Soccer-Liverpool fans say sad farewell to 'one of us' Klopp


FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Premier League - Aston Villa v Liverpool - Villa Park, Birmingham, Britain - May 13, 2024 Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp acknowledges the fans after the match Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Boyers/File Photo

LIVERPOOL, England (Reuters) -Liverpool fans bade farewell to their charismatic manager Juergen Klopp on Sunday with songs, murals and other tributes to an eight-year reign that brought the glory days back to one of England's greatest clubs.

The bespectacled 56-year-old German led his beloved Reds for the 491st and final time against Wolverhampton Wanderers in front of a sellout crowd at Anfield.

Klopp and his players were greeted by a festival atmosphere as crowds lined the streets to welcome the team bus. He scanned the crowd during the traditional singing of "You'll Never Walk Alone" prior to kickoff before tapping a hand to his heart.

With the Premier League game itself largely irrelevant now Liverpool cannot win the title, all focus was on Klopp, who had fought back tears as fans serenaded him at his final away game.

"We’ll never see his like again ... He's one of us," waxed John Pearman, founder of Liverpool fan magazine "Red All Over The Land" which brought out a special Klopp edition.

After leading the team to seven trophies, including Europe's Champions League in 2019 and a first English league title in three decades in 2020, Klopp is leaving of his own volition to recharge his batteries.

KLOPP'S CITY

He has not said what he will do next, beyond ruling out managing another club in England, out of respect for the working class port city he came to love as his own.

"I could have grown up here," he said in a club video.

"We gave Liverpool the best time of our life, and the other way round as well. I will never walk alone ever again in my life," he added, alluding to the song by 1960s Liverpool band Gerry and the Pacemakers that became the club anthem.

It was not only success that endeared Klopp to fans.

They loved his passion and personality: fist-pumps at the end of games, bear hugs for players, time for charitable causes, indignant protests at dubious decisions, and insistence on a high-energy aggressive "gegenpress" style of football.

After decades of mediocrity, when arch-rivals Manchester United were the top dogs in England, Klopp restored Liverpool's pride, his irrepressible zeal eclipsing other Premier League managers.

"Watching Klopp and so many of the incredible players he developed made me fall in love with football, making the fact he's leaving hurt even more," said 15-year-old fan Freddie Williams before the Wolves game.

"He's given the fans what they'd been longing for the past 30 years, putting Liverpool back on top. The moments he's created, the laughter he's given us along with his immense success has made him irreplaceable at LFC."

In pubs and back streets, supporters recalled their favourite Klopp moments: the four-goal comeback against Barcelona in a 2019 Champions League semi-final, a 7-0 drubbing of Manchester United in 2023, or his manic leaping charge across the pitch after a last-ditch winner against derby rivals Everton in 2018.

Ever the gentleman, Klopp later apologised for disrespecting Everton.

'I'M IN LOVE'

The fans' song for Klopp is a delirious version of the Liverpool-born Beatles' "I Feel Fine".

"I'm so glad that Juergen is a Red, I'm so glad he delivered what he said!" they chant.

"Juergen said to me 'you know, we'll win the Premier League you know', he said so! I'm in love with him and I feel fine!"

Players, too, were emotional about the man who revived careers and made giants of the likes of Mohamed Salah and Virgil van Dijk, while nurturing a plethora of new talent.

"He's like a fatherly figure for everyone," said 21-year-old midfielder Harvey Elliott. "An amazing person to be around. I’ve learned so much off him, I can’t be thankful enough."

The German's stay in Liverpool has also spawned a slew of new wall art. One of the latest murals shows a heroic-looking Klopp in black-and-white holding his hand to his chest against a backdrop of Liverpool's red-and-white colours.

Above it are the words: "We believed".

(Reporting by Andrew Cawthorne, editing by Ed Osmond and Toby Davis)

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