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Klopp Takes a Walk Down Memory Lane as He Prepares for Emotional Final Match as Liverpool Manager

As part of a club documentary offering an inside view of his final days at Liverpool, Jurgen Klopp was asked by the filmmakers to stand alone on The Kop one afternoon and gaze out around Anfield.

He did it, and didn’t particularly like it.

“I love Anfield to bits,” Klopp said Friday, “but I love it when it’s full.”

On Sunday, there won’t be a spare seat inside the storied stadium when Klopp takes charge of his final game as Liverpool manager after nearly nine years at the club.

There might not be many dry eyes among the home fans, either.

Klopp was the man who made Liverpool dream again.

The man who led the team to seven major trophies — including a sixth Champions League title (“Let’s talk about six, baby,” he memorably sang) and a first English league championship in 30 years.

The man who forged such a connection with the port city that he has been compared to Bill Shankly, the club’s most legendary manager.

The man who felt equally at home motivating his players to go above and beyond with his heavy-metal style of football as he was talking compassionately with families of the victims of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster.

Speaking ahead of Sunday’s game against Wolverhampton, Klopp stopped many times while answering questions — sometimes because he was getting emotional and sometimes because he wanted to find exactly the right words about all aspects of a club that has become so close to his heart.

“I would not be happy if I’d have thought I could have done more,” the 56-year-old German said. “I couldn’t. I couldn’t have done more.”

It’s why there wasn’t such a sense of sadness as he said individual goodbyes to his players on Thursday and had a barbeque with the squad.

He visited workers in the club’s store in Liverpool city center one final time. He forgets how many Liverpool jerseys he has signed over the past few days.

Klopp said it has been “the most intense week of my life.”

“Saying goodbye I don’t think is ever nice,” he said, “but saying goodbye without feeling sad or feeling hurt, that would just mean the time you spent together wasn’t right or great. And I had a great time.”

There was a sense of joy as he went through his greatest hits as Liverpool manager.

His best game? Maybe, surprisingly, the 1-1 draw with Manchester City at Anfield this season, when Liverpool delivered a dominant second-half display against the team Klopp feels is the best in the world.

The best goal? Goalkeeper Alisson Becker’s header from a corner in the fifth minute of stoppage time to win a game at West Bromwich Albion.

His favorite assist was Trent Alexander-Arnold’s quickly taken corner for Divock Origi’s goal in the 4-0 comeback win over Barcelona in the 2019 Champions League semifinals. And Alisson’s late stop against Napoli in that same Champions League campaign was his favorite save.

As he recounted all the memories, it made him realize just what an amazing time he’s had and the journey he has gone on since arriving as a bespectacled eccentric with slightly wonky teeth and a playing style — all passion and high-energy — that was seemingly made for Liverpool.

“I take memories, friendships and relationships with me forever,” Klopp said. “You realize the older you get, when time slips though your fingers, you look back and go, ’My God, that was really good.

“A decade in your life is massive and I will not forget a day of it.”

Klopp being Klopp, there was even time in his final pre-match news conference to delve into the footballing issues of the day by saying he would vote for the scrapping of VAR at the Premier League’s annual general meeting next month.

By then, though, he’ll be on the outside looking in. A former Liverpool manager. No longer part of English football.

Yet, he always will be. Few people have been so charismatic, so influential, so good at his job, even if — and Klopp said he accepts it — there will be many who believe one league crown was a below-par return for a club whose title duels with City raised the standard of English football to a new level.

It’s why there will be such a special atmosphere at Anfield on Sunday, away from the scrutiny of a title denouement being played out at Etihad Stadium and Emirates Stadium.

Klopp said he has refused to give the documentary-makers access to his final team meeting because he has “no idea how it will go.”

“If it could not be a goodbye atmosphere, but a football atmosphere, that would be cool,” he said.

“We will prepare as good and as normal as possible. I think I was never someone who disturbed a good game but probably, this time, I am the one and I’m sorry for that.”

Klopp, who in 2022 was awarded the Freedom of the City of Liverpool — the highest civic honor, also had one last message for the people.

“I don’t imagine the club will need my help in the future,” he said. “But if the city needs me, I am there.”

___
By STEVE DOUGLAS AP Sports Writer

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