Jurgen Klopp wears his heart on his sleeve for one last Liverpool press conference

The setting was Anfield’s ‘Reds Lounge’ on Friday, October 9 2015. Jurgen Klopp had just produced a masterful display in front of the TV cameras at his unveiling when he sat down to talk with the UK’s written media.

Meeting him for the first time, his energy and enthusiasm was infectious.

“I am not the guy who is going to go out and shout ‘we are going to conquer the world’ or something like this,” he said.

“But we will conquer the ball, yeah? Each ****ing time! We will chase the ball. We will run more, fight more. We will work more together, better together. I am a lucky guy. I had a special club with Mainz, a special club with Borussia Dortmund and now I am here. This is the best thing I can imagine.”

What a ride it proved to be. Some 3,143 days and seven major trophies later he strolled into another packed 25-minute press conference at the AXA Training Centre on Friday. He wore his heart on his sleeve ahead of Sunday’s final game of his reign at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers.

“This has been the most intense week of my life,” he said. “I said goodbye so often this week. Yesterday the players said goodbye in their way. We had a little barbecue here that was really nice. Before that I was with the club staff of Chapel Street with something in the stadium after that. It’s a lot.

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Klopp during his first Liverpool press conference in 2015 (Paul Ellis/AFP via Getty Images)

“I don’t know exactly how many shirts I signed last week but there were a few! Saying goodbye I don’t think is ever nice but saying goodbye without feeling sad or hurt would mean that the time you spent together was not great. It was always clear it would be tough.”

Klopp’s coaching staff will also be waving farewell at Anfield on Sunday. Pep Lijnders will launch his managerial career at Red Bull Salzburg with Vitor Matos as his assistant. John Achterberg’s next job had not been confirmed but Klopp let slip that the long-serving goalkeeping coach is joining Steven Gerrard’s staff at Al Ettifaq in Saudi Arabia. Former Liverpool academy keeper Andy Firth will be Achterberg’s assistant.

“Pep and Vitor have a bright future,” Klopp said.  “They were the most influential coaches you can imagine I ever had because we created a style of play that I really loved together. They are incredibly talented and full of energy.

“John Achterberg joins Stevie, good luck with that! Fantastic coach. If you ask the goalies over the years, he coached on one day 12 goalies. I didn’t know we had that many at the club.

“Jack Robinson (assistant goalie coach) is leaving as well. The future is bright for him. Andreas Kornmayer (head of fitness) will leave – his CV is Bayern Munich and Liverpool in the most successful spells so that’s really cool.”

It’s also the end of the road at Liverpool for Joel Matip and Thiago, who will both leave as free agents when their contracts expire this summer. The tributes to them were glowing.

“Have you ever seen a better free transfer than Joel Matip? You will not find a more likeable person. He is ridiculously funny and a wonderful man. He has to make a decision. Does he want to play on or not? Whoever gets him is a lucky club because he is world-class and super humble.

“In a parallel world, I would have loved to see Thiago’s career without injuries. He is definitely one of the best I ever saw. He can do things which I was not sure before I thought were possible. He is in control of absolutely everything on the pitch. Unfortunately, the body didn’t play exactly a part. But I’m sure he will want to give it a try again.”

Klopp revealed that he had turned down a request from TV documentary makers Lorton Entertainment to film his final team talk to the squad ahead of Sunday’s game. He suggested that captain Virgil van Dijk may have to address the players instead if the emotion of the occasion takes over.

“Somebody has to do it who is really on fire. Can I be on fire? Probably but I don’t know in this moment. It will be really strange,” he said. Klopp talked about wanting “a football atmosphere, not a goodbye atmosphere” during the 90 minutes but it’s fanciful that he won’t be the centre of attention throughout.

Then it was time to reminisce.

Favourite final? Forget the Champions League in 2019, he went for February’s Carabao Cup triumph over Chelsea.

“The people created an atmosphere in the stadium which I’m not sure Wembley ever had before. I know now a few guys from other teams will say, ‘Yeah, in 1976 it was like that’. But who cares? Our people can create some special moments, wow, and that night the team created something really special. It was, from a club point of view, the best night of our lives. I loved to see the kids’ eyes. Virgil’s first trophy as skipper. I will never forget that.”

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Klopp highlighted February’s Carabao Cup win as his favourite final (Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Best performance? He went for the final hour of the 1-1 draw with Manchester City at Anfield in March. “We never controlled City like we did that day. That is super difficult, you see where they are now. That was the best we played. We won before (against City) but they were different games. Controlling a game against a team like that, putting them under pressure like that, we never did before.”

Most spectacular? Barcelona in the Champions League semi-final in 2019.

Best goal? Alisson’s dramatic late header against West Brom in May 2021.

Best assist? Trent Alexander-Arnold’s quickly taken corner for Divock Origi to score in that iconic fightback against Barcelona.

Best save? Alisson’s against Napoli in a pivotal Champions League group game in December 2018.

Klopp’s trophy haul doesn’t really do justice to what he created. Twice, City beat them to the Premier League crown by a single point. Twice, Liverpool lost Champions League finals to Real Madrid.

But for Klopp, there’s no nagging sense of what might have been.

“We could’ve won less, that’s possible as well,” he said. “Not becoming a champion by a point is not a great experience but it shows you that you are really good. I couldn’t have done anything different in these moments. I couldn’t have done more.”

Earlier this week he was pictured standing alone in the circle centre at Anfield and then in the Kop.

“The people from our TV channel asked me to do that,” he explained. “I would never wear a jacket and a shirt and go to Anfield in an empty stadium.

“I love Anfield to bits. But I love it when it’s full. I hope it’s not the picture of my time at Liverpool being alone in the stadium dressed up! I stood there and it felt kind of strange. I had never done it before. I did it once and I probably won’t ever do it again. Anfield is a super place because of the people. I love it but it’s the people who make it exceptional.”

Klopp harnessed the power of Anfield. He reconnected Liverpool with both the city and its global fanbase. He didn’t restore the club to greatness, he fought the fans’ corner on everything from ticket prices to the doomed launch of the European Super League.

He insisted that if he replied to every letter and email he had received from supporters in recent weeks, “I’d still be sitting here in 2028”! One he was asked to read out by LFCTV this week reduced him to tears. “The stories behind what it meant to the people and how their lives changed in these nine years, it’s crazy. I know that football can do that to a city, and we did that,” he said.

Asked if he expected to have this kind of impact on people across the globe, a smile crept across his face. “Yeah!” he joked before leaning back in his chair laughing.

“I had a good relationship at Mainz with the people and for them, it was probably the hardest because they saw me for 11 years playing! We created a really special bond at Dortmund as well. I never planned that but I like it a lot. We are the ambassadors of our people, we have to fulfil their dreams. We fight extremely hard because they fight extremely hard and that’s how I always understood it.

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Klopp receives a canvas from the media (John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)

“I love absolutely everything about this place. I take fantastic memories with me, I take friendships with me, relationships with me forever. The older you get, time slips through your fingers, and you only realise it later on. You look back and think, ‘My God, that was quick’. I don’t think it was quick, the nine years, it’s not that I feel as if I arrived yesterday.

“I really think it was the absolute opposite of a waste of time. We used absolutely everything and tried to make the best out of everything and tried to enjoy it as much as somehow possible. A decade in your life is a massive one and I will not forget. I will not forget a day in that time because I met the best people I ever met and I did it for the best club I could have imagined.

“Nothing is perfect nowadays but the majority of the people in this city are, for me, as close as possible because of the way they are and the way they deal with life. I’m completely at peace. It’s wonderful to know that I spent a big time of my life here. I don’t imagine that the club will need my help in the future but if the city needs me, I’m there.”

Klopp was presented with a large canvas depicting some of the greatest nights of his tenure.

There have been some bumps in the road along the way but what an honour it’s been to follow this journey every step of the way.

(Top photo: John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)

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