Champions League final: ‘We will be there’ next year, says victorious Klopp

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is thrown in the air as he celebrates with his players and staff after winning the Champions League final against Tottenham Hotspur in Madrid on Saturday.
Clive Rose/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is thrown in the air as he celebrates with his players and staff after winning the Champions League final against Tottenham Hotspur in Madrid on Saturday.
Madrid CNN —  

After one of the most thrilling and unpredictable Champions League seasons in memory, Saturday’s final was meant to be the grand finale.

Instead, it was a damp squib.

The past few months saw the rise of an upstart Ajax side that demolished defending champion Real Madrid in its own house, an overachieving Spurs side that reached the final without captain Harry Kane and without a new signing all year, and two of the greatest Champions League comebacks ever.

Liverpool and Tottenham had played some of the most exhilarating football in Europe this season, including a pair of three-goal comebacks that took them to the Champions League final.

But whether it was the weight of the occasion, the suffocating Madrid heat, or the disruptive three-week break, the final didn’t live up to its billing.

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By all accounts, Tottenham was the better side – or at least the side in control – for much of the game.

With 62% possession and eight shots on target to Liverpool’s three, Tottenham won the statistical battle, except where it really mattered.

Liverpool’s ecstatic manager Jurgen Klopp, fresh from breaking his six-game losing streak in major finals, had no problem with that.

“I played a lot more finals than I won,” he said after the game. “And I always played the better football. I don’t want to explain why we won it, I just want to enjoy winning it.

“On the other side, I know how Tottenham feel in this moment better than anybody else in the world.

“They played a sensational season and would have deserved it as well. I told Poch (Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino) they should be really proud of what they achieved this season.”

Questions have lingered over Pochettino’s future at Tottenham for the better part of two years.

’The final is about winning’

After the final, the Argentine offered no assurances he would remain at the club next season, but praised the vision of Spurs’ ownership and management.

Tottenham’s season featured the unveiling of a gleaming new stadium in March, but the project truly came to fruition on Saturday night, Pochettino said.

He proudly and rightly pointed out he had “spent zero” on this side over the past year and not only competed against teams that spent hundreds of millions, but also got the better of them.

“You can interpret things in different ways,” Pochettino told the assembled media. “People want to compare me with other managers, but we are different managers, in different places with different pressures.

“After five years at Tottenham, the project was clear. Our ambition has been amazing and the commitment from our players was amazing.

“Now it’s about staying calm and changing the mood and our minds.”

The 47-year-old made it clear, however, that not winning a trophy this season will sting, despite all the progress his club has made.

“The final is about winning,” he said. “It’s not about deserving it or playing well. It’s about winning. Nobody will remember that we deserved it more.”

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’It’s emotional and overwhelming’

While Tottenham players head back to north London battered but with their heads held high, Liverpool return to the north of England where the party of the decade awaits them.

Tens of thousands are expected to line the streets as Liverpool parade the Champions League trophy on an open-top bus through the city.

Virgil van Dijk, Liverpool’s talismanic defender and the final’s man of the match, is bracing himself for some serious celebrating.

“It’s going to be a difficult couple of nights,” he grinned, beer already in hand.

Klopp also knows a thing or two about celebrations. He admitted after the game he was drunk by the time he left the pitch after guiding former club Borussia Dortmund to the Bundesliga title.

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“Going to Liverpool and having something to celebrate is big,” he said. “It’s emotional, overwhelming, and it feels really good.”

Next year’s final returns to the site of Liverpool’s most memorable Champions League triumph.

Fifteen years on from “that night” – a three-goal comeback against AC Milan that ended in a penalty shootout – the Champions League final is back in Istanbul.

“Sometimes we carry the burden of history. Istanbul will be a target,” Klopp said, before adding a dose of pressure for next season.

“I told UEFA already, we will be there.”