Devastated Klopp hails 'greatest' players after amazing season
Liverpool 2 Wolves 0
Jurgen Klopp was dejected but defiant, unfulfilled yet invigorated as he delivered his eulogy to a most extraordinary Liverpool season.
Klopp described his team as one of "the greatest to play for the club" as they were forced to settle for second place. He also reiterated that this campaign is the first rather than last title bid of his reign.
Although he admitted the pain on missing the title was comparable to his despair when Liverpool lost the Champions League final last May, he insisted the reaction would be similarly emphatic to take the club to the next level.
"If I would start telling you all the positive things I could say about this team, we could sit here and go until an hour before the Champions League final starts. That's the truth," Klopp said.
There was still no disguising the pain as Anfield's excruciating wait to be champions goes on, Klopp concluding only a "perfect" season will overcome the power of Manchester City. To put it in perspective, they ended the campaign having dropped only 17 points in total.
"I can read all the stats. I can read all the numbers. It's just really exceptional," Klopp said. "If you could get an award for the biggest development jump I can remember, then the boys would get that. We have made a big step. Unbelievable. And there is more to come.
"But it doesn't feel like that in a moment like this. You feel the disappointment as well. That's what we feel at the moment.
"If we are ready to make the next step, we will make the next step. That's the plan from tomorrow on. But it's not really the moment for that. We have to feel it and we do feel it. It's disappointing. It's not a wonderful moment. It's not. But we have enough time to find out, see and feel how brilliant the season was. It was brilliant - 97 points was incredible.
"And only because City is there, it's not enough. In each other country it would have been easily enough but here, that's how it is. This team is one of the best ever to have played for Liverpool, 100 per cent."
In a poignant, probably unintended echo of Steven Gerrard's rallying cry in 2014, Klopp said "we will go again" as he vowed Liverpool would improve.
"This club is in its best moment for a long, long time and it will not end because there is one team with a point more. We will keep going," Klopp said.
"We will go again, 100 per cent. But give me at least a few hours to get over that today."
This is not the first time Liverpool have suffered a near miss in a title chase in the Premier League era, but the circumstances are vastly different.
After finishing runners-up in 2009, the side disintegrated after Rafa Benitez sold Xabi Alonso and bought substandard players such as Alberto Aquilani. The same happened under Brendan Rodgers in 2014 after Luis Suarez was sold to Barcelona.
The foundations crumbled and managers exited. Klopp is representative of a more unified, less politicised and much smarter Liverpool Football Club.
Yet his reign so far is full of close calls, from the Europa League final in 2016 to last year's Champions League final and now this.
"It's similar. Not the same, but it's similar," Klopp said of his feelings now compared to in Kiev.
"I have mixed emotions. Congratulations to Manchester City, it's important to say that. They played an incredible season.
"We did as well but they won it, so congratulations to Pep (Guardiola) and all the people at City. Our season was good as well, yeah? It was an unbelievable season." (© Daily Telegraph, London)