Jurgen Klopp cements his Liverpool legacy with club's sixth European Cup win
The German backs up his promises from four years ago as 2-0 win comes over Tottenham Hotspur in Uefa Champions League final
“If we sit here in four years, I think we win one title. If not, the next one may be in Switzerland.”
At the end of his fourth season, in the last competition to be determined, Jurgen Klopp justified those words.
His next trophy, it transpired, did not come in Switzerland, but in Spain. Liverpool did win one title, and the most important one.
A manager who had pledged in his Anfield unveiling to turn doubters into believers has rebranded a team who were then 10th in the Premier League into officially the best side in Europe.
When memories of a strangely subdued game fade, a colossal feat will still resonate. Liverpool and Tottenham had provided the pyrotechnics in seminal semi-finals.
The showpiece was more of a damp squib. Klopp had described the second leg against Barcelona as the best game he had ever seen.
This was not, but conquering Europe ranks as his greatest achievement. No longer can he be seen as the smiling nearly man, the serial runner-up. His sequence of six consecutive final defeats is over. Liverpool’s first silverware in seven years was their sixth European Cup.
Over the course of two seasons, Liverpool have been the best team in the Champions League. They have often been the most exhilarating but if that made an underwhelming display against Spurs out of character, perhaps they have become the most resilient.
Their 2018 recruitment drive was concentrated on defence. Liverpool would have exited in the group stages but for Alisson’s save from Napoli’s Arkadiusz Milik and if he was a spectator for much of the match, stops from Heung-Min Son, Lucas Moura and Christian Eriksen offered a contrast to Loris Karius’ traumatic time on this stage last season.
Virgil van Dijk was reliability personified but a symbol of Klopp’s Liverpool was altogether cheaper: Trent Alexander-Arnold has been on their books since he was six.
At 20, the Liverpudlian was arguably the best player on the pitch for his hometown club. A more conservative manager than Klopp might not have given him such opportunities.
But Klopp has been a transformative manager for player after player. Take the scorer of the opener. Mohamed Salah delivered 44 goals last season. He was injured when Barcelona visited Anfield. His T-shirt then read “never give up”.
Twelve months after his final was cruelly curtailed by Sergio Ramos, he scored the second-minute spot kick. The Egyptian should not be begrudged a final goal even if Moussa Sissoko, penalised harshly after a breakthrough season when he has gone from misfit to mainstay, could bemoan his ill-fortune, not least because the ball hit his chest first.
Tottenham’s has been an extraordinary run, forged by a capacity to come from behind. They have been slow starters and comeback kings, both in individual matches and the campaign as a whole.
But perhaps you can only beat the odds so many times; perhaps there is a limit to the number of acts of escapology a team can pull off. Perhaps they exhausted their ability to produce late drama.
Amid poor decision-making and poor execution, they took 72 minutes to register an effort on target. It scarcely helped that Mauricio Pochettino’s big gamble backfired.
Out for 53 days, in for Moura, Harry Kane delivered a muted performance. He looked off the pace – as, understandably, did Roberto Firmino, also parachuted in on his return from injury – and the comparative impotence of the two spearheads was a reason why neither team played to their potential.
But Klopp was more decisive than Pochettino. Firmino did not last an hour. On came Divock Origi, the inspired understudy who turned destroyer of Barcelona. And when the Belgian arrowed a shot past Hugo Lloris, Liverpool’s destiny was determined.
Three-and-a-half years ago, Origi started Klopp’s first game, a goalless draw with Tottenham. He finished this one, a 2-0 win over Spurs.
He represents an unlikely hero but Klopp feels a deserving one.
Like Bob Paisley, Joe Fagan and Rafa Benitez, he has made Liverpool champions. He has one title and some title.
Updated: June 2, 2019 02:03 AM