MADRID – Liverpool’s coach Jürgen Klopp is known for his beaming smile, and his trademark grin has been a constant, even during his team’s hardest moments in its quest to become European champions.
The Reds were crowned in Madrid on Saturday with the UEFA Champions League title, becoming the first Premier League side to raise Europe’s most prestigious annual club tournament since Chelsea in 2012.
The match was the first all-English Champions League final since 2008, when Manchester United beat Chelsea.
The 51-year-old German coach arrived at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium with a reputation of being jinxed due to several defeats in recent years.
Klopp said he was relieved after lifting the trophy – Liverpool’s sixth Champions League title.
On the eve of the final, Klopp, who is considered a hero in Mainz, where his coaching career started, and an idol in Dortmund, refused to accept the myth of failure that was tailing him.
Klopp broke his bad streak by winning his first big trophy with Liverpool.
He was plagued by several defeats across all competitions; in the Premier League against Manchester City in 2006, in the Europa League against Sevilla in the same year and in last year’s Champions League final versus Real Madrid in Kiev.
Since 2012, he lost all the finals he qualified for and has been within striking distance of success.
Before arriving in England, Klopp lost three championship matches with Borussia Dortmund; two against Wolfsburg in 2014-15 and against Bayern Munich in the German Cup the year after.
The third defeat was in the 2013 Champions League final against Bayern.
Liverpool dominated continental soccer between the ’70s and the ’80s, when they won four out of five trophies before arriving in Madrid (in 76-77 against Borussia Monchengladbach, 77-78 against Brujas, 80-81 against Real Madrid and in 83-84 against Roma).
Following the tragedy of the Heysel stadium, where 39 people died when Liverpool fans crushed their Juventus counterparts against a wall until it collapsed during the European Cup final, UEFA banned all English clubs from Europe for five years.
England took some time to recover and when the ban was lifted Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City and also Arsenal prevailed.
However, Liverpool lagged behind.
The next big moment for the club was in the 2004/05 season when they won the Champions League final for the first time since the ban against Milan, under the leadership of Spanish coach Rafael Benitez.
Years later, Klopp arrived; that jolly man who had a permanent smile.
Klopp is the fourth Liverpool coach to win Europe’s elite club tournament after Bob Pailey, Joe Fagan and Rafa Benitez.
With a sixth Champions League title, Liverpool became the third most winning team of the tournament after Real Madrid (13) and Milan (7).