Klopp urges quadruple-chasing Liverpool to embrace challenge

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is back in Lisbon this week for a Champions League match and he has happy memories of the place.

It’s where he received the phone call that changed his life.

Without a job after leaving Borussia Dortmund a few months earlier, Klopp was visiting the Portuguese capital with his family in the autumn of 2015 when his cell phone rang while he was sitting outside a coffee house. It was his agent.

“It’s Liverpool,” Klopp mouthed, somewhat excitedly, to his two sons.

They’d heard the rumors of Liverpool’s interest in his father. Klopp hadn’t. But he didn’t have to think twice about the offer that was forthcoming.

“It was clear we’d do it. It just felt right from the first second,” Klopp said Monday.

And what a perfect match Klopp and Liverpool have been.

Under the German coach, the English club has regained the formidable aura it had in the 1980s. English champion in 2020, for the first time in 30 years. European champion in 2019, for the sixth time in its history. Liverpool has been club world champion, too, under Klopp.

This season could yet top the it all.

The Reds headed into April still in contention to win all four major trophies, a feat never previously achieved by an English team. The League Cup has already been won, while Liverpool is in the FA Cup semifinals, is one point behind first-place Manchester City in the Premier League, and plays Benfica in the Champions League quarterfinals on Tuesday.

“We just want to make this season unforgettable,” Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk said. “The things that have been going on at the moment at Liverpool are things that no one should take for granted.”

And it’s all being overseen by Klopp, the passionate, determined and at times quirky face of the club. He has the chance of leading Liverpool to its greatest ever achievement — and that’s saying a lot considering its rich history of winning titles.

So how does Klopp approach the next two months, when he’ll have to juggle three competitions with big games coming pretty much every three or four days?

Take the schedule for the next week, for example, when Liverpool faces two games against Benfica either side of a potential Premier League title decider against City on Sunday. Then an FA Cup semifinal match against City, followed by league matches against two teams — in Manchester United and Everton — who are historically Liverpool’s biggest rivals. After that could come a pair of matches in the Champions League semifinals.

Klopp’s message is simple — just enjoy it.

“We have no problem with it. It’s all good,” he said. “It’s a situation we’d have dreamed of if we’d have dreamed before the season. We are here now. Let’s try to make the most of it.”

Along with Villarreal, Benfica was the best draw that Liverpool could have had in the quarterfinals. Not that Klopp would ever say that.

And with Liverpool having a fully fit squad to choose from — Klopp said Monday it’s the first time this has been the case since he joined 6½ years ago — no wonder the squad is in buoyant mood.

“We are still in all competitions, we are playing good, we have all the chance still to win all those competitions. So just go for it,” Van Dijk said. “Let’s enjoy the ride.”

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More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Steve Douglas is at https://twitter.com/sdouglas80

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