Jurgen Klopp was obviously disappointed, but trying to adopt a brave face, before even his famous enthusiasm gave way to some irritation.
For his part, after losing the biggest game in club football for the second time in his career, the Liverpool boss had seemingly “earned” the right to one of the most bizarre post-Champions League final press conferences there can have been. Many journalists from the international media seemed to prefer asking questions that were really just compliments wrapped in questions, with Klopp himself making fun of this.
“Thank you for the first part of your speech,” he said to one journalist and almost rolled his eyes at one question about how he’d lost but once again won admiration for his football.
At the end of it, the Uefa press officer began to state “one more compliment, congratulations to Liverp…” before Klopp cut him off. “I don’t need any more compliments.”
Much of this was obviously down to a competitor’s basic disappointment at losing, and a distaste for being patronised. Klopp sees himself as more than that, and rightfully so, but there’s more to it.
Despite what some rival managers might think, the German is no bullshitter, especially not in that regard. He doesn’t want to be praised for failure, and probably knows he didn’t deserve compliments for this specific game.
There’s even the possibility he was frustrated with himself, and the very justifiable argument he arguably deserves criticism.
While that criticism should be greatly caveated by the idea he mostly deserves overwhelming praise for this whole season, and that most of the run is down to the managerial alchemy that so makes him absolutely the right boss for Liverpool, much of this match is also on him.
That isn’t down to the somewhat overplayed underperformance of six defeats in seven finals either. Many of those finals were when Klopp had the inferior or financially weaker side, as was the case in Kiev.
There’s also the inescapable fact that, while Liverpool lost their best player and greatly suffered the consequences, Madrid wouldn’t have suffered from that at all. Had Cristiano Ronaldo got injured, they could have just brought on the player who succeeded him as the most expensive in the world… something they did anyway to go and win the game.
That’s a huge gap in resources, and Klopp has generally done superbly to get Liverpool to that level and this stage… but not on the stage on this occasion.
This was one fixture where they didn’t quite help themselves, even if the injury to Salah made it such an extreme situation.
It’s just that, for a manager whose great ability is getting teams to ravenously perform so far above themselves because they so fully believe in themselves, the injury seemed to really get to them. The entire tone of the match changed. It is revealed in those widely circulated stats about touches in the attacking third before and after Salah went off, but could also be blatantly seen in the performances.
That is of course eminently forgivable in the circumstances, but it just stands out because Klopp’s motivational abilities make him stand out.
What really made Liverpool’s issues task harder on the night were some longer-standing issues.
Even allowing for the gap in resources, and the necessity for Klopp to make compromises on who he buys and where because of that, a lingering feeling persists that he could have created a better bolstered squad after three years in the job.
They should have more options.
Questions could also be raised about how he tactically responded to the Salah injury, but that was complicated by the personnel available, and he did at least try something different with Adam Lallana.
It didn’t quite work, but that happens, especially in circumstances like this.
The biggest criticism, though, should revolve around the game’s biggest talking point beyond Gareth Bale: Loris Karius.
Klopp knew of the issues, and had wanted to buy an upgrade anyway… but let the issues continue.
It ended up costing him far more than a January signing might have, although that again might come down to the necessary financial compromises.
Liverpool still lost the club game’s biggest fixture to the biggest club on the planet, and only after a significant injury, a huge game-changing moment, a wonder goal from one of the most expensive players in the world who came on as a substitute, and unfortunately one of the worst goalkeeping performances ever seen.
Any criticisms within that are relative, but that’s not to say they shouldn’t be made.
Acknowledging them is the only way improvements are made, but Klopp is well aware of that, too.
The entire team will get a considerable boost with the signing of Naby Keita, and he will look to buy a new goalkeeper, probably Jack Butland.
Klopp knows what needs to be done.
That’s why he knows not to be too downbeat, or irritated.
By 6am the morning after the final, he was captured singing with Liverpool fans.
To take words from another song that has soundtracked their run, they’re not going to stop. Not yet.
Read more coverage on the Champions League final:
- Miguel Delaney: The definitive read from an enthralling night
- Jonathan Liew: The emptiness of the biggest stage
- Ed Malyon: Why relentless Real make their own luck
- Mark Critchley: Salah’s early exit cripples Liverpool
- Explained: Salah’s injury and his chances of playing in Russia
- Man marking: We run the rule over both teams in Kiev
- Transfer talk #1: Ronaldo opens the door to shock exit
- Transfer talk #2: Bale issues come and get me plea
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