Saturday 20 July 2019

Roy Curtis: 'At his finest hour, Jurgen Klopp’s smile not only lit this storied coliseum, it bedazzled the cosmos'

Liverpool's Andrew Robertson, Adam Lallana, Mohamed Salah, manager Juergen Klopp, Virgil van Dijk and James Milner celebrate in front of their fans after the match REUTERS/Phil Noble
Liverpool's Andrew Robertson, Adam Lallana, Mohamed Salah, manager Juergen Klopp, Virgil van Dijk and James Milner celebrate in front of their fans after the match REUTERS/Phil Noble

Roy Curtis

Even the city that gifted the planet Beatlemania, the very soil that spawned John, Paul, Ringo and George, can hardly have known a more otherworldly, pitch perfect Fab Four.

On a night that belonged to another world of magic, more unfathomable even than the miraculous evening in Istanbul, Anfield felt like the most heart-stirring, blessed cathedral.

This was less a football match than a religious experience, a spiritual, divine evening of destiny.

Liverpool gave Lionel Messi a three goal lead, were stripped of Mo Salah and Bobby Firmino, yet somehow delivered a passion play that seemed supernatural, absurd and beautiful.

A wonder of the sporting world:  As breathtaking as the Great Pyramids of Giza, as colossal as the Colossus of Rhodes, yielded as fertile a vision as Babylon’s Hanging Gardens.

John Lennon, the poet who beseeched the world to imagine, the laureate who happily announced himself a dreamer, could not have composed a more whimsical, astral, hopeful ballad.

As the goals landed like a series of concussive punches, a spooky blizzard of the unlikely that blinded Barcelona, The Kop, epicentre of this ancient palace, was elevated to a portrait of delirium, a tsunami of rapture. To borrow from Lennon, a brotherhood of man. 

This 90 minutes amounted to an immortal postcard from Shangri-La.

Jurgen 2.jpg
Soccer Football - Champions League Semi Final Second Leg - Liverpool v FC Barcelona - Anfield, Liverpool, Britain - May 7, 2019 Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp celebrates after the match REUTERS/Phil Noble

At his finest hour, Jurgen Klopp’s smile not only floodlit this storied coliseum, it bedazzled the cosmos.

Long before this crowning glory, Klopp had brilliantly renovated the House of Shankly, made the deepest connection with the audience; the charismatic Teutonic cardinal, simply by stepping into the pulpit and unveiling the most upbeat life-affirming gospel, infected the red church with hope.

Here, for fully 15 minutes after the last whistle, the entire spellbound and enraptured congregation sang and sang, a thousand giddy hallelujahs.

Klopp has yet to win a trophy during his time in England but he has gifted Liverpool something more precious:  A well of optimism, a sense again of who they truly are. 

And blessed nights, like these, of open-air theatre beyond price.

Klopp, through sheer force of personality and a Utopian, impossible-is-nothing tactical vision, has created a vibrant force, one that dwarfs the sum of their parts.

The gift of the great preacher is to instil belief, to persuade his disciples that his message amounts to so much more than fantasy; with sufficient conviction, armed with absolute faith, the dream can - will - become life-affirming reality.

And, here it was made flesh.  Divock Origi and Gini Wijnaldum breaking the world’s most celebrated team, rendering the greatest player the planet has known mute.

Andy Robertson – “My God what a team,” sighed this remarkable Scottish full-back as he reflected on this Tony-winning Broadway production  – bought from Hull for a third of what Manchester United have paid Alex Sanchez in wages this season, yet soaring ever further into the trackless clouds of superstardom, a Mersey Roberto Carlos.

Trent Alexander Arnold, a man-child with the veteran wit to execute that improvised corner that set up Origi’s winning goal.  Joel Matip transformed into a 21st century Alan Hansen.

Everywhere evidence of improvement, of players performing to the very peak of their potential.

As Anfield palpitated and shuddered, as the inhabitants of the blazing night transformed Liverpool’s home to some hysterical hippodrome, Klopp – even if there was one deliciously delivered expletive in his summing up – sounded almost beatific.

“The whole performance was just too much.  It was overwhelming…I don’t know how the boys did it.

“I saw James Milner crying.  It means so much to all of us, and I really mean all of us.

“There are more important things in the world.  But creating this kind of emotional atmosphere together is so special…the mix of potential and unbelievable heart…I never saw before.”

He shook his head from side to side at the madness of it all, he beamed and, at one, stage it appeared as if the power of what he had witness, the sheer scale of the bedlam unfolding all about him, might compel the bearded, bespectacled messiah to dissolve into tears.

This is a club that have relocated their essence; Manchester City will most likely extend their pursuit of league glory into a 30th year, but Liverpool have their identity back.

On a lyrical night, one where wonder ran as deep as the timeless Mersey, that seemed like a precious gift.

A hard day’s night had left Liverpool feeling all right.  The city had once again surrendered to the  alchemy of their very own Fab Four.

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