Jurgen Klopp's Last Dance is off to a flying start and the Liverpool manager is targeting more

AP , Monday 26 Feb 2024

Jurgen Klopp's last dance at Liverpool is off to the perfect start.

Jurgen Klopp
Liverpool s German manager Jurgen Klopp celebrates following the English League Cup final football match between Chelsea and Liverpool at Wembley stadium, in London, on February 25, 2024. AFP


Klopp steps down as manager at the end of the season and looks determined to go out on a high.

Having collected his eighth trophy with the Merseyside club on Sunday – beating Chelsea 1-0 to win the English League Cup – he is targeting another three before he walks away. The Premier League title, FA Cup and Europa League are still within reach in what could be a glorious finale.

“We know it’s that last hurrah and we just want to give our all for him. We always did, but now when the finishing line is in sight it adds that extra emphasis," said defender Joe Gomez after Sunday's win at Wembley. “It’s special and hopefully it’s the first of a few we can get this year.”

References to Klopp's “Last Dance” have started to trend on social media, likening his Liverpool farewell to Michael Jordan's final year with the Chicago Bulls.

Jordan won his sixth NBA championship with the Bulls in 1998, which inspired the recent documentary series, The Last Dance.

Now Liverpool fans are savoring their final moments with Klopp, who was hired in 2015 and went on to transform a sleeping giant of English soccer into one of the most dominant forces in Europe again.

Supporters carried flags and banners with messages of thanks to their outgoing manager as they made the short walk from Wembley Park tube station to the stadium. Singing loudly, it was a party atmosphere long before kick off and they are hoping for one long party before finally saying goodbye.

“It has been a bit sad for everyone, but I think everyone now thinks we’re going to push on and do even better than we would have done (this season),” Liverpool fan Nick Knight told The Associated Press. “It was a shock, but probably the right way to do it...I think he’s gone out his way.”

Occasions like Sunday have become commonplace under Klopp.

He ended Liverpool's 30-year wait for the English league title in 2020 and has won a full set of major trophies including the Champions League, FA Cup, Club World Cup and European Super Cup in a little over eight years.

Not that he is dwelling on that impressive record.

“I couldn’t care less about my legacy. I’m not here to create one,” Klopp said Sunday. “As a manager of a football club, you are there to do the job actually.”

Liverpool fans showed their appreciation long after the final whistle as they serenaded Klopp and his players on the field.

“It’s not a problem if the manager leaves or whatever, if these people would leave – our supporters – that would be a problem,” Klopp said. “But as long as they are the way they are, Liverpool Football Club will be fine and that’s the most important thing.”

The League Cup final suggested Klopp will leave the club in good shape, with seven of his players on the day aged 21 or under.

He has rebuilt the team that won the Champions League and Premier League in back-to-back years in 2019 and 2020 and instilled a winning mentality into a club that spent decades in the shadow of Manchester United.

Despite losing star players like Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Jordan Henderson in recent years, Liverpool's youthful team is at the top of the league and one point clear of defending champion Manchester City.

United, however, will be a warning to Liverpool's hierarchy when it comes to replacing Klopp.

United got its succession plan all wrong when former manager Alex Ferguson retired in 2013 and has not won another Premier League title since.

Erik ten Hag is its fifth permanent manager in that time, with the Dutch coach facing a battle to even secure a top-four finish this season.

Finding someone to fill Klopp's shoes is a daunting task.

"You cannot replace him, you’ve just got to look at what he’s brought to the club. It’s not going to happen,” Liverpool fan Rob Ferguson told The Associated Press.

Nick Knight added: “He was the first one who brought Liverpool any success in my lifetime so he was huge for me.”

His father, Andrew, said: “I think he means everything (to Liverpool). Within a few weeks or months of him arriving it was obvious they were a perfect fit and the type of football he played – high energy, playing to the final whistle – it was everything as a Liverpool fan you wanted to see.”

Former Liverpool midfielder Xabi Alonso is an early favorite to succeed Klopp after leading Bayer Leverkusen to the top of the German league in only his second season with the club.

While the club must plan for the future, Klopp, his players and Liverpool's fans appear to be living for the moment.

“We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves but we are in every competition and we are going to try to win every game. That’s the target and we will go again,” Gomez said.

(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)

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