Sunday, June 16, 2024

Jurgen Klopp: Anfield awash with emotion as manager bids farewell

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Klopp looked emotional as Anfield belted out You’ll Never Walk Alone, owner John W Henry flying in from Boston, impassive behind his sunglasses, to take a seat in the directors’ box shortly before kick-off, wanting to deliver his own personal thanks to the man who helped him fulfil the dreams he had for Liverpool.

Three sides of Anfield were transformed by mosaics – ‘Danke’ in the Anfield Road, ‘Jurgen’ stretching the expanse of the Sir Kenny Dalglish Stand, with ‘YNWA’ on The Kop.

Klopp stayed seated, head bowed, clad in a black baseball cap and black T-shirt. The final act of a dramatic sporting story had begun.

In reality, the game was little more than a pleasant backdrop to the Klopp farewell – first-half goals from Alex Mac Allister and Jarell Quansah giving Liverpool a deserved 2-0 win.

And then it was time for the finale all Anfield had been waiting for.

Seconds from the final whistle, Klopp stood up and went along his backroom team one by one, all grabbed in the familiar bearhug.

His only mis-step all afternoon was going slightly too early through a guard of honour formed by Liverpool’s players and officials, but no matter – he did another lap for good measure before approaching a platform of club dignitaries to thunderous roars and applause.

He made his way down a line including Henry, chief executive Billy Hogan, chairman Tom Werner and club legend Sir Kenny Dalglish before receiving a presentation recording the honours he has brought to Anfield.

Klopp delivered a pre-recorded message on giant screens to Borussia Dortmund’s supporters when he left the club, after breaking down in tears when he addressed fans on leaving Mainz.

No such worries this time.

Anfield has no screens but this was no problem for Klopp, who was in boisterous mood as he took the microphone.

He said “I’m so happy. I can’t believe it” before bursting into song as an instrument for passing the Liverpool torch from himself to soon-to-be-annointed successor Arne Slot.

Simply replacing his own name with Slot’s, Klopp told Anfield what they must do when the Dutchman arrives, singing: “Arne Slot, na na na na na” to the tune of Opus’ Live Is Life.

As with all Klopp’s demands, expect them to follow to the letter.

If Slot was watching, he may have felt daunted by the task of replacing a manager and personality plenty believe is irreplaceable but he would have been hugely grateful for such an endorsement from his predecessor, even if it was a musical one.

Preaching to the most converted fanbase in football, Klopp said: “We have you, the superpower of world football. We decide if we are worried or excited. We decide if we believe. We decide if we trust or don’t trust and since today I am one of you and I keep believing in you.”

And then it was time for one final round of Klopp fist pumps in front of The Kop, this time accompanied by his support staff, met with the usual staccato roars.

Anfield demanded one final encore of a scene acted out at the end of so many triumphs. Klopp obliged – six for The Kop and three for the surrounding stands.

“I love you to bits,” shouted Klopp, who delivering an optimistic parting shot as he said: “It doesn’t feel like an end. It just feels like a start. Today I saw a football team full of talent, youth, creativity, desire and greed.”

As Klopp pulled out of Anfield late on Sunday night and left Liverpool behind after his long farewell, the curtain closed on an era.

The murals adorning the sides of houses close to Anfield will remain as reminders of the seismic impact Jurgen Klopp had on Liverpool – but the man who made doubters believers was gone

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