Liverpool’s whirlwind week: Klopp meets Ferguson, Taylor Swift songs and Rolex watches

What a momentous end to the season for Liverpool.

An emotion-fuelled goodbye to Jurgen Klopp, two senior players also saying farewell and the dawn of a new era with Monday’s announcement that Arne Slot has penned a three-year contract to be the head coach.

This is the inside story of that final week, featuring laughter, tears, dinner with Sir Alex Ferguson and a burst of Taylor Swift…



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As Liverpool legend John Barnes delighted the crowd with a word-perfect rendition of Rapper’s Delight by Sugar Hill Gang, Jurgen Klopp made his way up to the stage.

They formed an impromptu double act as Barnes sang and Klopp, wearing a black baseball cap back to front, showed off his dance moves. The Titanic Hotel — close to Liverpool’s iconic waterfront — was the setting for the lavish farewell party on Sunday night.

After all the emotion of the Anfield send-off a few hours before, it was time to unwind. It was around 9.30pm when Klopp led the squad into the plush function room to join family, friends and club staff as One Kiss by Dua Lipa blared out.

The guest list included UFC fighter Paddy ‘The Baddy’ Pimblett, while Barnes was joined by fellow Anfield greats Sir Kenny Dalglish and Ian Rush as the celebrations continued past 4am.

The Champagne flowed and an orchestral band played before the DJ, Twotone, took over. Every member of the squad was present, with Darwin Nunez among the last of the players to leave.

Much had been made of the Uruguay striker failing to applaud during the guard of honour for Klopp on the pitch earlier but he was in good spirits during the party. At one stage, a South American trio of Nunez, Colombia’s Luis Diaz and Alexis Mac Allister from Argentina were involved in a dance-off.

Just past 10pm, Klopp, the players and the coaching staff were invited up to the stage.  The big screen showed a collection of video messages from current and former stars thanking him for the impact Klopp has had on their careers.

Klopp, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson were among those to take the microphone to say a few words. As well as the outgoing manager, there were also tributes to Joel Matip and Thiago, who are both leaving as free agents this summer.

The trophies won during the German’s near nine-year reign were on display, Klopp having been presented with miniature versions earlier on the Anfield pitch after the Wolves game. There was a kids’ play area set up for the players’ families and a photo booth for guests with prints coming out emblazoned with the caption ‘Danke Jurgen’.

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Klopp’s parting gift from FSG’s executive team John W Henry Mike Gordon, Tom Werner and Billy Hogan (Paul Ellis/AFP via Getty Images)

Rewind to last Tuesday and, with the players given the day off following their 3-3 away draw with Aston Villa the night before, Klopp attended a special event at Anfield for around 700 club staff from the different departments. He stood on the steps of the Main Stand with the silverware beneath him for a photograph to be taken with them all sitting to either side.

The in-house LFCTV crew then had 20 minutes to film Klopp’s goodbye video to supporters – a drone was used to capture footage of him in the centre circle and then on the Kop with a club scarf around his neck.

Stadium tours had been halted in the hope of keeping those moments private, but some French students were still in the upper tier and photographs they took soon emerged on social media.

Klopp then made his way to the Carlsberg Dugout executive lounge in the Main Stand where staff from across all sections of the club were treated to an hour-long Q&A. Klopp spoke candidly and got emotional at times as he talked about being part of the “LFC family”.

What advice would you give someone about building a great team? “Build it around Bobby Firmino.”

Favourite film? “Forrest Gump — and I can’t believe Tom Hanks was just a few yards away from me last night (at Villa Park).”

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Actor Hanks attended Liverpool’s game at Villa… but Klopp did not get an autograph (Clive Mason/Getty Images)

Asked what music he listens to, Klopp revealed that his wife Ulla had got them tickets to see Taylor Swift at Anfield next month and he started singing her hit Shake It Off.

Despite spending the best part of a decade living in England, he conceded that cricket still baffles him. “I hear the scores announced and I still have no idea who has won.”

Klopp said that his favourite Scouse word was ‘luv’ and that it took him years to understand why the ladies in the canteen at the training ground would say to him every morning, “Do you wanna coffee, luv?”

It was Klopp’s idea to have ‘Thank you luv’ emblazoned on the front of the T-shirts and hoodies that departing staff put on after Sunday’s final game against Wolves. On the back of them it read, ‘I’ll Never Walk Alone Again’.

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Jurgen Klopp helped design his farewell hoodie (Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

At the end of the Q&A, Liverpool CEO Billy Hogan presented Klopp with a book full of heartfelt messages written by staff members. Klopp explained that he couldn’t stay for the drinks portion of the event as he was going out for dinner with Sir Alex Ferguson, which he later described as “outstanding”.

There’s a long-standing mutual respect between them. Klopp once said encountering Manchester United managerial legend Ferguson for the first time was “like meeting the Pope”. In a message of congratulations to Klopp after Liverpool won the Premier League title in 2020, Ferguson said: “The performance level of the team was outstanding. I’ll forgive you for waking me up at half past three in the morning to tell me you’d won the league.”

The Real Jurgen Klopp – an Athletic special series

A group of Norwegian Liverpool supporters were sitting in the Freshfield pub in the town of Formby chatting to former Liverpool striker David Fairclough last Wednesday evening when, to their astonishment, Klopp strolled in.

He was there with assistant Peter Krawietz to have drinks with members of the club’s media department, and happily posed for selfies and signed autographs.

The following day, there was a players’ barbecue at the club’s Kirkby base after training where captain Virgil van Dijk delivered a moving tribute to Klopp and his backroom staff. They were each given a Rolex watch as a leaving gift from the squad.

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The Freshfield pub, Jurgen Klopp’s local (Simon Hughes/The Athletic)

From there, assistants Pep Lijnders and Krawietz, along with elite development coach Vitor Matos, goalkeeping coach John Achterberg, head of fitness Andreas Kornmayer, and head of recovery and performance Andreas Schlumberger drove to Hotel Anfield, near the stadium, for a special reception with supporters’ groups.

“These guys made us champions of the fu**ing world,” declared musician Jamie Webster, who performed terrace anthems Allez Allez Allez and You’ll Never Walk Alone.

Each coach was presented with an LFC shirt with their name on the back and signed by hundreds of fans. The microphone was passed around for supporters to offer their favourite memories and thanks.

“Imagine being us,” said Lijnders, a nod to the banner on the Kop. “Tell me one club in world football that would organise something like this for the staff behind the scenes. It’s incredible.”

Saturday brought the final training session as Klopp cleared out his office and left the AXA Training Centre for the final time. His open letter to the Liverpool Echo newspaper was published, in which he described his adopted home as “the city of open arms”.

With one eye on the future, a man who had previously warned about the perils of social media, launched his own Instagram account. Within 48 hours, @Kloppo had gathered more than two million followers.

Klopp, who had broken down earlier in the week as he read out a letter from a fan while filming with LFCTV, was desperate for the mood to be celebratory rather than sad at Anfield on Sunday. He got his wish.

His speech on the pitch post-match hit all the right notes as he told fans, “from today, I’m one of you”, and then back in the dressing room he told his players: “I love you, that’s all I can say.

“The football you are able to play is absolutely ridiculous. I can’t wait, watching you developing, making the next steps. Thank you for the ride. I’m so proud of you, and I’m so proud that I have been allowed to be part of this. The sky is the limit for you boys.”

When Klopp finally walked in for his final press conference shortly after 8pm, around two hours after the final whistle, he got his phone out and took a photo of the media members sitting in front of him, which was soon uploaded to his Instagram account. “In case I miss you,” he joked.

Klopp reinforced the fact that he intends to take at least a year off, and may not manage again. He will attend the Champions League final between Borussia Dortmund, his previous club, and Real Madrid at Wembley in London on June 1, and in August he will be a spectator at the Paralympics in Paris.

There may not have been any silverware up for grabs at Anfield on Sunday but data from Blinkfire Analytics underlined the scale of the interest. The peak UK TV audience for the Wolves match was 1.2million and 70 per cent more people watched Klopp’s post-match farewell than Manchester City’s title celebrations happening at the same time on another of Sky Sports’ channels. On YouTube, the footage from Anfield got 44 per cent more views than events at the Etihad Stadium.

In terms of the number of fan engagements on all content published on club social media platforms, Liverpool set a new best across the Premier League in 2023-24 for a single matchday with 26million on Sunday, while City attracted 19.4m.

Linda Pizzuti, wife of Liverpool’s principal owner John W Henry, took to Instagram to react to City’s post on X celebrating their fourth successive title triumph which read ‘This Means Four’ — a play on Liverpool’s old marketing slogan of ‘This Means More’.

“A sincere congratulations to Man City — Premier League champions. So much respect for this tremendous achievement. Thanks for thinking of us on your special day,” she posted.

On Monday afternoon, there was finally official confirmation of Slot’s appointment but Klopp had effectively already announced it for Liverpool with the chant he started from the centre circle on Sunday evening.

“It is certainly not an easy decision to close the door behind you at a club where you have experienced so many wonderful moments and worked successfully with so many wonderful people,” Slot told Feyenoord’s website as his departure from the Dutch side became official. “But as a sportsman, an opportunity to become a head coach in the Premier League, at one of the biggest clubs in the world, is difficult to ignore.”



Arne Slot: The borderland ‘priest’ who was born to coach

Pre-season will begin at the start of July with a depleted squad due to the European Championship and the Copa America being played in Germany and the United States this summer. Slot’s No 2, Sipke Hulshoff, will be there from the off after resigning from his role with the Dutch national team ahead of those Euros so he can focus on the job in hand on Merseyside.

What a week it proved to be. The baton has been passed on.

(Top photos: Getty Images)

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