Thursday 20 September 2018

No place like Rome to inspire Jurgen Klopp's hopes of adding to Liverpool's European legend

Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool face Roma in the last four. Photo: Reuters
Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool face Roma in the last four. Photo: Reuters

Chris Bascombe

Jurgen Klopp will be drawing inspiration from reruns of Liverpool's greatest European triumphs in Rome as he plots his side's path to another Champions League final.

Liverpool were guaranteed a nostalgic trip no matter who they met in the last four, but having been paired with Roma, the Stadio Olimpico is the most romantic of destinations. It was the scene of two of Liverpool's five European Cup wins, in 1977 and 1984.

Such victories contributed to the club's stellar reputation on the continent. Klopp says he and his players will be stirred by the achievements of those legendary teams. That is why he will be seeking footage of those heroic nights.

"I will watch them for sure - because it is destiny (to go back)," said Klopp. "It is long ago, but maybe I will find something that helped make this place even more remarkable or special for Liverpool.

"(It is like) if any German goes to Bern in Switzerland, he cannot avoid thinking about 1954 (the World Cup final when West Germany beat Hungary 3-2).


"There are not a lot of people around on the planet from that time but it is just a special place. You think, 'OK, it happened here, well done, all these guys'. That is how it is."

Klopp, like all Liverpool managers, must carefully tread the line between respecting a glorious past while enhancing the honours board, rather than being in awe of it.

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He understands there will be a fortnight of recollections of Bob Paisley's extraordinary team winning the European Cup for the first time with a 3-1 win against Borussia Monchengladbach in 1977, and Bruce Grobbelaar unnerving Roma penalty-takers in the shoot-out that won it for Joe Fagan's side against the hosts in 1984.

"It is the place, it is not who did what," said Klopp. "I love our history but it is not allowed to compare us constantly. Those teams were great and they did it like they did it.

"You judge history when you watch back. I am really happy we are in a situation where we are focused on this group.

"The legends we all love are around and they are clapping because they like this. Kenny Dalglish is over the moon and completely on fire. Steven Gerrard and all the other guys in between, you can feel it and see it. That's cool. It's normal when you go to a semi-final, especially after a long time."

It is not only Liverpool as a club returning to familiar territory. For Mohamed Salah there is the chance to face former team-mates, Roma immediately offering a welcome back message to the Egyptian via social media, which was reciprocated.

Salah left Roma for £39m last July and has since elevated his status to become one of the most celebrated players in the world.

Klopp revealed how the Liverpool dressing room is dealing with the attention the prolific goalscorer is receiving.

"It is a really good group and with Mo everyone really likes the hype around him, all the boys," he said.

"When we came out for the Champions League training before Manchester City, I said, 'Come on everybody, let's go out naked because no one will realise, they are just looking at Mo'. No problem. Mo is so thankful. Now we go to Rome I don't think the hype will be a little bit less."

Salah said he still kept in touch with his friends in Italy. "It's my old club. I love the fans there and they love me, too," he said."I still talk to most of the players there. We were very close to each other and we are good friends.

"Of course, I have happy memories. We played together for two years and were fighting together in all the games."

There are also links between Liverpool and Roma at boardroom level, both owned by Boston investors. The American ownership group which purchased the Italian club in 2011 was led by Thomas R DiBenedetto, who prior to the takeover was a partner in Fenway Sports Group, Liverpool's owner.

DiBenedetto has since stepped aside as chairman, and Roma are now led by another Bostonian, James Pallotta. Like Liverpool, they sit in a Champions League place in their domestic league.

Before the first leg at Anfield on April 24, and return eight days later, Klopp has demanded his players re-focus on domestic duty, starting with a Premier League meeting against Bournemouth this evening.


"When I hear people say we are already qualified for the Champions League (next season), how can we think it not possible Chelsea will win the next three?" said Klopp.

"We should concentrate only on Rome? Wow. Bournemouth is really difficult, West Brom may be relegated and thinking completely free to create a good football game for their fans and Stoke might see it as their last chance. It's full throttle.

"When you are constantly told you are fantastic, it is the first step towards not being fantastic any more. We have to stay really angry."

© The Daily Telegraph, London

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