How Justin Bieber helped Newcastle keeper Loris Karius bounce back from Liverpool nightmare
Newcastle’s stand-in goalkeeper has been given the most unexpected chance to rewrite the story of his career
Loris Karius has been used to the celebrity lifestyle with his glamorous television host girlfriend and bromance with Justin Bieber, but this weekend he has the chance to remind everyone he is an elite sportsman in a major cup final.
Karius will never forget the trauma of that night in Kyiv, the embarrassment, the anguish and months of regret and recriminations that followed.
He knows he will always be associated with losing Liverpool a Champions League final against Real Madrid but this is his shot at redemption.
The 29-year-old will start for Newcastle United in tomorrow’s Carabao Cup final against Manchester United, two years since he last played a competitive game and just two months after the Newcastle hierarchy almost released him at the end of a short-term contract, signed as a free agent, when Karl Darlow injured his ankle in September.
Had it not been for manager Eddie Howe’s insistence, following the return of Martin Dubravka from loan at Manchester United, that Darlow deserved to play first-team football elsewhere – he joined Hull City on transfer deadline day – Karius would not have been a Newcastle player when Nick Pope was sent off against Liverpool last weekend.
Such are the whims of fate.
Darlow has not yet started a game for Hull and will regret leaving.
Dubravka demanded to return from Man Utd in January, after making just two appearances, but as both came in the Carabao Cup, he cannot play in the final for Newcastle.
Karius is the third-choice goalkeeper who was not even at St James’ Park, choosing to travel to Italy to see his girlfriend in Milan last weekend instead, who is now needed to help Newcastle win their first trophy for 54 years.
For readers of a certain vintage, it is Roy of the Rovers stuff. In the modern world, it is more akin to a social media influencer pretending to be a top-flight goalkeeper for likes.
Sources have said that if Karius is feeling tense, there is no sign of it. He remains as relaxed and laid back as ever.
Even as training has taken a more intense edge this week. It is his default setting. Which has maybe been the problem.
He has become a goalkeeper who likes training. The accusation is he is content with the Premier League footballer’s lifestyle, keeping fit, enjoying himself, minus the pressure and expectations that come with it.
The fire that once burned inside him as a young goalkeeper who signed for Manchester City’s youth team as a 16-year-old, but returned to Germany because he wanted to play first-team football for Mainz, was doused in Kyiv. He was damaged by what happened.
His male model looks and athletic physique have still brought him attention, but he has been better known for posting moody, aesthetically alluring pictures on Instagram than playing football in the last few years.
Karius has a large social media following, 1.8 million people on Instagram alone and appears to enjoy a life of luxury, pictured at the Monaco Grand Prix and with his Italian girlfriend Diletta Leotta on romantic winter holidays.
He is a man used to mixing with celebrities. There are lots of things we know about Karius, but also some things we do not, like his friendship with superstar Bieber that began on holiday after the pop idol had complimented the German on his tattoos.
Speaking in 2016, shortly after his move to Liverpool, Karius revealed, in quotes that have not been shared in the public domain before, that he was so close to Bieber that they planned to go to a concert together in London.
“We just met on holiday randomly last year,” he said. “We were staying at the same place in Miami. He liked my tattoos. He was asking me about them and then we got talking. That’s how it started.”
That bromance began a year before the game that has defined perceptions and shaped his story.
We all know what happened after that fateful night in 2018, when the young German goalkeeper, who had been caught by a stray elbow and was later discovered to have been suffering from concussion, imploded on the biggest night of his career.
Karius gifted Real Madrid two of their three goals and left the pitch afterwards, apologising to supporters with tears trickling down the side of his flushed and puffy face.
People tried to say nice things about him in the immediate aftermath of that disaster, but Karius did not play another game for Liverpool in the four years he remained on the Anfield payroll. He was shipped out on loan to Besiktas and Union Berlin. Neither felt he warranted a permanent move.
It is then that Karius became that football oddity. The third-choice goalkeeper, who does not play in games and does not expect to either. His only public appearance in a Newcastle shirt came on their winter training camp in Saudi Arabia when he played in a 5-0 friendly win over Al-Hilal. He looked good, making a handful of impressive saves. He returned to anonymity as soon as Newcastle returned to the UK.
His spell on the sidelines is over, even if it is only temporary. This is a most unexpected chance to rewrite the story of his career. Help Newcastle win the cup and he will be a cult hero on Tyneside, a hero, a legend not a clown or villain. This is his moment to be the player he once dreamed he could be.
Manchester Utd v Newcastle Utd, Live, Sky Sports, tomorrow 4.30
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