Friday 20 September 2019

It is impossible to go through a season without making a mistake, insists Karius

Liverpool's German goalkeeper Loris Karius. Photo: Getty Images
Liverpool's German goalkeeper Loris Karius. Photo: Getty Images

Chris Bascombe

Loris Karius can visualise the wild celebrations, a victorious goalkeeper sprinting towards team-mates consumed by joy. It is a stirring image he recalls from his childhood - of his idol whose penalty shoot-out valour secured a place in Champions League legend.

Forget Jerzy Dudek in Istanbul, or Bruce Grobbelaar in Rome. "Oliver Kahn against Valencia in 2001," says the Liverpool goalkeeper. "This was the first Champions League game I remember. I was a Bayern fan. I am from a small town in Germany (Biberach an der Riss) - about a 90-minute drive from Munich - so they were the best team when I was growing up. I really liked Kahn.

"I was eight and had just started to become a goalkeeper, so he was the one I looked to. To do what he did was my dream."

Man-of-the-match Kahn made three saves in the shoot-out, but no goalkeeper - certainly no Liverpool No 1 - goes into a European final without reminders of Grobbelaar's and Dudek's wobbly knees against Roma and AC Milan. The more introverted Karius is not sure if he can replicate the party piece.

"I have not figured out any moves yet," says the 24-year-old (right). "It can help, but I would have to think a bit more about what is possible now. I have never been involved in a penalty shoot-out at senior level. You train for it, but it does not happen much.

"I will study the Real Madrid penalty-takers, of course. We have analyst guys putting clips together for us. We will have a goalkeeper meeting before the game to show us the opposition. I can put video on my iPad and keep taking a look, but you have to go with instinct a little bit. There is a mix. When you are standing on the line, there is a voice inside you that will tell you which corner he might put it.

"You can be the hero, but saving the penalty does not say if you are a good goalkeeper or not. "

He is, he agrees, "pretty chilled" about the prospect of facing Real Madrid. "No negative thoughts," he says. "Getting nervous does not help."

Maybe it is the naivety of youth, or perhaps the super-cool, boy-band mannerisms are reflective of serene temperament. In the early part of his Liverpool career, following a £4.7m move from Mainz, the keeper's eye for style meant he was seen on the club's advertising material or staring contemplatively on an Instagram post more than Jurgen Klopp's team-sheet. That changed this season thanks to Europe. Karius and Simon Mignolet were initially rotated in the league and cups, the Belgian preferred on domestic duty. Then Klopp decided he wanted uniformity.

"The first knockout game against Porto was the moment I felt I was No 1," says Karius. "That was when it was made clear I was playing in all competitions. I played two or three good games in the Premier League and the manager told everyone, 'that's how it is now'. I knew I was staying in."

If there was a save or game that helped shift perceptions, it came in March. Liverpool eased to a 2-0 win over Newcastle, but at 1-0 Karius showed his agility to fingertip a Mohamed Diame shot from the top corner.

"In the game, you do not really feel it, but afterwards a lot of people came to me to say, 'great save'," says Karius. "I knew it was important for me to have a moment like this. But this is why I am here. To be there in a situation to help the team. The more I played, the more there were positives.

"Before this season, I had not had much time to show what I can do. I needed a run of games, to make a few good saves, to make the fans think, 'he can actually do pretty good and we can have a good feeling with him'.

"I do not like to compare and I am not comparing- you cannot compare goalkeepers - but I saw David de Gea had setbacks at first and now look at him."

Karius feels his front-foot approach - what Klopp demands - means occasional wobbles must be expected and tolerated. "Every goalkeeper has a different way of playing. Some will take risks to help the team - coming for high balls, being prepared to be attacked in the box knowing there is not much protection from the referees - but that might mean they make more mistakes," he says.

"There is a style we want to play at Liverpool, moving the ball from the back to front quickly, and I want to be the start of that. At other times you know it is the right time to hold it and slow it down, but mostly we want to open the game.

"It is impossible to go through a season without a mistake."

Karius finally got to meet his childhood hero Kahn during the course of Liverpool's Champions League run. "He is the TV expert for a German channel. He was working when we played Hoffenheim in the qualifying round," said Karius. "We spoke a little about the game."

So, is he ready to take his place alongside the greats? "I do not think of it like this," says Karius. "We each have our own story to write." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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