Jurgen Klopp got it wrong in final, but had two elements to fall back on

Our Liverpool blogger reflects on the weekend’s Champions League win in Madrid and thinks Jurgen Klopp did in fact get it wrong in the final.

1977, 1978, 1981, 1984, 2005 and now 2019.

Let’s talk about six baby!

Yes, six times. More than Barcelona. More than Bayern Munich. Twice as many as Manchester United. Three times as many as Juventus.

Kings of European football yet again. Drink it in Reds fans. The special relationship with Ol’ Big Ears just got even stronger.

Happiness levels are off the scale but, boy, this magical night in Madrid did not come easily.

I have a theory that every experience in life, including football, has three elements – a ‘before’, a ‘during’ and ‘after’ to which we assign a level of enjoyment or sufferance.

If I was rating the Champions League final against Spurs, I’d give the following marks for enjoyment:

Before: 80%. Excitement, suspense and yet tempered by nerves.

During: 2%. Horrible. Just horrible.

After: 100%. Pure joy. Ecstasy. And the best thing is, the ‘after’ is the one I can spend a lifetime enjoying.

The ‘before’ ahead of a final is a standard rating. As a fan, you can’t wait. But, at the same time, there’s a dread of losing that knocks 20% off.

The ‘during’ you hope will be a high mark too if your side turns on the style and dominates from the off.


Excruciating final

But this final? Grim. Excruciating. I could never relax. I reckon I enjoyed two minutes of it and no more.

I’d break it down like this. Those 20 seconds when we were awarded a penalty and the referee confirmed it (the joy quickly turned to stomach-churning anxiety as Mo waited to step up and blast it).

The brief thrill of the net rippling and realising we had the first goal so soon. Perhaps another 20 seconds.

After that? I enjoyed Sadio Mane running sideways across midfield, knowing that at any moment he would leave Christian Eriksen for dead with his pace. I also enjoyed Joel Matip’s ambitious crossfield ball out of defence which found Andy Robertson out on the left, prompting the Scot to drive forward and blast a shot at Hugo Loris. But both added up to seconds not minutes.

And, of course, the incredible thrill of Divock Origi’s second goal. A guttural ‘YESSSSS’ roar lasting about 20 seconds, a ‘GET IN’, a violent clap of my hands, another five seconds of ‘YESSSSS’ and then back into a panic that Spurs always get late goals and could still score twice.

Finally, another 30 seconds at the very end of the added five minutes when the clock went to 94:30. Only then did I relax and actually think ‘this is done’.

And it was done. History made. A big gleaming silver trophy.


But there was something else I wanted to see, almost desperately so.

While the ‘after’ element of a football experience can be re-watching the match, discussing where you were etc, there’s also the short-term joy of just watching your team celebrate. The happiness and relief of the final whistle, the eruption of adrenaline and energy when the trophy is hoisted, the hugs with team-mates, the waves and clenched fists to the fans and just the general larking about, something we now know that Jurgen Klopp is very good at!

It’s always been one of my favourite things about following Liverpool and I’d been denied the opportunity to see those magical post-match moments since the 2012 League Cup final against Cardiff.

Seven years of jealousy, looking at other teams dancing around with scarves and cups and going on bus parades.

And losing finals, something we never really did in my younger days, made the agony even worse. That awful empty feeling, watching the players trudge up to collect their loser’s medals and blankly answer questions about what had gone wrong.

Liverpool parade bus TEAMtalk

So, my god, I’ve enjoyed the aftermath of victory. Did I really watch a five-hour repeat of the bus parade on Liverpool FC TV? Yes, I bloody did. And I enjoyed every second. The ‘after’ is brilliant. It goes on forever.

In amongst the elation, I guess I’ve also had a few moments to think about why it was such a poor game.

Playing three weeks after the end of the season clearly affected both teams’ rhythm and the stifling atmosphere in the stadium added to the general stodge and lack of fluidity.

Maybe the familiar foe didn’t help either although we certainly played it differently to other games against Spurs.


Klopp got it wrong in final

There’s actually a bit of me that thinks Klopp slightly got it wrong in a final again. He looked tense, anxious, not his usual self.

Did that translate to the players? Did all the previous defeats in finals for Klopp – including his three for us against Manchester City, Sevilla and Real Madrid – cause him and, by extension, the team to clam up again?

It’s one to debate but, of course, this time Klopp had another trick up his sleeve. A fallback option. Something that helps get you over the line in finals like this.

There were two intertwined elements. A proper defence and an ability to win ugly.

When I watched us rather disjointedly huff and puff our way to victories in the early months of the season, I said in a few Red Letters that I wasn’t enjoying it as much. It just wasn’t as fun as the rampant football of the previous campaign.

Now I understand why. For this team to evolve, they had to find a different way. To reduce the risk and win matches when not at full tilt.

And, in a tense final, played in cloying heat between two sides who were out of sync, this was the perfect occasion for the new pragmatism to kick in.

Let’s not forget though that a triumphant Champions League campaign isn’t defined by one game. It’s a body of work.

And we had plenty of thrills on the way. The late win over PSG at Anfield, the superb 3-1 victory in Munich, the ruthless finishing against Porto and, of course, that incredible comeback against Barcelona.

I’ll thoroughly enjoy the ‘Liverpool 2019 Champions League winners’ DVD when it comes out, just as long as the final has been edited down to about five minutes.

So, a season that saw us bank 97 points and still not win the Premier League has ended in total and utterly deserved triumph.

Klopp is no longer just a bloody brilliant bloke, who turned doubters into believers. He’s delivered a trophy. His place in history is secured. The “but he’s won nothing” caveat has been removed.


Squad pruning

And with the first one in the bag, this team is ready for more.

We’ve already started pruning the squad with Daniel Sturridge and Alberto Moreno moving on and there must be a queue of players wanting to come to Anfield.

And just look at the age of the squad already assembled:

Alisson Becker: 26

Simon Mignolet: 31

Trent Alexander-Arnold: 20

Andy Robertson: 25

Virgil van Dijk: 27

Joe Gomez: 22

Joel Matip: 27

Dejan Lovren: 29

Naby Keita: 24

Jordan Henderson: 28

James Milner: 33

Gini Wijnaldum: 28

Fabinho: 25

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain: 25

Adam Lallana: 31

Xherdan Shaqiri: 27

Mo Salah: 26

Sadio Mane: 27

Roberto Firmino: 27

Divock Origi: 24

Rhian Brewster: 19


A top-class goalkeeper in place for the next six, seven, eight years, young and energetic full-backs, centre-backs with a nice blend of youth and experience and dynamic attackers in the first phase of their peak years.

Perhaps a little freshening of the midfield is due although Klopp anticipated that with the signings of Keita and Fabinho.

“I’ve said it, this is only the start for this group,” said Klopp after masterminding Wednesday night’s win. “It’s still a wonderful age group, they all have the best times in their careers ahead.”

Too right. Starting out on a trophy-laden journey with the biggest of the lot is some statement.

A look around the European leagues shows that pure bucketloads of money buys domestic titles.

But there can be a different script when it comes to Europe’s ultimate prize. There is an ‘X’ factor based on history, support and atmosphere.

While we held our nerve to collect the trophy in Madrid, this Champions League was won against Barcelona in one of those magical European nights that we still do better than anyone.

We didn’t boo the manager on the way but clap when we won the trophy (mentioning no names, cough, Chelsea).

Because, as with all our European triumphs, the fans, the players and the manager were united on every single step of the journey.

And, if you want to feel part of something, to keep falling back in love with the team you’ve supported as a kid, this is the ultimate way of achieving glory.

Liverpool fans, feel very proud of yourselves. We’ve pulled this off together.

Dave Tindall