Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp believes he is taking the best team he has ever managed into the Champions League final – but knows quality does not guarantee success.
Of the seven finals Klopp has contested he has lost his last six and while he rated his Borussia Dortmund team defeated by Bayern Munich in the 2013 Champions League final as his best, the current Reds side surpass them. And he admits beating Tottenham in Madrid on Saturday would be a new career high for him.
“I don’t like to blame my other teams. I love them all,” said Klopp. “They all gave everything but I have never been part of a final with a better team than this.
“In different times, for different reasons my teams were good as well. I am not so surprised because our boys mix our potential with attitude in the best way I have witnessed. That is brilliant.
“In the five-six days between Barcelona [losing the semi-final first leg 3-0] and Barcelona [second leg, winning 4-0], nobody believed more than the team themselves. That is why we are here. It is a sensational situation. We wanted it really desperately.
“It looked like it slipped through our fingers in the group stage, we struggled in the away games [losing all three] but did it in the most mature way, winning 1-0 against an Italian team [Napoli]. You have to remind yourself from time to time how strong my team is.”
Klopp is leading the side into his fourth final with Liverpool but after last season’s heartbreak against Real Madrid in Kiev there is optimism he can end his barren run.
He admits the final in Kiev, which was characterised by two mistakes by goalkeeper Loris Karius and a brilliant overhead kick by Gareth Bale, is a motivating factor.
“I remember standing in the queue at Kiev airport after the final in our tracksuits with our heads down and everyone was disappointed about the situation,” added Klopp.
“There were a lot of different emotions but the plan was we come again, we will be there again. Now we are there that is just incredible.”
Should Klopp guide the Reds to a sixth European Cup he would go down among the club’s greats. Even then he had to think about whether it would be his clear highlight.
“If I win it, yes. It would be different to the last finals,” he added.
“To bring the team to the Champions League final is the biggest moment in my career? No, that was 2004, getting promoted with Mainz. If you had known the money we had, the circumstances we had, nobody needed us in the first league.”
Liverpool have been boosted by the return to fitness of Roberto Firmino, who has missed the last three matches with a thigh problem. It means Klopp will be able to name a virtually fully-fit squad with only Naby Keita (adductor) missing. “No chance for Naby. Naby is really progressing well. We will see how it will work out for him for the African Cup of Nations,” said Klopp.
“Bobby [Firmino] was part of training last week, really good, everything looked fine. He will be fine, I am pretty sure.”