Carabao Cup triumph shows what Liverpool will lose when Klopp leaves

Sport

The pride was clear in Jurgen Klopp’s grin as he celebrated an unlikely Liverpool triumph in Sunday’s Carabao Cup final. Everything was in Chelsea’s favour to get the job done, yet it was “Klopp’s Kids,” as they have been widely dubbed, that ended up with their hands on the trophy on the famous Wembley steps.

Sunday demonstrated what Liverpool will lose when Klopp leaves the club at the end of the season. The German has imposed a style of play over a number of years that made the Reds one of the most entertaining teams to watch anywhere in Europe, but Klopp’s real impact came in the way he changed the spirit of the Anfield club.

No other manager in the sport could have pulled off what Klopp did on Sunday. Not even Pep Guardiola could have kept Manchester City competitive in a cup final against a high calibre opponent with no fewer than 11 key players sidelined through injury. Klopp is a master of controlling the intangibles.

Every youngster who featured for Liverpool against Chelsea knew what was expected of them in the side. Klopp might have been forced to reshuffle his pack more than once, but the structure of his team always stayed in place. It was around this structure that the likes of Conor Bradley, Bobby Clark, Jarell Quansah, Jayden Danns and James McConnell flourished.

Klopp also instilled the winning mentality that gave Liverpool the belief to pull off something so improbable. The Reds have been labelled “mentality monsters” in the past and that clearly seeped into the mindset within the club’s academy. Every youngster who featured at Wembley was ready for the challenge and occasion.

“In more than 20 years it is easily the most special trophy I have ever won,” said Klopp after the Carabao Cup final which saw Virgil van Dijk net an 118th-minute winner against Chelsea. “It is absolutely exceptional. Sometimes people ask me if I’m proud of things and it’s really tricky, I wish I could feel pride more often.

“But tonight is an overwhelming ­feeling. I was proud of everyone involved in everything here, I was proud of our people for the way they pushed us, I was proud of the staff for creating this kind of atmosphere where these boys can just do what they are best at. I was proud of our academy, I was proud of my coaches, I was proud of so many things.”

There has been much talk of legacy ever since Klopp announced his intention to leave Liverpool at the end of the season. Of course, the German has already secured his place in the history of the Anfield club having pushed the Reds back to the top of English and European football. But his lasting legacy could be in the core of young players he leaves behind.

Bradley is already established as a first team figure having impressed over the last month or so. The Northern Irishman lacks the passing range of Trent Alexander-Arnold at right back, but has a similar attack-minded drive to Andy Robertson and almost always produces in the final third. Quansah is another who has proven his worth in the first team this season. Many view him as the natural successor to van Dijk.

This summer will mark the end of an era for Liverpool, but the future appears bright for the Anfield club with the number of talented youngsters coming through. Finding another leader like Klopp who can guide them to more success, however, will prove difficult. There will never be another Liverpool manager like the one they have now.

Author: Mark Hayes