Speaking for the first time in detail about the pain Liverpool suffered 63 days ago, Klopp has given a wide-ranging interview ahead of the new season in which he:
Criticises Ramos’s behaviour and calls him ‘ruthless’; goes into detail about the concussion goalkeeper Loris Karius suffered and explains why he would have broken the world record for new No 1 Alisson Becker even if Liverpool had beaten Real Madrid in Kiev; laughs off Jose Mourinho’s attempts to get him to engage in mind games.
Recounting what happened on the night Liverpool lost 3–1, Klopp — whose side face Manchester United here on Saturday — said: ‘I’m not sure if it is an experience we will have again. Go there and put an elbow to the goalkeeper, put their goalscorer down like a wrestler in midfield and then you win.’
The question takes him by surprise. Jurgen Klopp has settled down in a conference room at Liverpool’s team hotel and is preparing to discuss the new season.
Before he can start to look forward, though, Klopp is asked to revisit Liverpool’s 3–1 defeat by Real Madrid in the Champions League final. Or — more specifically — the incident in the 26th minute that led to Mohamed Salah leaving the field in tears following Sergio Ramos’s challenge.
Ramos, the totem of the modern Madrid, said plenty on the subject afterwards, among other things claiming Salah was taken off too early and could have continued with the aid of a pain-killing injection. So what did Klopp make of it all?
‘We are opening that bottle again?’ he replies.
There is a puff of the cheeks and a long pause. Once Klopp has gathered his thoughts, he proceeds to speak, unbroken, for 10 minutes. The words he chooses are blunt and leave you in no doubt that he holds Ramos responsible.
‘I watched that back, of course,’ said Klopp. ‘Someone showed it to me immediately after the game. But if you watch it back and you are not with Real Madrid then you think it is ruthless and brutal. You don’t think, “Wow! Good challenge”. It was ruthless.
‘I don’t think Mo would have always got injured in that situation, this time it was unlucky. But it is an experience we cannot have. I’m not sure if it is an experience we will have again. Go there and put an elbow to the goalkeeper, put their goalscorer down like a wrestler in midfield and then you win.
‘That was the story. Ramos said a lot of things I didn’t like. As a person, I didn’t like his reactions. He was like, “Whatever! What do they want? It’s normal!” No. It isn’t normal. If VAR is coming this is a situation where you have to look again, not to give a red card, but to say, “What is that?”
‘If you put all of the situations of Ramos together — and I’ve watched football since I was five years old — then you will see a lot of situations with Ramos. In the final the year before, against Juve, he was responsible for the red card for Juan Cuadrado.
‘The world out there accepts that you use each weapon to win the game. People probably expect that I am the same. I am not.’
Now he has found his rhythm.
‘If you write this people will say I’m weak, a bad loser or a whiner,’ Klopp continues. ‘I’m not. I accept it. You have asked me about it. It’s not like I wake up in the morning and think “RAMOS!” (he jumps out his chair for effect) I’m fine with it. We were a competitor. But in a final you need to have a bit of luck and we didn’t have it. Then there was the situation with Loris.’
A situation which didn’t fully come to light until three days after Liverpool had returned home from Kiev. Loris Karius, their goalkeeper, had been elbowed in the head by Ramos.
No foul was given and the German never asked for treatment. He was subsequently diagnosed with concussion after being examined by Dr Ross Zafonte and Dr Lenore Herget at Boston’s Massachusetts General Hospital.
‘What did you think in the moment when (that story) came out?’ Klopp asks. ‘Come on. Be honest.’
The honest answer is that many saw it as an excuse, a story designed to offer protection for a goalkeeper whose errors led to Madrid’s first and third goals. Klopp takes it all on board before putting forward the reality of the situation.
‘Franz Beckenbauer called me,’ Klopp explains. ‘He started with, “Your goalkeeper had concussion”. I said, “What?”. He said “I’ve come from (Bayern Munich doctor) Hanz Muller-Wolfhart and he said he knew immediately in the situation that Loris had concussion when Ramos hit him.”
‘People said we made the medical report public because it’s policy. It’s not. We didn’t use it one second as an excuse. But how can we not put it out as an explanation? The problem is that people still don’t believe it. Then we bring in a new goalkeeper and people think we don’t believe it as well.’
Karius’s future at Liverpool is uncertain. There have been more mistakes in pre-season and the 25-year-old told Sky Germany this week that he was upset about the £65million world record arrival of Alisson Becker from Roma.
Klopp and Karius have spoken in recent days but the manager wants to stress this point about Brazil No 1 Alisson, who will join the squad for a training camp in France next week.
‘If Alisson was on the market and we’d won the final, we would have gone for him,’ says Klopp. ‘He’s the goalkeeper we want. The other goalkeepers are really good, like all our other players. But that doesn’t mean we don’t bring in another one. We try to improve our own situation.’
And Liverpool certainly have improved their situation in the past 63 days. Naby Keita and Fabinho, two midfielders who have cost almost £100million combined, have added depth and class to the engine room. Xherdan Shaqiri was a £13million buy from Stoke that Klopp says made ‘total sense’.
But as Klopp knows, the huge investment brings huge expectation. Liverpool’s rivals are watching their every move, applying pressure in any way they can.
Nobody has done it more than Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho, who says there is a ‘demand’ on Liverpool to become champions. The sides face each other in ‘The Big House’ in Ann Arbor on Saturday night.
‘I heard he was smiling when he said it and he found it funny,’ says Klopp, his eyes twinkling with mischief. ‘So I am really happy that Jose is smiling! It doesn’t happen a lot of times!
‘Would I speak today about Jose Mourinho if you didn’t ask me? Of course not. I’m not sure but probably Jose wouldn’t speak about me if nobody asked him. Jose tries everything to put pressure on people and improve his own situation.
‘If he goes for spending money — and I’m not the best at counting what we have spent in the last few years — but I would say since we are both in, still Manchester United probably has spent a little bit more — at least net. That is how it is. It’s not important.’
What is important is the task of moving Liverpool forward.
‘It is not only about signings,’ he says before leaving. ‘We have a good team. We still have a good team but the others have good teams. They will not sleep.
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