JUrgen Klopp has claimed six-and-a-half years at Liverpool have aged him, and that was before he became the Premier League’s longest-serving manager after Sean Dyche was sacked on Friday. The intensity of a work that will be shaped by the best margins over the next few weeks is the culprit but, far from hastening the end, it is what exalts it.
With a domestic trophy in the bag, Liverpool turn their attention to another Saturday when they return to Wembley to reunite with Manchester City in an FA Cup semi-final. Thoughts will then turn to a separate Premier League title race by a point, with Manchester United and Everton visiting Anfield next week, before Villarreal reach the Champions League semi-finals. There’s Klopp’s strange complaint – a 12.30 kick-off scheduled for Newcastle between the currently top-flight Villarreal links – but if it’s a period that ages the skin, it works wonders inside too . It could be a good time for FSG to dangle a contract extension ahead of them.
“It was only recently that I saw a picture of myself in 2005,” Klopp said on Thursday, his FA Cup press conference being brought forward 24 hours because Liverpool are not carrying out normal media duties at the anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster. “I saw a picture of my arrival here too [in October 2015]. Unfortunately, I see myself in the mirror every morning, so the past six years have been pretty intense. I see another person now.
“Chelsea have had exactly the same program as us recently, with the same number of games because of the League Cup final, and Thomas [Tuchel] said it perfectly: it’s really super-intense. But it’s also a lot of fun. I would like to have a full week to train. My God! Give me a full week of practice in the middle of the season. But we don’t have it, and that’s why we’re making changes.
“It’s always intense. This year is particularly intense but it’s also fun and exciting. Is it likely we’ll win all four competitions? No. Three competitions? No. One more? I hope that would be good. Dynamism [Guardiola] said it: if Atlético scores a goal, we are not talking about the good mentality of the City players, and it was a good mentality. That’s the difference. We draw at City or maybe we lose 3-2 and everyone says it’s not enough. Its good. It’s our life. These little things are really important and make all the difference and being ready for them all the time is really hard, but very interesting.
Klopp is the first manager in Liverpool’s storied history to reach three semi-finals in a season. The feat, of course, brings little satisfaction to someone who could soon become the first manager in English football to win a quadruple.
“Three semi-finals and nothing won, the world is not ready for this kind of success,” he remarks, ignoring the Carabao Cup victory. “But no, I’m really happy for the boys. At this club, it’s so hard to do something that our fathers and grandfathers haven’t already done. This specific thing, nobody has done it in this club so it’s really special. But if it’s success this year, it won’t be considered a success in the future.
Liverpool should be relatively fresh from City who, as Klopp made seven changes against Benfica on Wednesday, suffered a bruising night at Atlético. Mohamed Salah was among those who enjoyed a well-deserved rest – for at least 57 minutes – and Klopp believes the striker is ready to finish with a bang despite scoring once in his last 11 games for the club and the country.
“The problem we have is that in January he had the most intense period of his entire career,” he said. “The [Africa Cup of Nations] tournament went over. Egypt played in the final, they got all those 120 minutes, the role he has is super, super massive. There is a huge responsibility on his shoulders with meetings in the locker room and no recovery at all. Then you have the problem of being a superstar in your own country and everyone wants something from you. Everything is super intense.
“A player like Mo who likes to dribble – and he’s really good, he’s scored exceptional goals while dribbling – do I say to him, ‘Don’t dribble?’ No. It’s ‘Dribble at the right times and keep the ball, keep it simple’, all that kind of stuff. I know Mo will finish strong. It’s just for the moment that we have to get back to zero because every match for us is a final. It’s been like that since the beginning of January, and it’s crazy.