Comparisons with Liverpool’s illustrious past have often irked Jürgen Klopp as he endeavours to illuminate the future and demands that his players write their own history.
He will make an exception for a showpiece European occasion with Roma at the Stadio Olimpico. Tommy Smith’s bullet-header, Bruce Grobbelaar’s spaghetti legs and Alan Kennedy’s penalty will all form part of the Liverpool manager’s revision for what he hopes will be a Champions League semi-final shaped by destiny.
Liverpool’s visit to the Italian capital for the semi-final second leg on 2 May will be Klopp’s first appearance at Stadio Olimpico. His club and their supporters will require no introduction. Two of Liverpool’s five European Cup triumphs were secured in Rome, against Borussia Mönchengladbach in 1977 and Roma in 1984, and Klopp will revisit both finals before meeting Eusebio Di Francesco’s team. The football fan in the German came to the fore as, for once, he looked back.
“I will watch the two finals for sure because it is destiny or whatever,” Klopp said. “If any German goes to Bern in Switzerland he cannot avoid thinking about 1954 [the World Cup final comeback against Hungary]. There are not a lot of people around on the planet from that time now but it is just a special place. You think: ‘OK, it happened here, well done, all these guys.’ That is how it is, but it
was too long ago. If I find something that helped make this place even more remarkable or special for Liverpool then I will use it. Thank God Rome is still
Rome. It is the place, it is not who did what, it’s the place.”
Klopp is not averse to Liverpool history lessons; it is the weight he feels it places on the club’s current players that he does not like. Having defeated Manchester City 5-1 on aggregate in the quarter-finals he senses that weight may be lifting.
“I love our
history but it is not allowed to compare us constantly,” he says. “You can do whatever you want
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but it is not allowed for us. Those teams were great but they became great in these situations and now people say, ‘They did it like this.’
“I had a very famous German national player who was the coach of a second division team when I was in the second division. He did a shooting session and the boys were kind of my level so not too good. This guy took the ball and scored five times and said: ‘Look it is not that difficult.’ The boys were standing around and thinking now we know you can do it but we still have no clue. It is good to have role models but in the end you have to do it your own way.”
Liverpool are gathering momentum as the season enters its defining period. Klopp, who insists victory over Bournemouth on Saturday should be the club’s sole focus when seeking a top-four finish, claims belief ] is Jürgen Klopp will delve into archive to also soaring among players, fans and Anfield legends, having reached the last four of the Champions League.
He added: “It’s nice being in the semi-finals. Like I said before Manchester City, write our own history. You only judge history when you watch it back and I am really happy we are in a situation where we are focused on this group. The legends we all love are around and they are clapping because they like this. Kenny Dalglish is over the moon and completely on fire. Steven Gerrard and all the other guys in between, you can feel it and see it. That’s cool.
It’s normal when you go to a semi-final, especially after a long time and you hear the numbers – Bayern six times in a row, semi-final; Madrid eight. Then Roma and us. That’s nice but in the end it’s a nice sign that we are so far so good.