted scorer. It’s Tommy Smith!”

“Neal against Kneib…. and with such simplicity, the European Cup surely is won.”

1978 Liverpool 1 Bruges 0

“Now Dalglish. Across the face of the goal. It’s there, Dalglish.”

 

1981 Liverpool 1 Real Madrid 0

“Alan Kennedy…. and he goes on… and he scores!”

1984 Liverpool 1 Roma 1 – won on penalties

“Liverpool are European champions. What joy. Alan Kennedy’s penalty goal leaves Rome distraught and Merseyside jubilant.”

 

2005 Liverpool 3 AC Milan 3 – won on penalties

“Riise. Charged down by Cafu. In towards Gerrard! Hello! Hello! Here we go. Steven Gerrard puts a grain of doubt in the back of Milan minds.”

“Hit by Smicer. It’s in! It’s in! Vladimir Smicer! Two goals in two minutes for Liverpool. Miracles are possible.”

“Ohhh, saved by Dida, Xabi Alonso! The impossible is accomplished! Liverpool were 3-0 down five minutes ago…. and, now, look at that scoreline!”

“There will be no second chances if Shevchenko misses… he’s saved it! The European Cup is returning to England and to Anfield! Liverpool are champions of Europe again!”

The soundtrack – for me, at least – to Liverpool’s five glorious European Cup wins. The words of Barry Davies (1977 & 1981), Brian Moore (1978 & 1984) and Clive Tyldesley (2005) that are guaranteed to unleash a torrent of happy memories.

The past is glorious. But how about the future? What will be the memorable lines spoken in Kiev on Saturday night?

It’s a subject that has constantly invaded my thoughts ever since we booked our place in the final.  In fact, with Red Letter in mind, I’ve even kept a diary about it…

 

May 2

It’s the night of the semi-final second leg in Rome. We’re through. God knows how we almost weren’t after holding a 5-0 lead in the first match at Anfield but who cares about the details now! We’re into the final – against Real Madrid. Right now, I have a strange couldn’t care less feeling about what happens in Kiev. Just getting there is amazing. What a journey.

 

May 3

Still on a high. Watch re-runs of all our Champions League goals this season. Incredibly, there’s been 46 of them – the most ever in a CL campaign by anyone. It beats the 45 netted by Barcelona in 1999/2000. We’ve averaged 3.29 a game. Bonkers.

 

May 6

I’ve got a bad feeling about the game at Chelsea today and I’ve had it for the last 48 hours. If we lose it, our place in next season’s Champions League will still be in doubt. It would be criminal not to be in Europe’s elite competition in 2018/19 given how good we’ve been this time. We do lose it. 1-0. Sigh.

May 7

Cheer myself up by watching our 46 Champions League goals again. I saw 10 of them and only went to two matches – the 7-0 win over Spartak Moscow and the 3-0 triumph over Man City. Two memorable Anfield nights, the second one extra special.

May 9

Thanks Huddersfield. Jurgen Klopp’s mate, David Wagner, guides his team to a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge so we now just need to avoid defeat against Brighton to book our spot in next season’s Champions League.

May 10

My God. I’ve been offered a ticket for the final in Kiev! It’s a long story but involves an ex-footballer now in the media. We have to make our own way there but my mate Mark has a plan involving staying at his friend’s in Stockholm and flying into Kiev from Sweden. This is too good to be true!

May 11

It is too good to be true. The flight from Sweden has gone up from £200 to £1400. Now we’re looking at a road trip. It involves Eurotunnel, a stay over in Berlin, another stop in Poland and the same coming back. The problem is that it’s going to take us about five days. I’m a freelancer. Not only will I have to fork out for the trip itself, I’ll also lose hundreds in lost work. There’s also a possible flight to Vienna and an overnight sleeper train into Kiev. I’ve now got my Dad on the case. He likes trains, he speaks fluent Russian and he loves planning daft journeys. Surely he can pull a rabbit out of the hat.

May 12

The dream is dying. Even my Dad can’t find a solution despite a heavy trawl through the timetables of Europe’s railways systems. Flights are silly money but it’s a plane we need to stop this becoming a return journey taking the best part of six days.

May 13

I concede defeat. It will cost a few thousand and it’s hard to justify that if you have kids and want to take them on a summer holiday. The romantic in me says ‘but this is a once in a lifetime experience’. The realist then kicks into action and reminds me that this is the third time we’ve been in the Champions League final in the last 14 years. Not exactly once in a lifetime then; more like once every 4.67 years. Somehow that stat makes me feel better about the whole thing. I’ll go to next year’s final in Madrid instead. That’ll be a doddle to get to. And….. the good news is that I can start planning. Liverpool 4 Brighton 0. Just about the least stressful afternoon I could have imagined. Good old Rafa helped drop the heart-rate even further by guiding Newcastle to a 3-0 win over Chelsea. We finish fourth and, under UEFA’s new rules, are automatically though to the group stage next season. Yes!

 

May 15

I watch Istanbul 2005 again, or at least 10-minute highlights. As I’ve seen it about a thousand times, when I view it now I’m looking at stuff in the periphery. It’s like the JFK assassination. Rather than watch the car and the head-shot, I’m peering at the Umbrella man. In the same way, when I watch Didi Hamann pass to Vladimir Smicer to crash home the second, I’m looking at Kaka bent down messing with his laces and shin-pads rather than paying any attention to a Liverpool throw deep in the Milan half. And I’m laughing at an irate Jamie Carragher trying to get the ref to send off Gattuso for fouling Steven Gerrard whereas the other Liverpool players are just delirious at the penalty award.

 

May 17

I’m pondering Jurgen Klopp’s poor record in finals. You’d think his huge charisma and inspirational leadership qualities would be a difference maker on such occasions so how come he’s lost five of the six finals he’s contested? The best I can come up with is that finals are often underwhelming affairs when pragmatism beats idealism. Then again, he’s usually in charge of the underdogs (four of the six I reckon) so maybe it’s that simple. Thankfully, Real Madrid don’t really deal in pragmatism. I’d be more worried if the final was against their city rivals Atletico.

 

May 19

It’s the Royal Wedding! That’s all well and good but for LFC fans, it’s another one of those weird omens. When Prince Harry’s parents, Charles and Di, got married in 1981, we beat Real Madrid in the European Cup final in Paris that year!

 

May 20

Someone asks “how are the excitement levels?” and it sort of throws me. Because of the gap between our last Premier League game and Kiev on Saturday, the very fact we’re in the Champions League final seems an almost abstract concept. It means I can’t quite believe it’s true and, hence, I’m strangely calm. I watch our 46 Champions League goals again. Wow. We’re good, aren’t we. Even if we get beat on Saturday, we’ve sprinkled stardust on the tournament this year. It’s been one of my favourite ever seasons as a Liverpool fan.

 

May 21

I watch a documentary on LFCTV about Kiev. The Ukrainian capital has a population of three million and ex-heavyweight world champion Vitali Klitschko is the mayor. We’ve played at Saturday’s venue, the Olimpiyskiy Stadium (50,000 capacity), before (something I couldn’t recall), beating Dynamo Kiev in the 2001/2 Champions League thanks to a 67th minute winner from some fella called S Gerrard. It’s a 20-minute walk from the centre or you can get the local Metro for just 14p in English money. Maybe I could have afforded this trip after all.

 

May 22

Definitely feeling the excitement now and I even buy a Chicken Kiev from the supermarket. Watch a programme about Steve McManaman on LFCTV. Macca, of course, left us for Real Madrid in 1999 and scored in the 2000 Champions League final for them. Lovely strike too. Also watch our 5-0 aggregate win over Real Madrid in 2009, Yossi Benayoun heading in a late winner in the Bernabeu and Gerrard and Torres running amok in 4-0 second-leg romp at Anfield. Sergio Ramos was in the Real team then. Hopefully he’s on the wrong end of another drubbing on Saturday night.

 

May 23

People keep asking me for a prediction and I realise I haven’t quite settled on anything. I’ve got two conflicting thoughts – they’re there for the taking and they’ll have too much know-how for us. We’re the team on the up; they’re coming down from their peak. Will we have reached the cross-over point by Saturday? I’m also scouring the bookies for betting opportunities and there’s a special at William Hill that seems in incorporate a few things that I think/hope will happen – Mo Salah to score, Liverpool to win and both teams to score. It’s a 13/2 chance. Hills also have enhanced odds about Roberto Firmino scoring the first goal. It’s a hefty 10/1. Yes please.

When asked about Liverpool’s chances of winning various big games this season, I’ve always defaulted to this same response: “If we get Salah, Firmino and Mane to the start-line, we’ll win.” Between them they have a ridiculous 29 goals in this season’s Champions League and that shared power means we’re not just pinning our hopes on one of them. If any of that trident has an off-night, two of the others may drive a spike into Madrid’s fragile defence. This may make me sound like some sort of rubbish psychic but I’m getting the number ‘3’ in my head. Three goals for us? Three for them? Three for Salah? Or a goal each for our front three? Two x three = six and this could be our sixth European Cup win. I’m slowly descending into madness. And it’s still only Wednesday night.