One win in six. Even worse, five losses in a row. But sometimes simple numbers tell too simple a tale.
The real story is Klopp’s overachievement with weaker teams. Focusing on his recent record in finals overlooks the feat of making it to those finals in the first place. Liverpool’s manager is not causing his teams to bottle big games.
He’s getting to those games where his side is losing to better teams.
Looking at the finals he’s lost, only one was a true upset – Dortmund’s 3-1 loss to Wolfsburg in 2015 – and the opposition that day did field the German player of the year for that season, a certain Kevin de Bruyne.
Klopp’s two defeats to Bayern Munich, in 2013’s Champions League final and the following season’s German Cup decider, came against a group of players at their career peak and who still form the back bone of the current Munich team.
Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben, future World Cup winners Manuel Neuer, Jerome Boateng, Thomas Müller, Toni Kroos, Philip Lahm and Bastien Schweinsteiger, this was the team Klopp’s Dortmund pushed to the limit. So much so in fact that Bayern had to take Mario Götze, the rising star of German football, in between these two finals.
Even in the games themselves, Klopp’s side were competitive at Wembley, only defeated by an 89th minute Robben heartbreaker, and the later game went to extra time after a goalless 90 minutes. The second half included a Mats Hummels “goal” that even VAR couldn’t miss. Munich took advantage of their good fortune to win it 2-0.
And then they brought in Pep.
Klopp’s other two final defeats, with Liverpool, came in the season he took over from Brendan Rodgers. Klopp would’ve been better off losing earlier in those competitions, as no one would’ve expected a manager who took over in October to lead his new side to silverware within months.
Sevilla did slice the Scouse defence to pieces in a humiliating second half of the Europa League final, but making that final was bonus in a season of change. And the League Cup final in February 2016 finished one-all after extra time, his side losing to Man City by the famously fair and just method of penalty shootout.
So, a Munich side filled with generational talents and World Cup winners, two finals in his first season at Liverpool that they had no reason to expect to make, one of which they lost on penalties, and a dazzling final performance by a player who has become the best midfielder in the best league in the world, these are the foundations of doubts about this manager in big games?
This isn’t even to mention the league title wins, the 2010 cup final win Klopp does have on his resume, the Champions League demolition of Madrid in 2013, and the knack he has of getting results against Guardiola the Great.
Maybe Klopp wins too many big games, that’s his problem.
The only reason Liverpool fans should fear Madrid is the obvious one; that, even with their great run to the final, they’re up against a better team.
After Kiev, Klopp will likely have six straight cup final losses, but who’s counting?
What counts for Liverpool now is they’re moving in the right direction, and Klopp is the one pointing the way.