English carabao cup

Liverpool’s League Cup glory Klopp’s ‘most special’ trophy

Jurgen Klopp, caught up in special moment of sentimental revelry, hailed Liverpool’s League Cup final triumph against Chelsea as the “most special” trophy of his career as the revered Reds boss was surprised to learn he could emerge victorious even with his players from the younger generation.

Reds stalwart Virgil van Dijk finally broke through the stalemate to clinch Liverpool’s 1-0 win two minutes from the end of extra-time at Wembley on Sunday with a dramatic header.

The victory was especially sweet for Klopp as it came during an injury-hit period for his club that had left him with no choice but to field a largely-inexperienced team.

20-year-olds Conor Bradley and Harvey Elliott were fielded, together with Bobby Clark (19), James McConnell (19), Jayden Danns (18) and Jarell Quansah (21) from the bench, as the likes of Mohamed Salah, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Diogo Jota, Darwin Nunez, Alisson Becker and Joel Matip were left out due to injuries, while Ryan Gravenberch was stretchered off in the first half.

This led to Klopp ranking the seventh major trophy of his nine-year Liverpool tenure as the most memorable of his career.

“In more than 20 years it is easily the most special trophy I have ever won. It is absolutely exceptional,” he said.

“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 academy, I was proud of my coaches, I was proud of so many things. It was completely overwhelming.”

This victory brings to recall former Liverpool defender Alan Hansen famously criticising Alex Ferguson’s decision to field a host of Manchester United youngsters, including David Beckham, Paul Scholes and Gary Neville, by saying “you can’t win anything with kids”.

This infamous turn of phrase – Klopp had never heard Hansen’s quote until the aftermath of Sunday’s triumph, when it struck a chord with the emotional German – came back to bite Hansen in the butt as United’s kids went on to dominate the Premier League.

“I got told there is an English phrase you don’t win trophies with kids. I never knew that,” he said.

“I loved it. Can you create stories in football that never happened before? It is so difficult. If you can find any story about a group of academy kids coming on against a top team like Chelsea and winning, it’s incredible.”

Flashing a stupefied grin and at his fist-pumping best in the post-match celebrations in the moments after Van Dijk’s goal, Klopp was in full revelry of what could well be his last visit to Wembley after his recent announcement that he will leave Liverpool at the end of the season.

“I couldn’t care less about my legacy. I’m not here for that. It had nothing to do with maybe my last game at Wembley,” he said.

“It was about seeing the faces of the kids. For me it’s a really nice memory forever.”

Klopp said: “Obviously age is not a problem at all. It was clear in training, these were the boys we would take (to the final). We needed fresh legs.”

Chelsea boss Mauricio Pochettino, however, could only urge his players to embrace the pain of defeat as his side paid the final price for squandering some great opportunities to kill off Liverpool towards the end of normal time.

“We didn’t get the reward we wanted. They need to fill the pain. We played for a trophy we didn’t get. There is nothing you can tell me to feel better,” said Pochettino, who remains without a trophy in English football.

“They need to realise we need to work more, do better things, to compete at this level against a team that has been doing big things for many years.

“Liverpool lost the finals in the past, but they kept moving and kept believing. That is an example to us.”