Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is back in Lisbon for a Champions League game this week and has happy memories of the place.
It was there that he received the phone call that changed his life.
Unemployed after leaving Borussia Dortmund a few months earlier, Klopp was visiting the Portuguese capital with his family in autumn 2015 when his mobile rang while sitting outside a coffee shop. It was his agent.
“This is Liverpool,” Klopp whispered a little excitedly to his two sons.
They had heard rumors about Liverpool’s interest in his father. Klopp hadn’t. But he didn’t have to think long about the upcoming offer.
“It was clear that we would do it. It just felt right from the first second,” said Klopp on Monday.
And what a perfect match Klopp and Liverpool were.
Under the German manager, the English club has regained its impressive 1980s aura. English champions 2020, for the first time in 30 years. European Champion 2019, for the sixth time in its history. Liverpool also became world club champions under Klopp.
This season could top that.
The Reds went into April still struggling to win all four major trophies, a feat never before equaled by an English team. The League Cup has already been won, while Liverpool are in the semi-finals of the FA Cup, a point behind first-placed Manchester City in the Premier League and play Benfica in the Champions League quarter-finals on Tuesday.
“We just want to make this season unforgettable,” said Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk. “The things that are going on in Liverpool at the moment are things that nobody should take for granted.”
And it’s all overseen by Klopp, the passionate, determined and sometimes quirky face of the club. He has the chance to lead Liverpool to their greatest success of all time – and that’s saying a lot considering their rich history of winning the title.
So how does Klopp approach the next two months when he has to juggle three competitions of big games pretty much every three or four days?
Take next week’s schedule for example, when Liverpool have two games to play against Benfica on either side of a potential Premier League title decision against City on Sunday. Then an FA Cup semi-final game against City, followed by league games against two sides – in Manchester United and Everton – who are historically Liverpool’s greatest rivals. After that, two games in the semi-finals of the Champions League could follow.
Klopp’s message is simple – just enjoy it.
“We have no problem with that. It’s all good,” he said. “It’s a situation we would have dreamed of if we dreamed before the season. We are here now. Let’s try to make the best of it.”
Alongside Villarreal, Benfica was the best draw Liverpool could have achieved in the quarter-finals. Not that Klopp would ever say that.
And with Liverpool having a full squad to choose from – Klopp said on Monday it was the first time since he joined 6½ years ago – no wonder the squad is in good spirits.
“We’re still in all competitions, we’re playing well, we still have every chance of winning all these competitions. So just do it,” said Van Dijk. “Let’s enjoy the ride.”
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