Jurgen Klopp believes revenge is a wasted emotion. For the Liverpool manager, Saturday’s Champions League final against Real Madrid will be viewed in isolation as yet another very big game to be won.
Footballers are different, though. They are younger for a start. They are less analytical and more emotional. So things like the 2018 final defeat by Real in Kyiv linger longer in the mind. Asked about this at Liverpool’s training ground on Wednesday, Mohamed Salah didn’t hesitate.
‘I remember when I left the field after 30 minutes of that game it was the worst moment of my career,’ said Salah. ‘I was really down. I had a good season and then to play my first Champions League final and come off so soon was the worst thing that could happen to me.
Sergio Ramos injured Mo Salah in the 2018 Champions League final with this challenge
Salah was consoled by Cristiano Ronaldo and described it as the worst day of his career
The Egyptian has spoken about wanting to face Real Madrid again since the final four years ago
‘I found out the result while I was in the hospital. I thought we just could not lose the game in that way. I never felt that way before in football.’
Salah was asked about another more recent disappointment in his football life, namely Egypt’s failure to qualify for the World Cup. The 29-year-old missed the decisive penalty as Egypt lost an eliminator to Sadio Mane’s Senegal. Interestingly, he brushed that one aside. ‘I didn’t have time to think about that,’ he said.
So the depth of Salah’s scars from 2018 are clear and little wonder. Hauled to the ground by Real defender Sergio Ramos, Salah could not carry on and missed the final hour of what transpired to be a catastrophic 3-1 defeat in the Ukrainian capital.
He has not had many disappointments with Liverpool since then. Sunday’s Premier League near miss was a subject dealt with breezily by Salah and his manager on Wednesday. Indeed, in his four-and-a-half years at the club Salah has won every trophy possible. All that remains to be clarified is how long he will stay.
Confirming that he will certainly be at Anfield for another season at least, there is no need for immediate panic.
Jurgen Klopp is preparing Virgil van Dijk and Co for Saturday but warned against revenge
Liverpool have a squad that continues to evolve. To see the slim, coltish figure of Luis Diaz besieged by journalists from his native Colombia on Wednesday was to be reminded of Liverpool’s modern strength in depth. Only yards away another forward player, Mane, was talking to a TV crew rather cryptically about his own future.
On the one hand, this is all acceptable and normal. Mane, for example, has been playing in England since joining Southampton eight years ago and is now 30 years old. Salah reaches that landmark birthday next month. Nobody can be expected to stay for ever when other glamorous opportunities are available.
And, on the other, it is becoming increasingly apparent that Liverpool are a club who will be able to cope as the shape of their squad continues to shift and morph over the coming years.
The one important contract that has been signed recently is Klopp’s — the manager will remain until 2026 at least — and it is things like this that should send Liverpool optimistically to Paris on Friday.
‘We are in talks with all the players but this is just not the moment to talk about it all,’ said Klopp.
‘There is just not the time. We play every three days. The players have this idea, we have this idea, sometimes they match but we have all known each other for ages.’
Salah scored against Wolves but Liverpool fell narrowly short in the Premier League title race
This will be the third Champions League final of Klopp’s time on Merseyside. That in itself is a remarkable thought.
The club also lost the Europa League final to Sevilla on the German’s watch in 2016. His team played well in the first half of that game, patchily throughout against Real in 2018 and rather mundanely in grinding out their redemptive Champions League triumph against Tottenham in 2019.
In the Stade de France on Saturday, something better may be required. Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid team are not a classic version but have shown in this year’s competition they can produce remarkable moments.
Their late dramatics against Manchester City in the second leg of their semi-final stand out as among the most incredible in the competition’s modern history. Having not managed a shot on target all night, Real scored twice in added time to take the game to an extra period and then won.
Salah has won a Champions League with Liverpool but still has demons to banish from Kyiv
‘If you only take the last 10 minutes of Real’s games then you say they are pretty much unbeatable and we have no chance because the comebacks were really special,’ said Klopp.
‘But the games were all longer than 10 minutes. We cannot go into the game and talk about how they are in the last five, 10, two minutes. Thank God there are another 88 minutes before that.’
Klopp has his own memories of what happened in Kyiv four years ago. So does the Liverpool goalkeeper that night, Loris Karius. So does Gareth Bale, the scorer of two Real goals. Only the Liverpool manager and his star forward have the opportunity to write a different script this time.
‘I don’t believe in revenge but I do understand it,’ said Klopp. ‘I am not sure it is the right thing to do. I understand what Mo said.
‘He wants to put it right. I want to put it right. There is an opportunity to win it now and I think it will be a great story. But if we do it won’t be because of what happened in 2018.’