Jürgen Klopp claimed defeat in the Champions League final should not detract from Liverpool’s “special season” but admitted his team had themselves to blame for the defeat by Real Madrid.
Thibaut Courtois produced an outstanding display to deny Liverpool, and Mohamed Salah in particular, as the Anfield club’s dreams of a seventh European crown and cup treble vanished in Paris. Klopp refused to blame a 63rd game of the campaign as the cause but rued Liverpool’s failure to beat the former Chelsea goalkeeper.
“They scored a goal and we didn’t,” the Liverpool manager said. “That’s hard to take but we have to respect that. I congratulate Madrid and I have congratulated their president outside personally. When a goalkeeper is man of the match something is obviously wrong for the other team. We had three really big chances when Courtois made incredible saves. I would have loved more of them. In the last third we could have done better.
“Madrid had one shot on target and scored. We had nine on target and we couldn’t score. That’s the difference. We had 24 shots and I remember Courtois making three world-class saves. With our quality we can cause more problems.”
Liverpool end a season that carried hopes of a quadruple with the FA Cup and Carabao Cup. But despite missing out on the biggest prizes, their manager insisted he was proud of the campaign.
“I feel the pride already,” he said. “I told the boys that in the dressing room, but it was clear I was the only one who felt that. The boys will need longer. They played an outstanding season. The two competitions we didn’t win were by the smallest possible margins – one point from City in the Premier League and one goal against Real Madrid in the Champions League. That says nothing about us.
“The difference between 2018 [another Champions League final defeat by Madrid] and now is that I see us coming again. Tomorrow we will celebrate the season. It’s good we don’t do that immediately but after a night’s sleep and another speech from me the boys will realise what a special season they did.”
Klopp was partially aware of the chaos outside the stadium that caused kick-off to be delayed for 36 minutes. He said: “I don’t know a lot. I know the families had a real struggle to get in but I don’t know the reasons. We will have to wait for a full investigation. I heard a few things that are not good. It was pretty tricky out there but I don’t know any more about it.”
Real’s 14th triumph ensured Carlo Ancelotti became the most successful manager in the competition’s history, his fourth title taking him clear of the three-times winners Bob Paisley and Zinedine Zidane. The 62-year-old, who has won the Champions League twice each with Real and Milan, insisted the team he also guided to the Spanish title this season deserved to win.
“We deserved to win this competition in every sense,” he said. We had to dig in from the last 16 until tonight and we never gave up. We managed the game very well tonight. They found it hard to play behind us and when we kept possession better in the second half that changed the game. I think it is easier to win the Champions League with Real Madrid than another club because of the history and the fans’ connection. They are born with this passion. I am very pleased to win this trophy four times but I am even more thrilled to have come back to Madrid and to have had such a spectacular season.”
The Italian was in disbelief over Courtois’ man-of-the-match performance. “Trust me, I can’t believe what Thibaut Courtois did tonight. Unbelievable.”
Courtois claimed his heroics should earn him the respect that he feels has been absent. “I said at the press conference yesterday that when Madrid play in finals, they win. I saw a lot of tweets saying I would get humbled. It was the other way round. Today I needed to win a final – for my career, for all the hard work, to put respect on my name because I don’t think I have enough respect, especially in England. I saw a lot of criticism that I was not good enough or whatever … I think I played a great game and that was the difference.”