‘Impossible’: Liverpool’s ‘unforgettable moment’ makes Jurgen Klopp believe

There are plenty of times when Jurgen Klopp scarcely has the feel of a 56-year-old: when he is bounding about on the touchline or berating fourth officials, when he is at the centre of celebrations with men decades his junior, when, last week after beating Luton, as his captain Virgil van Dijk smiled on benevolently, it was Klopp who turned to all found stands of Anfield to perform his trademark fist pumps.

There are occasional other moments when perhaps he does: when in November he realised his energy was not endless and concluded this had to be his final season at Liverpool or when he was pictured on the plane back from Wembley, dozing with the Carabao Cup in his arms; for the record, Klopp insists he only had a sip of beer.

As he reflected on one of his favourite matches, Klopp found himself pondering the generation game. Liverpool’s three youngest players at Wembley were Jayden Danns, at 18; Bobby Clark, at 19, and James McConnell, also 19. Combined age: 56, Klopp’s current vintage. No wonder, then, that the Liverpool manager said: “I can’t think in the head of an 18-year-old boy any more because it is too long ago.” If he delighted in the maturity they showed at Wembley, Klopp feels their youthful enthusiasm is something everyone should share. “When you are 35, you should play like a kid, but they are not 35 obviously,” he added.

A couple of days on from the trophy Klopp deemed the most special he had ever won, he underlined why he had said it was the sort of thing he had not seen in football: describing in detail the role each of the rookies played in winning the corner that Van Dijk headed in, pointing out that inexperience is not just a question of age, but of time on the pitch. Liverpool’s injury list may afford each a start against Southampton in Wednesday’s FA Cup tie: Danns has never begun a senior game, Clark and McConnell one apiece.

“Our boys played in youth teams and Under-21s and only came up recently and trained with us for a long time: absolutely nil experience but a lot of talent and they showed that,” Klopp said. “But, for me, it was really touching the way they played and the way they contributed.

“The situation before we scored, when we got the corner, I don’t think I will ever forget it. Honestly. Caoimhin [Kelleher] passes the ball out to Wataru [Endo], the ball goes left to [Jarell] Quansah, [who] passes it down the line then Dannsy chips the ball – what is he doing?! – and James passes the ball to Bobby Clark, who is waiting between the lines. That is wonderful because these details in football are incredibly important – the positions you are in, stuff like that – and these boys are doing it.

“They are not just happy to kick the ball as far as they can. Bobby makes a little shuffle and shoots, and then it’s a corner and that’s how we set it up. That was such a touching moment. It shows it’s possible. I didn’t know it was possible. If you’d asked me before this line-up – can you win a game in extra time against Chelsea? No. Impossible. But seeing it and being part of it is super special.”

Jurgen Klopp celebrates winning the Carabao Cup (EPA)
Jurgen Klopp celebrates winning the Carabao Cup (EPA)

He readily agrees with Mauricio Pochettino’s point that Chelsea had the lower average age, both at the start of the game and at the end of extra time. Yet when added time began, and he had taken off Andy Robertson, Alexis Mac Allister, Cody Gakpo and the injured Ryan Gravenberch, Chelsea team contained no real novices. Liverpool’s had three, but they seized the opportunity.

“What I really loved most about it was that our people obviously have a sense for situations,” Klopp said. “Probably a lot of people thought it could be a long 30 minutes. And then we started playing again, and that was the most wonderful thing I saw for a long, long time, because the boys just ignored the fact that they have absolutely no experience in the circumstances. It’s a lesson for life; it’s about how you deal with things. The boys ignored the right things, used the right things and trusted the process and the way we play. That was really cool.”

Liverpool's Lewis Koumas, Jayden Danns and Trey Nyoni celebrate winning the Carabao Cup (REUTERS)
Liverpool's Lewis Koumas, Jayden Danns and Trey Nyoni celebrate winning the Carabao Cup (REUTERS)

Klopp has long referred to his team as “the boys”. That description was rarely truer than at Wembley. They could be still more boyish on Wednesday: there might be a debut for Trey Nyoni, who was born a couple of weeks after Klopp’s 40th birthday. As it is, three other teenagers can testify what a place in Klopp’s plans can bring.

“I might be their favourite manager at the moment, to be honest,” he smiled.

He may forever retain that status.