It would be rather poignant for Loris Karius to bring the curtain down on his Liverpool career by watching his team-mates exorcise the demons of 2018.
He won’t get to exorcise his own, unfortunately. Not since 2018, and that fateful night in Kyiv, has 28-year-old Karis pulled on a Liverpool shirt for a competitive match.
Jurgen Klopp cut his losses and spent £67million on Alisson Becker. Liverpool’s future would have no space for a confidence-shy Karius.
Those 90 minutes in Kyiv, in which he was culpable for two of Real Madrid‘s three goals, humiliated him with the world watching. Liverpool picked themselves up and moved on without him, putting his career in the limbo it remains today.
And yet here he is, still at the club after two miserable loan spells in Turkey and Germany, the fifth choice goalkeeper behind Alisson, Caoimhin Kelleher, Adrian and 19-year-old Marcelo Pitaluga, no appearance in four years and no prospect at all of that changing.
Loris Karius was inconsolable after two mistakes for Liverpool in 2018 Champions League final
Despite not playing for Liverpool in four years, he (left) is still at the club until his deal expires
2018 LIVERPOOL XI vs REAL MADRID IN KYIV
Liverpool (4-3-3): Karius; Alexander-Arnold, Lovren, Van Dijk, Robertson; Milner, Henderson, Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino, Mane
*bold denotes no longer at the club
What must Karius be thinking this week in the build-up to a final that last played out with his error-strewn display as the biggest headline?
The replays are likely excruciating and the memories still tinged with sadness. What he would likely give to change the narrative between the sticks at Paris’ Stade de France on Saturday night.
‘It’s revenge time,’ his team-mate Mohamed Salah said on stage after winning the Football Writers’ Award for Player of the Season earlier this month.
‘They beat us in the final last time. It was a very sad day for all of us, so yeah. I said I wanted to play them in the final.
‘I’m sure it’s going to be a tough game. They beat a lot of good teams but I’m excited. The team is excited. We need to stay focused. We have to finish the league first, then we will see.’
It was a sad day for Salah, forced off injured in the early exchanges after a cynical foul on the part of Sergio Ramos.
But nobody cried quite like Karius that night in a performance that essentially ended his Liverpool career.
A free agent come June, Karius will then officially clear out his locker. But the German hasn’t been a factor outside of Liverpool’s weight room in four years.
‘Loris Karius the player, who is doing absolutely nothing wrong, who is in a really good shape, who is training very hard,’ boss Jurgen Klopp said back in January, after Karius failed to secure a move away.
‘He is committed, the goalie coaches are fully committed, that’s clear.’
With Liverpool chasing the 2018 final down 2-1, Karis looked to punch a routine shot on goal
Gareth Bale’s shot from 30 yards was knocked in by Karius (top) leaving him aghast on the floor
First Besiktas in Turkey took a look, signing off on a two-year loan, only to cancel that prematurely due to a pay dispute.
Then a return to Germany beckoned with Union Berlin. Karius talked up the move but made just four Bundesliga appearances. He was no more than the tiniest of footnotes in their season.
Karius arrived from Klopp’s former club Mainz back in 2016 for a fee close to £6m.
Competing with Belgian stopper Simon Mignolet, there remained a sense of unease on Merseyside that neither was able to command the position as their own.
They jostled and jockeyed and come the Champions League final in Kyiv it was Karius who was given the nod, making his 49th competitive appearance for Liverpool.
The 2018 final passed largely without incident in the opening 45 minutes away from the injury to Salah.
Karius made one close-range parry to stop a Cristiano Ronaldo header, which was tapped in by Karim Benzema, as the flag was raised for offside.
But five minutes after the restart, disaster struck.
Toni Kroos clips a through ball over the top of Liverpool’s defence to try and play in a surging Benzema.
The ball is long, way too long, and drifts into Karius’ area, allowing him to collect unchallenged.
Earlier in the game, Karius (left) gifted Karim Benzema (right) the opening goal by rolling it out
His throw to Dejan Lovren was blocked and knocked in by Benzema to put Liverpool behind
LORIS KARIUS ON CRITICISM IN 2016
‘I think sometimes people think we are like robots because we get paid good or whatever,’ he said. ‘They think we have no emotions or feelings, that we can never have a bad day.
‘That’s not how it works, we are still humans. We make mistakes. We have better days, worse days. The fact we get paid well doesn’t really change that.
‘It’s always good to have support from the fans. It really helps the players. And it’s right that they expect much.
‘But sometimes I am not sure if everyone understands the whole package of professional football and what we have to deal with. Of course we enjoy playing football every day. It is the dream job. But it can be hard so it has both sides.’
Karius looks to keep the tempo high and roll the ball out to allow Liverpool to break quickly, with left back Andy Robertson and right centre back Dejan Lovren both calling for the ball.
Karius opts for Lovren and yet seemingly appears to have no awareness that Benzema is stretching to cut off the passageway to the Croatian.
From there, if you ask a Liverpool fan, it appears to play out in slow motion. Karius’ relaxed roll of the ball; Benzema’s outstretched right leg; the deflection off the striker’s shin; the ball trickling into the bottom right corner; 1-0.
Karius marched over to the assistant referee behind the goal, desperately making a case for Benzema’s intervention to be given as a foul. His protests were waved away.
Minutes later Liverpool levelled through Sadio Mane. For a brief moment it appeared Karius’ error would not cost them the trophy.
But on came the Real Madrid onslaught. Gareth Bale, off the bench despite his animosity with boss Zinedine Zidane, produced one of the finest goals ever scored in Champions League history to make it 2-1, before Karius gifted the Welshman a third, ending any hope Liverpool had of glory.
Seven minutes from time, Bale drifted in from the right and with nobody within five yards of him he took aim from 30 yards out. It was a fizzing shot that was straight at Karius. One to sting the palms, certainly, but a stop any Champions League-level goalkeeper simply has to make.
Only he didn’t. He tried to punch it away and instead punched it in. Karius lay on his back, his arms covering his face. Inconsolable. Liverpool were condemned and so was Karius. This was, if he didn’t realise it then while slumped on the turf, the end of the road.
Karius was mocked the world over as Liverpool looked to reason why his performance was so alarming.
Alisson Becker was signed after Karius’ mistakes in 2018 and is one of Liverpool’s best players
Karius, 28, has had loan moves since, including his ill-fated spell at Turkish giants Besiktas
Concussion was the reasoning the club gave in the days and weeks that followed given post-final testing on the squad.
Ramos, who was behind the injury to Salah, had had a heavy collision with Karius prior to both mistakes for the Benzema and Bale goals.
‘I know a concussion isn’t coming and going in a day – if you have one, you see it days later,’ Klopp said back in July 2018. ‘Five days after the final, Loris had 26 of 30 markers for a concussion still. That’s clear.’
He added: ‘If you ask Loris, he says he didn’t think about it and didn’t use it for a second as an excuse. We don’t use it as an excuse, we use it as an explanation. That’s always important, that’s what analysis should be: you explain why things happen. So, from this point of view, from my side everything is fine. We don’t think about that anymore and we start completely new.’
Concussion is nothing to scoff at, either. The introduction of concussion substitutes in the Premier League since then is evidence of the impact significant head damage has on a player.
But that night destroyed the confidence of a player that was plotting a long and successful career at Anfield.
Jurgen Klopp (left) bought Karius as Liverpool’s No 1 goalkeeper at the start of 2016-2017
Karius (third from right) poses for a photo with the rest of Liverpool’s goalkeeping department in training last year. The out-of-contention German is now the club’s fifth choice goalkeeper
Liverpool broke the world record transfer fee for a goalkeeper to get Alisson in the weeks after the final. Karius knew then he may never play for Liverpool again.
A fresh start at Besiktas was hoped, from both the club’s side and the player’s, to galvanise him and bring back the confidence he had in himself prior to that night in Kyiv.
He made 30 appearances in Turkey – before the season was curtailed due to Covid-19 – and yet came away with his spell surmised with two high-profile mistakes in the Europa League. Controversy clung to him like a shadow.
In April 2020 he reported Besiktas to FIFA over unpaid wages for a second time, before terminating his deal in the May with the Turkish side paying out around £400,000 he was due in outstanding wages.
‘It is important to me that you know I really enjoyed playing for this club a lot. Besiktas can be proud having such passionate fans behind them always giving amazing support,’ he wrote in an Instagram post.
‘You always supported me in good and bad times and I will always remember you in the best way. Also I want to say thank you to all my team-mates, coaching staff including all people working for the club. You welcomed me with arms wide open from day one.’
At this point Liverpool were thriving with Alisson between the sticks and Karius was resigned to another move, taking a season-long loan at Union Berlin.
With no playing time, Karius has wowed fans by bulking up his physique in the weight room
Karius’ deal with Liverpool expires in the summer and he will be available to leave on a free
He had to wait until February 13 to make his Bundesliga debut for the club and never really looked to have the faith or support of the coaching staff.
So back he came to Anfield, to Merseyside, with no offers giving him a permanent route out and as the fifth-choice option. It could not have been clearer he was never kicking a ball for the Reds again.
With a year left on his contract last summer, he is now just weeks away from closing the book on his career chapter at Liverpool.
There were lots of tears inside Kyiv’s Olimpiyskiy National Sports Stadium that night and more will likely follow in Paris if Liverpool get the ‘revenge’ they desire, even with him playing no part.
As his Liverpool story comes to its conclusion, seeing the Reds secure retribution against Real Madrid may, in a way, be the sweetest pay-off of all.