chasing history | 

Jurgen Klopp’s pursuit of a four-trophy grand slam has taken on the characteristics of a religious experience

Just a week, the merest fingernail of an epic season remains, yet the supernatural vision of a quadruple endures.
Jurgen Klopp is not thinking about a dramatic title win (John Walton/PA)

Jurgen Klopp is not thinking about a dramatic title win (John Walton/PA)

Roy Curtis

THE outer limits of fantasy long ago breached, Liverpool’s voyage approaches an exotic, unimaginable threshold.

Jurgen Klopp’s pursuit of an outlandish four-trophy grand slam has taken on the characteristics of a religious experience for the Kop’s rapt congregation.

In their entire store of days, across every frame of the film of their life, the Church of Anfield might never again breathe oxygen this rarefied, dizzying, and wildly intoxicating.

Just a week, the merest fingernail of an epic season remains, yet the supernatural vision of a quadruple endures.

These days without end – Liverpool have not lost a game that mattered (a second leg reversal to Inter impotent to stall their Champions League advance) in 145 days – evoke a Sebastian Barry line from his novel of the same name.

“Time was not something then we thought of as an item that possessed an ending, but something that would go on forever, all rested and stopped in that moment.”

It is the longest of long shots, but if Stevie G could somehow ambush Pep Guardiola (inset) today, if the stars align i, then the road to a Parisian Saturday would pulse in an earth-shaking throb.

Chasing a four-timer that was beyond even Alex Ferguson’s powers to bend logic to his preferred Mancunian shape, Klopp and co have arrived at the endgame.

They couldn’t, could they?

Some 61 games into their eternal season, Liverpool are a Mont Blanc pen that declines to run out of ink, intent on drafting another chapter of their never-ending story in elegant, scarlet calligraphy.

Obstacle after obstacle has been navigated with the composure of the old equine giant, Red Rum, vaulting Becher’s Brook, the storied birch wall that sits just five miles from Anfield.

Mo Salah, talisman, freakishly blazing comet across dark winter skies, has netted in just one of his last 14 games.

Yet the Egyptian king’s burnout has caused not a single thread of hope to shrivel, not when Mane and Diaz, Jota and Origi, Firmino and, on Tuesday last, Minamino, step so emphatically into the breach.

Manchester City keep surging on (unbeaten in the Premier League since February), yet even Kevin de Bruyne’s dream clinic has failed to shake off the rival clinging doggedly to their shirttails.

At Southampton on Tuesday, Klopp made nine changes – nine! – unleashing his “Ferraris in the garage”, the Reds went behind, and still they found a way.

In the FA Cup final, as in the Carabao Cup showpiece, the contest was distilled down to the ultimate test of nerve. In back to back penalty shootouts, Liverpool rose above the fog of anxiety blanketing steepled Wembley bleachers.

There is, it seems, no labyrinth from which the red machine cannot devise an escape.

It begins of course with Klopp, the charismatic scaffolding around which a skyscraping season has been constructed.

Mining the limits of his resources, the wattage of his personality seems to announce that anything is possible, that there are no odds that cannot be overcome.

The German has immunised his adopted city against the many destructive pathogens that can invade the bloodstream and break a team: doubt, division, negativity, fear, ego, lowered ambitions, an inability to see the stars.

He has instilled in his players a sense they are creating something larger than themselves, and in supporters, the certainty that they are being led by a man of destiny.

Klopp is more than a manager for Liverpool fans, he is a helmsman, a point of light, the prince of their dreams, a man who sees them precisely as they have always seen themselves.

The depth of this emotional connection, the sense that Klopp is so perfectly culturally and politically aligned with his tribe, is something rare and stimulating and extraordinarily powerful.

Seven years into his imperium, he is universally viewed by supporters as their hypnotic pied piper, one they would follow to the end of the earth.

To illustrate the bond between terrace and dugout, imagine a scenario in which Liverpool fans are offered the following choice.

Somehow overhaul Manchester City today to dramatically seize the Premier League but lose Klopp to retirement at the final whistle; or accept the runner-up medal in a thrilling title race while keeping their Teutonic torchbearer.

It would be a no-contest. Any referendum on short-term silverware or long-term Klopp would result in a landslide victory for an everlasting marriage.

The end of the affair is one that Koppites can scarcely bear to contemplate. It is why there was such rejoicing when their great redeemer, their bearded son of Shankly, extended his contract to 2026 last month.

Consider how far Liverpool had fallen before his arrival and how he rehabilitated their dreams.

When he was unveiled as manager in October 2015, it was to take over a faltering force, 10th in the table, a stumbling shadow of their former selves, their 25- year wait for a League title an affront to their gilded history.

Liverpool were like a stricken ship with a great gash in its hull, taking on water, struggling to stay afloat.

By force of personality, brilliant tactical innovation, a capacity to improve players, inspire supporters, and unify to the point where there were no distractions from the pursuit of excellence, Klopp not only restored the old galleon to health.

He reimagined her as a jewel of the seas.

Now the upbeat architecture of his temperament has designed an end of season dream factory.

City remain overwhelming favourites to take domestic honours and Real Madrid’s unrivalled ability to convert lost causes into glory ensures nothing will come easy for Liverpool in this week of weeks.

Except one precious commodity: The sense of commotion and adventure and bone-deep exhilaration that comes with trailing a man of destiny on the journey of a lifetime.


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