John Brewin: Klopp was the perfect fit for the resuscitation of Liverpool

Our expert writer looks ahead to tomorrow’s Champions League final and examines the impact Jurgen Klopp has had on The Reds since his arrival…


Liverpool Football Club’s modern history is one of disappointment compared to what came before.

A single trophy in 12 years of football is a desperate return. The Premier League era has been 26 years of pain, looking on as other clubs claim the title season on season.

And yet Kiev can wash away so many wounds. The Champions League, the European Cup in old money, is where the club’s worldwide reputation was made,  a time when a team from a small, port city conquering an entire continent.

On five victories, they are already level with Barcelona and Bayern Munich, two behind AC Milan’s seven, while Real Madrid will aim for 13 on Saturday night. Such a stage is where the club belongs in the eyes of those fans who remember victories in Rome 1977, London 1978, Paris 1981, Rome once more in 1984 and Istanbul in 2005.

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Those nights are celebrated in song, and the banners that fill Anfield, though there have also been disappointments.

Liverpool must make this an Istanbul, rather than Athens in 2007, where AC Milan gained sweet revenge for two years previously, or even Basel, two years ago, when in his first few months in charge, Jurgen Klopp saw a Sevilla team coached by new Arsenal manager Unai Emery take his team apart in the Europa League final.

That night in Switzerland, though, might one day be remembered as a first step of Liverpool’s revival.

It is hard to think of a managerial and club combination so apt as that of Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool. When he was signed up in October 2015, it was a decision that changed the focus of the club, away from Bostonian owners against whom fans held so many suspicions.

Klopp swiftly marked himself out as the ideal frontman for a club reaching for identity.

Before he arrived, Liverpool was an institution wracked by in-fighting. A sentimental melancholy born of living in the past was doing the club few favours.

Suddenly, with Anfield being renovated into a 21st century stadium, and the team challenging for major honours again, Liverpool is modernised rather than a relic.

Predecessor Brendan Rodgers tried and failed to be Anfield’s philosopher poet, and came far closer than Klopp has yet been to a Premier League title in 2013-14, but he lacked the authenticity and gravitas to be fully taken to fans’ hearts.

That does not make Rodgers a bad manager, or someone who did a bad job but reviving Liverpool was too big a job for him.

At times, Rodgers was trying too hard to be a new Bill Shankly. Klopp, though, is his own man. The guffawing jokes he cracks, at which he almost always laughs, and the frenzied mania he can bring to a sideline are not to everyone’s tastes, but he exerts an assurance that was desperately required.

Liverpool had to fit around him, rather he try to fit within the club.

“You want to see fighting spirit, many sprints, many shots, and the result is the result of these things,” he said, explaining his philosophy in simple terms on the occasion of his first press conference. “Everyone knows me. It’s emotion, speed.”

He has lived up to those words. Liverpool was always a club awash with emotion but it is speed that has taken them to this season’s final. In the knockouts, Porto, then Manchester City and Roma were assailed by a team going from the starter’s gun and pressing its opponent to distraction.

The pattern of Liverpool matches, as it often was at Borussia Dortmund, is that an early blow-out gives way to Klopp’s team needing to hang on for grim life, and it is that explosiveness that Real must defuse to win a third successive crown.

Klopp has made a career of creating unlikely heroes; Dortmund was a club of former ugly ducklings and it is tempting to consider how the likes of Andy Robertson, or a 32-year-old James Milner or even Mohamed Salah himself might fare at other, rivals clubs to Liverpool.

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Yet each of that trio, and the rest of what is actually a pretty threadbare squad to have reached so far in the Champions League, are committed to that emotion and speed.

Salah and Roberto Firmino are the star names, and Virgil van Dijk cost £75m, but each is as committed to the ethos as Trent Alexander-Arnold, just 19, or Robertson, a Celtic reject who had to begin his career in part-time football.

Is that enough to stop mighty Madrid?

Klopp’s record in finals, just one win in six, and the last five lost in succession, is a concern. His previous visit to the Champions League final in 2013 with Dortmund saw Bayern eventually overcome his tired team.

In Basel, an amped-up first-half display gave way to an acceptance of defeat as a superior footballing outfit put their own strategy into action.

The same is likely in Kiev, but defeat would not be the end of Klopp’s resuscitation of Liverpool.

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