Jurgen Klopp opens up about Liverpool’s botched title defence – and explains why he won’t wear a suit on cup final day

Jurgen Klopp
(Image credit: Getty)

Exhausted Liverpool felt like they were ‘trying to fly with half-cut wings’ as they failed to retain the Premier League title last season, according to boss Jurgen Klopp. 

The Reds struggled to live up to the high standards they set in 2019/20 as they finished third last term, 17 points behind champions Manchester City.  (opens in new tab)

Closed-door matches and a relentless fixture schedule proved challenging for Klopp’s men, especially during a run between December and March where they won three of 14 league games. 

“We were all drained. Just finished. Done. In some moments, it was the hardest time of our lives – at least our football lives… you are still Liverpool (opens in new tab)but with half-cut wings. You try to fly but it is pretty difficult,” Klopp told The Daily Mail (opens in new tab), among other British newspapers.

“We were pretty much on three wheels getting somehow over the line. It was an incredibly intense season and, yes, I was more than happy for a holiday. For the first ten days, I didn’t take the phone out once or whatever and ask could we have this player? I couldn’t have cared less at that moment.”

A lot has changed in a year, with Liverpool now second in the standings, three points behind leaders Manchester City, and gunning for silverware on Sunday when they face Chelsea (opens in new tab)in the League Cup final.

With the benefit of hindsight, Klopp now appreciates the efforts made by his side in 2020/21, a campaign where he had to contend with injuries to key players like Virgil van Dijk. 

“Injury-wise, it was absolutely crazy,” he continued.

“After winning the Premier League, the Champions League and winning other cup competitions, finishing third last season comes next pretty quickly (in my achievements) because it was absolutely incredible how we did that in the end. Incredible.

“I never thought more about football – and I think a lot about football – than in this period. How can we make it work? How can we make it so we just have a chance? All the while everyone was talking and (saying) we were the worst ever defending champion. Thank you very much, that was nice!”

Fast forward 12 months from the depths of Liverpool's struggles - losing six consecutive home league games - and Klopp's side are in imperious form.

They have won their last nine in a row in all competitions, and Klopp is loving the job again with fans back in stadiums. 

“I have always been appreciative about things. I really don’t take it for granted but playing in an empty stadium was a tough one. I’m an emotional coach, we are an emotional team; we are an emotional club. We are not like a little bit here, a little bit there. We need this extra bit,” he said.

“The atmosphere, for example, sometimes is not that good in a stadium. That doesn’t really happen for us, but if it is you think: ‘why was it like that?’ But if you have no atmosphere, you take each atmosphere from that point.”

Asked if he now loves football more than ever before, he replied: "‘Yes, that’s true. That is how it is."

Liverpool have the chance to pick up a trophy on Sunday, but Klopp, usually seen in a tracksuit and baseball cap, won’t be dressing up for the big day at Wembley.

“I will not wear a suit but not because I am superstitious,” he said.

“If I look back on pictures after the Champions League final and how I look there – bad shave, hat over there – I couldn’t care less. I could stand there in swim shorts – as long as we win people will be happy.”

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Alasdair Mackenzie is a freelance journalist based in Rome, and a FourFourTwo contributor since 2015. When not pulling on the FFT shirt, he can be found at Reuters, The Times and the i. An Italophile since growing up on a diet of Football Italia on Channel 4, he now counts himself among thousands of fans sharing a passion for Ross County and Lazio.