Newcastle 1-3 Liverpool: Jürgen Klopp’s reaction

Jürgen Klopp acclaimed the ‘exceptional’ efforts of his team over the course of 2019-20 as Liverpool wrapped up an historic season with a 3-1 victory at Newcastle United on Sunday.

The Reds finished the campaign with a club-record 99 points following the win at St. James’ Park, having ended a 30-year wait to be crowned league champions last month.

They did suffer an early setback in the north east when Dwight Gayle put the hosts in front after just 26 seconds of play; however, the visitors responded in hallmark fashion and dominated the remainder of the contest.

Virgil van Dijk drew Liverpool level before the interval with a towering header from an Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain cross before Divock Origi and Sadio Mane struck after the break.

Afterwards, Klopp praised the physical and mental characteristics of his players that enabled them to become Premier League champions and create more club history.

Read on for a summary of his post-match press conference at St. James’ Park…

On whether he was pleased to end the season in this manner…

One hundred per cent. It was the target for the day, to finish it on a high and we did it. We needed a little wake-up call; I am not sure we needed it, but we got it and from that moment on the boys worked really hard to play against this defensive wall of Newcastle. Of course, with five changes, it’s never easy to make five changes but especially then it is not easy. But we found better and better in the game and did really well already around the first goal. Half-time, we could show a little bit, a few spaces on the pitch which we could use more often and what the boys did in the second half, we scored the second goal – a really nice one – from an area we wanted to do. Then we made five changes and brought on fresh legs again and that helped, obviously. Then we controlled the game completely and I liked it a lot. I like the first 60 minutes and the last 30 minutes. It was not perfect, but like our season, the boys don’t only win games on the perfect days, they are ready to really dig deep on the not-so-perfect days and that’s what I really like.

On summing up Liverpool’s year…

The football part of the year was exceptional, absolutely exceptional, 99 points. How we think about it, it starts on June 1, 2019 because, yes, that was the last game of last season, but for us it was pretty much the first game of a pretty special time. After that, the European Super Cup, the Club World Cup and now the Premier League is absolutely exceptional. Ninety-nine points after having 97 last year, absolutely exceptional. The boys showed a consistency that is really second to none and that’s what we had to do, we knew that. After 97 points last year, OK we were unlucky, yes, a little bit, but we respected the opponent a lot and it was clear that if you want to win against them and be ahead of them, you need to be nearly perfect. The boys were nearly perfect and that’s why we have 99 points. It will have a special place in my own memories, for sure.

On what Liverpool’s plan is for the off-season…

No, I don’t know, it is not yet official when we start again. The date everybody expects is September 12 or that weekend, so we will be off now. For two weeks the boys will be completely off, no ball, nothing. The lockdown was really intense for the boys from a mental point of view, like for all of us. These boys had to keep a fitness level for every possible return date. When we went into lockdown in March, I think the first possible date for a return was April 4, if I am right. So we had to make sure we were ready then. Then it didn’t happen, so that was really intense for the boys. Now it is two weeks nothing and then somebody will tell us when the new season will start and then we have to deal with the time we have. A lot of teams are still playing because of the Europa League and Champions League, which is really tough. We have now two weeks and we will use that, 100 per cent – and so I will have time off as well.

On whether he has any superlatives left for Virgil van Dijk…

I am not sure if he needs another hour of praise or stuff like that. He is good, really good! He is a good centre-half. He is special. The combination of skills is absolutely special. His mindset on top of that is then really special, so this mix makes him a pretty good centre-half and a good guy as well, which I like a lot. I would work together with him as well if he was a bit more difficult to deal with, but he is really low maintenance in that case. He is just really nice to have. We knew when we signed him we would get a really good player but the package is so special, we had no idea about that and that makes it really, really exciting.

On Van Dijk’s record of playing every game in the Premier League…

It’s pretty special. It was his big target, I think, to do it again and hopefully that will be possible for the rest of his career. That would be absolutely special. We tried to rest him but it’s difficult, really difficult. So far it went all well and hopefully it stays like this. He has two weeks off now as well; he doesn’t need more, I am sure.

On Takumi Minamino’s form since joining the club…

No, no, I am not at all disappointed. Coming into this team is a big ask because they are used to everything, to each other. We played now, especially up front, for three years together so it takes time – and for Taki it takes time. I liked the game today, he was really lively between the lines and did exactly what we wanted him to do. He set the tone for the counter-press, a lot of good things. He was twice really close [to scoring] today again where the goalie made a brilliant save or another player came in between, so it is all good. We are completely fine. Try to find a player who comes in a team like this and just improves the team like nothing, it is not possible for anybody. Taki has the perfect mindset for this, he is happy in the moment. I am sure his ambitions are big and he wants to play more often, but it needed time for everybody in this squad. Virgil came in and played pretty much from the first day, all the others needed time – but had most of the time a pre-season. Sadio had a pre-season, Mo had a pre-season and Taki didn’t. He came in and just had to play, so that’s why it was not easy but it is all good with him.

On whether Sadio Mane’s goal summed up the team…

The whole game sums the season up. Just difficult but not impossible, so give it a go. That’s what the boys did the whole year and what they did in this moment. It was just a brilliant piece of football and the front three in the last 20 minutes, they really enjoyed the game. They had a couple of moments. Mo came on and I think the first situation was to hit the post, if I am right. It started like this. Bobby, very, very comfortable in between the lines. Sixty minutes’ rest helped, obviously, but it was exactly right and the other boys did the hard work before. A victory of the whole squad, how the whole season [was]. This group of players are really exceptional and will be remembered forever and that’s good. But now we have two weeks off and then we still have to write a couple more chapters of the book of this team.