Liverpool have traded on the currency of footballing miracles throughout their history. Jurgen Klopp needs another one to lift his second Premier League title on Sunday. Hope is eternal in a club used to turning the almost impossible into an exciting reality.
If Liverpool capitalize on a Manchester City slip-up similar to Devon Loch, a 2022 title will sit alongside Istanbul and the Champions League semi-final against Barcelona among their best comebacks. “We have the best rival in world football, which is a bit embarrassing. But they have us in the neck, which is not very good either ”, was Klopp’s summary of the penalty shootout on the last day.
He knows that fate lies in the hands of others, including one of Kop’s most revered agents, Aston Villa manager Steven Gerrard, sent into enemy territory as Ethan Hunt on a rogue mission. Urged to embrace the Gerrard romanticism that potentially choreographed City’s downfall, Klopp imagined himself back in the Bundesliga, leading a team (likely against Bayern Munich) knowing a positive result would benefit his former clubs Mainz or Borussia Dortmund.
“That would be, for me, an extra motivation,” he said. “But I don’t play. And Stevie doesn’t play. It’s a shame, much more a shame that Stevie doesn’t play that I don’t play.” The slight concession to “mind games” was that Klopp argued that Liverpool had a free kick. “I can’t talk about pressure for the other team, but for us it is like that. There is no pressure,” he said. “If you have something to lose, it feels different. But we don’t. “It’s not about ‘what if.’ If City have that, I don’t know. I’m 100 per cent sure it’s normal that when we play Southampton and lose 1-0, some people in City notice. It’s the moment when you think, ‘that would be nice’. And then we had the moment where we turned it around and brought it to the wire.”
Klopp knows the power of his message ahead of the games that define his career. His behavior can be as revealing as his words. When Liverpool entered the final day in an identical position three years ago, a point behind City, Klopp was in a phlegmatic mood, insisting that “moments can mean more than trophies”. He was still hoping to win something at Anfield then. He seemed like he was reassuring a disheartened fan base to keep the faith.
“I don’t remember 100 percent how I felt before the last game of the season and after that game, but I was fine,” Klopp said. “I remember walking in the lap of honor with Trent [Alexander-Arnold]. We both had smiles on our faces because it was a great season.”
Look at the photographs of that walk to the Kop and Klopp’s memory may be playing tricks on him. After a murmur of anticipation as City conceded to Brighton early, there was heartbreak and frustration, though balanced with defiance and optimism as the Champions League final loomed. Three years on, Klopp is emboldened to have won every major honor with Liverpool. As a manically jovial cartographer, he possesses an unerring ability to derive meaning from every mark on the map of his adventures, no matter how light or dark his memories are. Analyzing this campaign, no one should forget the impact on Klopp of the last one. Soulless lockdown football, serious injuries to key players, and family bereavements created challenges he couldn’t prepare for.
It felt deliberate for Klopp to repeat his claim that breaking into the top four a year ago, thereby protecting the legacy of the 2020 title-winning campaign and creating a foundation for this year’s quadruple bet, was among his greatest successes. “The biggest losses of my life led to the biggest successes of my life, wherever I was,” Klopp said. “I learned that in Mainz when we didn’t get promoted and we thought it would be very sad. We had 20,000 people waiting for us the day after we lost our dream of going to the Bundesliga. So whatever happens on Sunday, we won’t stop trying.”
That explains why, despite the likelihood of finishing second again, Klopp sounds optimistic, buoyed that a parade through the city center is guaranteed with or without the title. He said that if Liverpool weren’t honoring the 2022 title winners, they would be paying tribute to those from 2020 who were denied a tour in an open-top bus due to the pandemic.
“We have many reasons to celebrate. We don’t know how many reasons, but enough,” she said. “Just celebrate life. There is the Carabao Cup, the FA Cup and whatever comes. Even if we don’t win the Champions League final, we have a party afterwards. That we didn’t have the parade two years ago when we converted [Premier League] champions is not ‘the’ reason, but it is another reason. I’m very happy about what I promised at the time when I said, ‘whenever possible, we’ll have a parade.’ What other people think, I couldn’t care less. There is already enough to organize a parade without trophies. We already have two. Let’s see how many more we have.”