What Jurgen Klopp told Liverpool a year ago to inspire Premier League title triumph

Reds’ first championship in England’s modern top flight was a testament to their determination and resilience

Melissa Reddy
Senior Football Correspondent
Thursday 25 June 2020 23:29
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Liverpool players celebrate Premier League win

As a mild Sunday afternoon turned to evening last 12 May, the home dressing room at Anfield was on mute. Liverpool had just dusted off Wolves 2-0 in the final round of Premier League fixtures to post a club-record 97 points, which bettered 116 of the previous 119 champions.

That haul superseded Manchester United’s treble-winning class of 1999 by 21, and was seven more than Arsenal’s ‘Invincibles’ posted.

Liverpool were unbeaten on their own turf for a second successive top-flight campaign for the first time since 1979-80 and were heading to Madrid for a consecutive crack at the Champions League trophy.

Their changing quarters were the antithesis of celebrations though. The Merseysiders were not England’s best, with Manchester City retaining that status on account of a solitary point.

When Jurgen Klopp walked into the room, it was enveloped by emotion. “I couldn’t be prouder of you,” he told the squad, his voice creaking. “What you have managed this season is incredible. I am so happy to be your manager, I wouldn’t swap this group of mentality giants for anyone. You will be winners, because that’s what you all are.”

While observers admitted a few found it difficult to suppress tears, the overriding feeling became one of defiance.

Liverpool had discovered their capabilities, while also removing City’s cloak of invincibility. Pep Guardiola’s side had won the 2017-18 title by a 19-point margin, but had to properly stretch themselves to retain it. City could be challenged and despite knowing they would have to be near perfect to dethrone them, Liverpool were confident it was within their powers.

Their Champions League victory over Tottenham at the Wanda Metropolitano – the club’s sixth European Cup and the first trophy under Klopp – only enhanced their credence.

The team were hardened by their heartaches all the way back to the 2016 League Cup final, through to Europa League disappointment, the crushing defeat to Real Madrid in Kiev and the nearest of title misses.

Jurgen Klopp poses after being appointed manager in October 2015

Liverpool no longer feared failure, they had learnt from it. They were ready to win. With their league drought entering a 30th year, the season began with what was externally expected to be a debilitating setback. Alisson suffered an Achilles injury in the opening fixture of the campaign against Norwich City, which sidelined him for 67 days.

Adrian, the deputy for the world’s best goalkeeper, had been training at semi-professional side Union Deportiva Pilas in Spain’s sixth tier, with personal coach Pedro Illanes and a physical trainer. He had barely had full sessions with Liverpool before having to become their No.1.

There has been a myth about the club being lucky with injuries, which ignores that major blow as well as Fabinho being unavailable for 53 days with an ankle injury, Jordan Henderson missing only 10 fewer than that with a hamstring problem and Joel Matip being absent for three months.

The prediction was that Liverpool would lose steam by December given their Club World Cup commitments, but by the turn of the year, they were European champions, Super Cup champions, world champions… and 13 points clear at the summit.

This has not been a seamless season for Liverpool, but they have made it look so. Chelsea did not gift them the title with victory against City on Thursday night – they merely brought the procession forward.

After a three-decade wait, including the uncertainty of a global pandemic – which suspended elite football for 100 days – Liverpool have given everything they have to become the earliest winners in Premier League history with seven games remaining, but also the latest to be crowned given the date of 25 June.

They did not clinch it in front of their fans, they did not clinch it on the pitch, but they’ve won it. Finally and ruthlessly.

It has been through a lengthy, meticulous process – the setting does not take away from the steps and the strain that allowed them to have their feet up, 23 points clear and having the luxury of watching it unfold.

The bottom line is: Klopp was right. Liverpool are winners. They are champions of England for the 19th time.

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