A punk singer and fake European Cup: how Klopp got Liverpool back on track

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Jürgen Klopp and the Liverpool players applaud their fans after their defeat in Kyiv

There were tears, there was a fake trophy presentation with Steven Gerrard’s vase and a famous German singer lay in the rain outside Jürgen Klopp’s home after Liverpool last encountered Real Madrid in a Champions League final. It goes without saying that the Liverpool manager wants a different ending in Paris. But as a starting point for the recovery of a team that could win a second Champions League in four seasons on Saturday, there is a strong, sozzled case to be made for those moments in Formby on the morning of 27 May 2018.

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Liverpool would prefer to forget the 3-1 defeat in Kyiv the night before – Sergio Ramos, Mohamed Salah, Salt Bae, Lorius Karius and Gareth Bale is a sufficient recap – and the morning after might have gone the same way for Klopp but for a video of him partying with the lead singer of Die Toten Hosen going viral.

“We saw the European Cup, Madrid had all the luck, we swear we’ll keep on being cool, we’ll bring it back to Liverpool,” sang the Liverpool manager in his kitchen alongside Andreas Frege, aka Campino. No masterpiece, certainly, but as a means of showing the world that Liverpool were ready to move on, it was inspired. The final line proved prophetic when Klopp got his hands on the trophy in Madrid, beating Tottenham in the final 12 months later.

“It started as one of the worst nights in my life,” Klopp recalls. His recollections of a hazy night are worth reading in full. “The flight back was obviously horrendous. The feeling was down. The families were in another plane, and the worst moment was still to come – facing family and friends.

“When we arrived at Melwood [Liverpool’s then training ground] on our bus, all the wives, girlfriends, friends, everybody was crying. Unbelievable. We were not crying. I cry quite frequently in similar situations but not that day as I was OK, kind of. It was a football game, there were strange circumstances, but everybody was crying. My agent was crying! I was going: ‘What’s going on?’

Jürgen Klopp and the Liverpool players applaud their fans after their defeat in Kyiv. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian

“It was now morning and then we went to the house and let a few people in. It’s the former house of Stevie G, so a little bit of the furniture was still in there. There was a big vase in the guest toilet and Peter Krawietz [assistant manager] goes in the toilet and comes out holding the vase shouting: ‘Yes! It looks like the Champions League trophy!’ Everybody took it and had pictures taken with it. ‘Ah, so that’s how it feels.’

“One of the guests is probably the most famous singer in Germany, Campino, a good friend and massive LFC supporter, like crazy massive his whole life. Then the song starts. We were all drunk, it was a bit rainy, we sang it and recorded it on a smartphone. Then somebody said: ‘We have to put that out, the world needs that as well.’ It’s not a good moment when you are slightly drunk to make a decision like that. Campino called his agency at home and said: ‘Put it out on Twitter.’

Jürgen Klopp holds the 2019 Champions League trophy after Liverpool beaten Tottenham in the final
Jürgen Klopp holds the 2019 Champions League trophy after Liverpool beaten Tottenham in the final. Photograph: Toby Melville/Reuters

“They said: ‘Wait, wait, wait, let’s speak to Jürgen; does he really want that?’ Campino was lying outside in his socks, in the rain, on the grass … ‘Jürgen, Jürgen! Do you really want to do it?’ ‘Yes of course.’ So bam, it was out. Then it all started, but it was fine. It pictured the mood we were in. We were already over it. The new season had started already and it started with that.”

The party finished “sometime in the afternoon”, according to Klopp, who left Merseyside the following day for a well-earned holiday and to prepare for a season that would end with Liverpool’s sixth European triumph. “It’s really better to suffer together, much better in fact, than sitting alone with your thoughts. That’s not cool,” he says. “We had, not the best time of our lives, but an OK time. The next day was holiday and that was fine as well.”

Rebounding from setbacks has been a theme of Klopp’s Liverpool reign. Having been deflated on the final day of the Premier League season last Sunday, when missing out on the title by a point to Manchester City, they must respond again at Stade de France to add the Champions League to their FA and Carabao Cup successes. In Kyiv in 2018, Klopp felt his team would be stronger for the pain of their loss to Real Madrid.

“I remember a little glimpse of light while standing in the queue at the airport where we had to go through a security check,” he said. “It felt so bad that maybe I just wanted to think there was a light somewhere, I don’t know. But I had this thought that: ‘Yes, we can come back next year.’ I only remembered it a year later. I didn’t think about it all throughout the whole Champions League campaign [in 2019] but when we qualified for the final I remembered that moment in the airport.

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“If I would have known that next year’s final was in Madrid I would have thought: ‘We definitely have to come back.’ I can’t explain it. It wasn’t a clear idea that from here we will go from rock bottom and start again like a phoenix. It was just this one moment. I really think our Champions League story so far is a pretty special one. And it’s to be continued.”

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