By Simon Evans
LIVERPOOL, England (Reuters) – Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp says his team who take on Tottenham Hotspur in Saturday’s Champions League final are the best he has ever managed in such a game.
Klopp has appeared in seven finals with Borussia Dortmund and Liverpool but has lost the last six after winning his first one in the 2012 German Cup with Dortmund against Bayern Munich.
“I don’t like to blame my other teams. I love them all. They all gave everything but I have never been part of a final with a better team than this,” Klopp told a news conference on Tuesday.
“In different times, for different reasons my teams were good as well. But I am not so surprised because our boys mix our potential with attitude in the best way I have witnessed. That is brilliant,” he said.
Klopp said his side’s semi-final comeback against Barcelona, where they overturned a 3-0 first-leg deficit with a stunning 4-0 victory at Anfield, showed what his players are capable of.
“These boys did it for the chance of being there, gave us a lot, showed us a lot and in the five-six days between Barcelona and Barcelona, nobody believed more than the team themselves,” he said.
“That is why we are here. It is a sensational situation,” he said.
Klopp has lost all three finals he has reached with Liverpool, in Europe and domestically, and he also tasted defeat in two German Cups and a Champions League final with Dortmund.
The German said last year’s loss to Real Madrid in Kiev had “hurt” and that memory had spurred the team on in this campaign.
“It had a big influence on us. I remember that situation. When we stood in the queue in the airport in Kiev, all in tracksuits, heads down. There were a lot of different emotions,” Klopp added.
“But the plan was, we come again, we will be there again and now we are there, that is just incredible.
“I think pretty much each team that loses the final things we will put it right but they don’t all have the chance. It was the kickstart for the development of this team, 100 percent. This team is not even to compare with the team of last year.”
Asked if reaching the Champions League final for the second straight year was the highlight of his managerial career, Klopp gave a surprise answer.
“If I win it, yes. It would be different to the last finals. Is bringing the team to the Champions final again the biggest moment in my career? No, that was 2004, getting promoted (to the Bundesliga) with Mainz. If you had known the money we had, the circumstances we had, nobody needed us in the first league,” he said.
(Reporting by Simon Evans, editing by Ed Osmond)