Real Madrid have the pedigree and the prizes, the silverware and the star-studded line-up. Jurgen Klopp acknowledges all of that and retains his innate positivity. Liverpool go to Kiev on Saturday with an optimism that stems from playing their own, defiantly different game, from seeing a risky approach can be rewarded.
Real are the 2014, 2016 and 2017 Uefa Champions League winners. Liverpool were not even playing in the Champions League in any of those seasons. “If there is an experienced market, they should sell it because then they would be even more rich than they are already,” smiled Klopp. Yet he places a store in his side’s strengths instead.
“They are more experienced. That is a fact. Experience is very important in life but not the only thing, especially in football. It is an important to be more experienced but you can level it with desire, readiness, attitude, work rate and that is what I love in football.”
Klopp relishes the game’s unpredictability. He has added to it, outperforming some of the competition’s recent success stories by eschewing their blueprints.
“It is clear if we had played like Juventus, or tried because we cannot, we go out in the group stage,” he said. “If we tried to play like Bayern, Barcelona or Real Madrid we would be out in the group stages, so we have to be more lively because we have a lack of experience. If you are not on the same level, you have to do more, invest more [effort]. Doing more can lead to mistakes but I don’t think there is any alternative to that.”
It is why Klopp’s brand of football carries an ever-present hint of danger. Liverpool are the side who scored five times in 34 minutes in a semi-final, could not shut up shop and then conceded two to Roma. Klopp is the opposite of a safety-first manager.
“You cannot go into a football game knowing it is possible you can lose it,” Klopp added. “I experience that a lot of times but I am still a happy person. Life goes on. We will show the players why it makes so much sense to be brave. It was not easy to be brave against Manchester City and against Roma but we did it.”
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The home legs of the quarter- and semi-finals came amid remarkable atmospheres, showing how Klopp’s energy has married with Liverpool’s continental tradition to create something special. “If you Google ‘European nights’ the answer must be Anfield so it is really cool being part of that,” he said.
His reign has seen a feelgood factor restored to Liverpool. A club with downbeat tendencies when he joined seems an extension of his upbeat personality now.
“It is great and a lot of things happened since I came in but the biggest change was how the people changed in case of how much they like their actual team. It is not long ago a lot of people were talking about having another player in their line-up, if we had [this player and that player],” he added.
Now they savour those they have, enjoying who they are rather than bemoaning who they are not. It is why Klopp can be undaunted about the task of facing Real and smilingly batting away invitations to compare Cristiano Ronaldo with Mohamed Salah. “You can write a whole book about the importance of Mo Salah and Cristiano Ronaldo to their teams,” he said.
Instead, Klopp simply enjoys the differences. “It is a really good football team but we are a really good football team,” he said. “I love our season.”