Belfast Telegraph

Liverpool v Sevilla Europa League final: Jurgen Klopp driven on by pain and bitter taste of defeat

As he eyes Euro joy, Pool boss insists scaling heights is impossible without first falling to suffer new lows

By Simon Hughes

If the highs become too high and the lows are too low, it is the job that chews you up and spits you out. "The fella that leaves is not the same fella that arrives," says Jamie Carragher when asked about how taking on the role of Liverpool manager changes a person.

Perhaps, then, the trait in Jurgen Klopp that enables him to balance victory and defeat and treat them as the same imposter will end up defining him.

Ahead of Liverpool's Europa League final against Sevilla in Basel tonight, when it was put to Klopp that he, indisputably, is a "winner", his response was to focus on the whiplash of past failures.

"If you look at my career until now you can say that each season was very exciting until the last match," he said, proceeding to speak of the moments where it went wrong.

Mainz missing out by a point for promotion in 2002; falling short again by goal difference a year later; losing cup finals at Borussia Dortmund to Wolfsburg 12 months ago, to Bayern Munich in 2014 and, of course, the Champions League at Wembley to Bayern in 2014 - an occasion where injustice smarts because of the performance of the referee.

"I have stayed in the race until the end," he reminds. "Sometimes I thought 'everyone else is already on holiday, they have had four weeks and I'm still going nuts'. But that is the truth. I don't know why this has happened. I try to get everything.

"When I sleep, I sleep. When I'm not I'm really awake. I try to push everything I can to get everything I can get. That is why we had finals in the last few years. Someone will mention it; someone will write that I didn't win too much."

There is a palpable sense of optimism in Klopp because although Sevilla have won this competition four times in the last decade, Liverpool appear to be in a slightly healthier current state.

Unai Emery's team's seventh-placed finish in La Liga is based on the strength of their home performances, having failed to win an away match this season.

Their only victories on the road of any kind so far, indeed, have come against lower league opposition in the Copa del Rey, at city rivals Real Betis in the same competition, and in the Europa League's quarter-final first leg at Athletic Bilbao.

"Very often I was in a final against a team that is actually a little bit better," Klopp reasons. "We got there because we were over-performing. Then in the final you have the best team against you and you think 'this is quite difficult'.

"Now, Sevilla are a really good side but they are not better than we are. We both deserve to be here. But it is not like Sevilla are up there and we are down here and we have to bring them back down with some tactical movements.

"No!" he continued, banging fist into palm. "If we play our best it is quite difficult for any team in this moment to play against us, especially to beat us."

And then he finished his answer: "I'm not sure if I am a winner but I want to win. Really, I had to learn to accept defeats in my life: it doesn't feel too good.

"You could say it is better to go out in the semi-final so it doesn't hurt as much if you lose the final but being in the final is the opportunity. That is why we are here."

Klopp was not particularly bothered by the fact that victory would secure Liverpool's presence in the Champions League next season.

"Winning a title or winning a cup is the biggest thing in football," he insists. The consequence of success will merely be "a bonus".

There is an impression that Klopp is always directed by his emotions. In the moment, the impression is certainly accurate but listen to him closely and you realise that experience makes him a pragmatist when it comes to taking a longer-term view.

"If someone thinks if we win the final then everything will be wonderful in the future then come on... It is only one title then next year we still have to improve," he said.

"If somebody thinks if we don't win it and everything is rubbish from now on then what can I say?

"If you allow the pressure to become that big, how can you move in a game? How can you walk? It is hard to breathe. Is it our only chance in life and if we don't take it then everything will be rubbish afterwards? It doesn't work like that. It is still a game of football.

"If you want to get to the highest level you need to be ready to fall really deep. If you are not ready for this, you cannot reach where you really want to go.

"If you only want to take the things you have for sure, then you have no chance to get the really special things and this is special for us.

"It is a big opportunity. It is a big chance but it is not the last chance in our life. I learned that quite early in my life that there is always another chance if you take the right information from the things you have done.

"It is not important in this moment. We want to win. We are only going to Basel to win this trophy.

"The bad news is that Sevilla will have the same plan. That is football. Let's go."

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph