Dubai: Jurgen Klopp appeared irate during a post-match interview on Saturday afternoon, entering into a heated argument with broadcaster Des Kelly.
The Liverpool manager had several issues on his mind after his side’s 1-1 draw against Brighton — including injuries to his players and more questionable VAR decisions.
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Liverpool had two of their goals disqualified due to offside rulings by the instant playback technology, which also awarded Brighton a last-minute penalty.
“You think the [VAR] decisions were right,” Kelly told Klopp. “Well, Jordan Henderson says some of the Brighton players agreed that it wasn’t a penalty …”
“Look, you try to create again, at my cost, a headline,” Klopp fired back. “Don’t look like this — you try, always, all the time. But today I say it was a penalty, and you’re not happy with that answer. What do you want to hear? Then give your answers to yourself.”
Despite Klopp becoming visibly worked up, viewers were happy to see Kelly hold his own, responding: “I was just telling you what your players said.”
Why was Jurgen Klopp angry?
VAR has become a sore point for the typically calm and collected Klopp, after his team suffered several controversial calls this season.
Who can forget when star player Mo Salah was denied a penalty during a match with Aston Villa that ended with a 7-2 lashing against Liverpool? Or Jordan Pickford’s shocking lunge out of goal to stop Dutch defender Virgil Van Dijk in his tracks, resulting in a season-ending ACL tear for Van Dijk?
To add insult to injury, Van Dijk’s play that day had been ruled offside, meaning that Pickford escaped scot-free without a booking to speak of. It was another major let-down for Klopp, as VAR failed to protect his players.
But, it wasn’t only VAR that was causing Klopp to lose his cool. There were also recent comments made by Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder, where he allegedly characterised to Klopp as “selfish” for wanting to maintain the five-substitution rule, introduced post-Covid-19.
The five-sub ruling, which raised the number from three, was announced in June after a three-month coronavirus suspension. Since footballers were forced to stop playing — and even practicing with their teams — for an extended period of time, it was deemed risky to return them to their full-on schedules immediately, as they returned to their Premier League fixtures and other duties, such as the Champions League, the FA Cup or international football.
The fiery argument
So, when Kelly asked Klopp a seemingly innocuous question about his vice-captain being injured, it launched Klopp back into his fiery tirade.
“And James Milner? Hamstring is it?” Kelly asked.
“Yeah,” Klopp replied. “Congratulations.”
“What, me personally?” Kelly questioned.
“Oh no, but you work for them, yeah ... Hamstring, surprise. And they [Brighton] had injuries as well … Ask Chris Wilder how we can avoid that.”
“Well, maybe you’re firing at the wrong target,” Kelly retorted. “Because we are broadcasters, we work within the Premier League rules, and the Premier League makes the rules, so that’s the Premier League clubs. So, shouldn’t you be talking to the Premier League clubs, talking to the Chief Executives?”
What ensued was a back-and-forth about Klopp’s displeasure over the 12.30pm kick-off time on Saturdays, which for Klopp is too close to the team’s Champion’s League match on Wednesday — something he calls “really, really dangerous for the players.”
“We had a talk between managers — a week ago now, I think — it was [a vote of] 15-5 if not 16-4 for five subs,” said Klopp.
“Chris Wilder says constantly that I’m selfish. I think the things he’s said shows that he’s selfish … Today, if we had five subs, I take off Robbo [Andy Robertson] 100 per cent and bring on Konstantinos [Tsimikas]. To save Robbo. Not to make our game better, just to save him. That’s the situation. It’s not about changing tactics and the system … it’s just to save the players.”
The football world moves quickly, and Wilder has already fired back at Klopp’s accusations.
“I’m not interested in that today … Maybe that’s for another time. As Jurgen made a good observation, we are just on one point. It’s not the time to talk about it,” said Wilder, to Sky Sports. “Everybody has that right and there’s 20 votes in this league. Nobody is looking after Sheffield United right the way through, so we have to look after ourselves.”
One thing is for sure — tensions are getting higher and higher in the Premier League, as VAR calls, Covid-19 diagnosis and injuries continue to plague the game.
Salah had just returned to the pitch to play after being pulled out of commission due to contracting the coronavirus. Earlier this season, star scorer Sadio Mane had also been out of play for similar reasons.
But, if history tells us anything, it isn’t likely Klopp will hold a grudge. The German boss in 2019 told Soccer AM it’s “very rare” for him to get angry.
“It doesn’t happen a lot, to be honest,” he said. “Maybe I am, in a moment, angry. But it’s never for a long time. I really think being angry for long is a waste of time.”