KIEV, Ukraine, May 25 – “We’ve won it five times,” Liverpool supporters sing to celebrate their five European Cup final victories, but Jurgen Klopp, manager of the English giants, is attempting to end a very different run of results in Saturday’s Champions League final.
Klopp has lost his last five finals, three with Borussia Dortmund before moving to Anfield in 2015, and two in his debut season with the Reds.
“They don’t hang silver medals at Melwood (Liverpool’s training ground),” Klopp warned amid the euphoria of making it to Kiev this weekend after an enthralling 7-6 aggregate semi-final win over Roma.
“There’s still a job to do but that’s how it is. Going to a final is really nice but winning is even nicer.”
Those are words of a man who has been there and suffered before. Each of his five final defeats had their own context, but hurt all the same.
“If something is really important for you, you have to be ready for suffering. That is how life is,” Klopp said this week.
“If you want guarantees then don’t qualify for a final, stay at home or go on holiday.”
Klopp’s unfortunate run began in another Champions League final, five years ago at Wembley, as Dortmund lost out to bitter German rivals Bayern Munich 2-1 courtesy of Arjen Robben’s last minute winner.
That run to the final proved to be the beginning of the end for Klopp’s great Dortmund side that had won two Bundesliga titles and thrashed Bayern 5-2 in the 2012 German Cup final – the only final success of his career.
A year on from Wembley, they lost to Bayern once more in the German Cup final 2-0 after extra-time in a highly contentious game as Mats Hummels — just one of many of Klopp’s Dortmund stars who would move to Bayern — had a goal wrongly not given before the 90 minutes were up when the ball had crossed the line in the days before goal line technology.
– “The legs will be fine” –
Klopp’s final season at the German giants was a difficult one. A seventh-placed finish was far more respectable than seemed likely for most of the campaign as they even sat bottom of the Bundesliga in February, and a season to forget was capped with a 3-1 German Cup final defeat to a Kevin de Bruyne-inspired Wolfsburg.
Since joining Liverpool in October 2015, progress in the Premier League has been steady if unspectacular with two fourth-placed finishes after ending his first season in eighth. But it is in Cup competitions that Klopp has made his mark on Liverpool.
Defeat on penalties to Manchester City in the 2016 League Cup final was followed by his first truly great Anfield night by coming from 3-1 down to beat Dortmund 4-3 in the Europa League quarter-finals.
Villarreal were then swept aside, but despite taking a deserved first-half lead against Sevilla in the final in Basel, Liverpool wilted after the break to lose 3-1.
Klopp’s demands on his players to play a high-energy pressing game has previously been blamed for his side’s form failing off towards the end of the season.
But with two weeks to prepare between Liverpool’s final Premier League game of the season and Saturday’s final, Klopp insists that won’t be the case this time round.
“We were unlucky in the (Europa League) final,” he added. “Second-half, it was legs. This time the legs will be fine.”