Free Friday & Liverpool FC News, Media and Transfer Roundup – 17th February 2023
Collective Psychology, Brilliant Bajcetic & Our First Ever European Cup
Free Friday will cover our work across The Tomkins Times’ Substack network, with it running via an opt-in or opt-out newsletter on The Main Hub (where almost all of the community commenting takes place), but covering TTT’s four sub-Substacks, or spokes.
Also make sure you check out Daniel Zambartas’ media round-up, which will be added to best of TTT from the previous week.
Best Comment of the Week
Tony' McKenna makes it a hat-trick of new Free Friday comments of the week with this posted after the victory over Everton in the derby.
You can't win anything with kids. But with the right slow burn introduction of youth, alongside key experienced players, you can eventually see the blend of an underlying trend. Green shoots of a new winning team emerging. Anyone who read Paul's recent article on this subject will hopefully see its relevance last night.
Not that I'm claiming a fait accompli. Not at all. I said "slow burn." Much more experimentation and planning maturation needs to ensue before what is being actioned is actualised. Transitions in football are optimised when patience is a virtue, yet it's totally at a tangent to the mind bias of football fan bases who want it now; and not in the future. Short termism is football's bastard disease.
By wanting it "now" actually means you probably won't get it at all, since rebuilds have inevitable gestation periods incorporated; and you'd probably have got your Manager sacked in the process. New manager. New start. New players. New communication networks to be harnessed. New problems.
And moaning protests will have engendered instability whereby plans become built like empires on sand. Clubs can be pressurised into the most irrational of solutions. Throw money at the problem? United have done that for ten years.
That Derby victory was achieved against an Everton in boosted ascendancy having vanquished this seasons PL best performer. (See what short termism can do?) Last night, they were playing a beleaguered Liverpool just about ensconced in the the top 10. Did they smell blood? Yeah sure. New manager? New communication problems? Yes, that became evident. Whatever Dyche was shouting from the touchline was having no impact. Pickford was also clearly irate with his outfield players.
Alternatively, this was a Liverpool who are attempting the slow burn method towards future success. Even that gradual process has been regrettably hampered by the absence of key experienced players through injury. The biggest losers here, are those young players who need that on pitch guidance and peer education. Not forgetting that it is also a question of the confidence the likes of Virgil's presence can instil. Much of this, however, is what is unseen.
Just to illustrate the blend of youth with experience with a specific example. And one whereby there are reciprocal benefits. It’s not just the case of older players helping the younger ones. Unseen, and not really honoured in the media because he is not scoring every week, is an establishing partnership between Darwin and Mo. (See Beez's post match account). The former brings as much to the table as the latter. This is hugely significant in terms of what this alliance can bring.
I have posted previously on TTT, and I passionately believe it, Darwin can actually help to prolong Mo's career at the heights most 30 something, players do not enjoy. It would not surprise me if their partnership is eventually referenced in a context similar to Toshack and Keegan; before Mo has to leave or retire. I relish the prospect of their relationship and attendant communication growing.
Indeed, we have experienced players returning to the fold. Young players can take from their elders but also give in return. Once this connectivity cements, and hopefully does not dent due to injuries again, it will be a harnessing of rawness, energy and desire, along with wisdom and the experience of those who have won the biggest prizes. Such a collective is designed to win in football.
I also felt that the collective psychology of the team was wholly improved last night. We committed half the fouls that Everton did. That was impressive in a highly flammable derby game, yet mostly ignited by the bright sparks in the toffee ranks. Pickford excelled in this sense: a lesson in how not to lose your head. Which I felt we had done so, all too often, in previous games. Our own frustrations saw us incurring more free kicks than opponents. Not last night though. A blend of youth and experience has many good outcomes.
To round it all off, there was Klopp at the end, signature fist bumping rousingly acknowledged by the Kop. Oh such a perfect day. I'm glad I spent it with you.
TTT Main Hub
It was a week dominated by the reaction to the win over our city rivals, and there’s nearly 100 comments in the bumper post-match analysis.
And so, without losing all the old players, a new Liverpool is born. Stefan Bajcetic, just 18, bossed the midfield, and Darwin Núñez, 23, and Cody Gakpo, 23, played huge roles in the goals in a comfortable derby victory.
Mo Salah, 31, in a team with renewed energy, also looked back to his best.
And while it was comprehensive, there was a fraction of luck when Everton's only meaningful attempt, at 0-0, bounced off the post, ricocheted around the area, and then Núñez and Salah played two one-twos: one on the edge of their own area, with the second return pass in Everton's area.
Given that Núñez has hit the woodwork five times already, he deserved what happened when the ball bounced his way.
He tore upfield to set it up for Salah, and from my own doubts about Núñez on the wing and Gakpo central, we saw the benefits of blistering pace out wide (which obviously always makes sense in its own way), and a clever false nine. The two can interchange, too.
Núñez's cross was perfect. And as Jordan Pickford went to the sweetshop for a lollipop, Salah nipped in.
It helps, even if they don't boss games aerially, to have a 6'2" winger and a 6'4" false nine, and it also helped that despite Bajcetic still being (as you'd expect) a scrawny kid, having three six-footers in midfield also gave Liverpool less of an air of being able to be bullied.
Bajcetic is a warrior, and a baller. When he fills out, he'll be unstoppable; right now, he already nearly is.
Finally, there is the Newcastle match thread for the huge upcoming game this weekend. For context, there were over 350 comments on the thread for the Everton game so hopefully - if you aren’t already - you subscribe and join the community of reds on TTT!
Continuing the series looking back at the most pivotal and memorable seasons in the Reds’ trophy-laden history, Chris reflects on the first time Liverpool became champions of Europe in 1976/77 and almost won an unprecedented treble.
Reds in Europe
There’s not much for me to add about Rome, May 25th 1977 that hasn’t already been written. It’s a magical date for Liverpool supporters everywhere. For me it still rivals and maybe even shades Istanbul. Well they say you never forget your first time…
The sense of occasion, the visually stunning setting of the old Stadio Olimpico on a perfect Roman spring evening, the massive support for the Reds, all those red and white chequered flags and the ‘Joey Jones’ flag, the imperious match tickets, even the hideous 24-hour train journey from Zeebrugge to Rome – they’re all still etched into the memory banks like pin-sharp HD images.
They were a good side back then, St. Etienne. They’d won the 1st leg 1-0 in France. Within 90 seconds we were level, Keegan’s deep cross from the left touch line drifting past everyone and into the far corner. One of those when attackers and defenders go for it and nobody gets a touch. It just continued on its curving path.
But we couldn’t add to it, and 10 minutes after half-time came the awful moment – a long curling shot by Bathenay made the score 1-1 on the night. Now Liverpool needed two more goals to prevent the dream ending once again.
Four minutes later, Ray Kennedy struck. There’s a world of difference between needing two goals – a veritable mountain – and just needing one more – barely a molehill. Enter David Fairclough as sub. You know the rest. For the final six minutes after his goal, the stadium never stopped shaking.
Mixed in with the jubilation was a tinge of anti-climax. It felt like we’d won the thing, but were actually only through to the semi-final. Two hurdles still left. But psychologically, for the fans anyway, on that night hope was cemented into belief. Zurich in the semi-finals were summarily dismissed, just an irritant insect swatted aside in order to reach the target.
The Zen Den
On Valentine’s Day it was Paul’s turn to spread the Liverpool love and write about what might be a significant turning point for the Reds this season.
For starters, Mo Salah felt fully involved in the game, scored a goal, won free-kicks (surreal, in an otherwise overly-lenient refereeing performance), and had other efforts on goal.
He showed acceleration that has at times been missing; he showed that he can still get away from full-backs, even if he’s maybe 1% slower than he was (I haven't seen his sprint times from last night, but this season his best has been about 1km/h down last season, which put him at about the best speed recorded by Sadio Mané, so still hardly slow.)
One of the fastest runs seen with the ball under control (and it was a great example of knocking it five yards and being so quick that it was never beyond reach) was Darwin Núñez out-sprinting the Everton defence whilst also in possession of the ball.
Núñez is one of the three fastest players recorded in the league this season, but I doubt anyone has run faster with the ball. It was also big-pitch pace: running 60 yards at full-tilt. Gakpo is another who can keep up, as he showed, when either he or Mo Salah could finish the cross whipped in with Núñez’s ‘wrong’ foot.
Cody Gakpo also showed that he's faster than people, including Jamie Carragher, realised. I knew he was quick from all the footage I studied, and had already been clocked as faster than Luis Díaz, whom Carragher said was faster. But Gakpo is not Núñez-quick. Few are.
The difference with Gakpo is his speed with the ball under tight control, whereas Núñez has greater pace but needs to shift it well out of his feet.
The Transfer Hub
Finally, with the potential departure of Matip at the end of the season based on his form and injury record during this campaign, Mizgan analyses one of the brightest young centre-prospects in Europe - Giorgio Scalvini - and how he’s progressing in Italy and maybe suit us in the future.
This section will have Scalvini’s numbers in the Serie A this season, ranked among the centre-backs in the league who have played a minimum of 750 minutes for sample size purposes.
For someone who is playing his first full season as a senior player (made his debut last season but first start came in January 2022), these are very good numbers. As expected, the 19-year-old shines in all the passing metrics and possesses good ball interception numbers along with the overall defensive actions.
As mentioned above in the player profile section, he is one of the best defenders in the league in the xGBuildup and xGChain metrics.
Daniel Zambartas’ Liverpool News, Media & Transfer Round-Up
Klopp on Merseyside derby victory
Klopp said: “[I’m] relieved! That was the main feeling after the final whistle. Happy with the performance. Tonight, it was necessary that we played the game we wanted to play and not the game Everton wanted to play. You cannot avoid that all the time but I don’t they had an extremely high number of set-pieces, so with all the aggressiveness you have to make sure you don’t overdo it because each set-piece is a massive threat and something they want to have, and I thought we did that really well.
“On top of that, we were super-dominant; we switched the sides, played the ball, kept them running. But both goals came from counterattacks, that’s allowed as well obviously. I loved both goals, loved the involvement of everybody who was around there. For both goals I think we had three options in the box when the pass came in. So, a lot of things were different tonight, so it was the best game for a while and that’s why we won it.”
On Stefan Bajcetic’s performance: “[It was] pretty good, and we put him in a new position; you have to ask him actually, but I don’t think he has ever played in that position before. He came here as a kid as a centre-half, he’s now played in the six for us in a few games and tonight as an eight and in a lot of moments a double-six. He did extremely well.”
On the effect of the past week’s training in preparation for the match, Klopp said: “Today in the meeting I told the boys I knew everybody thought the training was really good – really good – but now we have to bring it on the pitch. It’s still the basis for everything: the better you train, the better you play, usually. The whole week was a lead-up to the game, that’s true as well.
“We needed this game, we needed the performance. Now we’ve had it and our people absolutely deserved it – I loved the atmosphere, even before we scored. The people were there, it’s insane what kind of atmosphere they create here. Tonight we delivered and our people deserved it.”
On the first goal: “This was obviously a very important moment and not conceding the first chance they had was a very important moment as well. I am not sure how much you can force luck, but if you don’t have it you are screwed!
“It’s not that we had too much, think about the first goal we conceded against Wolves – we can talk about everything we did not well and stuff like this, but how the ball went in was just like slapstick. Really important tonight, gave us all the signs that was us tonight, definitely, and now we have to make sure we are us from now on.”
Cody Gakpo on scoring his first goal for the club
Gakpo said: "It feels amazing to get my first goal in this game – also an important one. I'm really happy. It was amazing. Obviously for a striker it's always nice to score and then also in a derby is a really great feeling.
"It's always difficult to come out of the dressing room, and if we start off with a goal, that's amazing. It was a good pressing situation from us – Robbo [with a] good one-two with Hendo, Mo on the ball, a good cross, little deflected, but I was there at the second post."
Jordan Henderson interview with the club
On the win against Everton, Henderson said: “I thought the overall performance was top from start to finish. Everyone was at it; we knew it was a big game for us – a derby game – and we delivered.
"It doesn’t make up for the last few weeks in terms of our performance, but it is certainly a step in the right direction and it was certainly more like us."
The captain added: "It was a big week for us internally as well. We knew that after the last few weeks, especially the last game [against Wolverhampton Wanderers]. We had a bit of time after the last game with it being Monday night – eight, nine days. But we knew it was a big week, training has been very good this week and we took that into the game, which is pleasing."
On Stefan Bajcetic, Henderson said: “"He’s been outstanding since he’s come into the team," said the skipper. "[He’s] what we’ve needed over the last few weeks.Even though the performances haven’t been great, he’s been the one that has probably stood out and performed to the levels he’s capable of.
"[Against Everton] it was the same but the difference was that everybody stepped up and everyone else performed. When that happens, good things can happen. We deserved to win the game."
Cody Gakpo interview with Jonathan Northcroft in the Times
“In the summer, there had been interest from Manchester United and then he [Gakpo] was on the brink of joining Leeds United only to pull out when Louis van Gaal, Holland’s then manager, told him he should stay in the Eredivisie to guarantee his place in the World Cup squad. Then, in the same week he learned Liverpool wanted him, there were late overtures from Chelsea. But it was a no-brainer. “As soon as I heard Liverpool’s interest the feeling was ‘let’s go,” said Gakpo.
“For me, when I got the opportunity to come to a massive club like this, I don’t wait for five years more. I see it more as a challenge.
“Coming to a team that knows how to play, wins every game, it is amazing — you are going to fit in and score goals directly. But maybe in times like this, you can also become a different player, a different person, and improve the things you don’t know about yourself, so I think it’s not bad to come in this situation,” Gakpo reflects.
“His mentality is “to see every difficulty as a possibility”, though he admits that failing to register a goal involvement in his first six Liverpool games has put pressure on him. He said: “I’m an attacking player so of course I like to score or give assists. Also, I like to win. The guys who say it doesn’t affect them when they don’t score are lying.”
“[Gakpo has a] very professional outlook [which] perhaps comes from being the child of two international sportspeople. His father, Johnny, earned one international cap for Togo and played in the Togolese top division while his mother, Ank, was a Dutch rugby international — playing at fly half and centre — while teaching at a secondary school. His older brother, Sydney, was with him at PSV Eindhoven’s academy — where Gakpo idolised Ibrahim Afellay, putting a poster of him on his bedroom wall.
“Virgil said [Monday’s Merseyside derby] is going to be a big fight — but with the situation we are in now it is also a big opportunity for us to turn our season the right way,” Gakpo said.
“He also told me he scored his first goal against Everton — and now I hope for the same.”
The rest is history!
Emre Can interview reflects on his time at Liverpool in an interview with Raphael Honigstein of the Athletic
“There are many, many parallels between Dortmund and Liverpool as clubs,” the 29-year-old midfielder says, starting with a demand for football that is fast, rousing and most of all, intense.
Can said: “When I think back to my time in England, I always tell everyone how much running we did. We were up and down, all day. At the beginning, the quality wasn’t super high, but in the last two seasons we had a superb team that also understood the importance of hard graft.” And those who initially didn’t understand, Can adds, were quickly disabused of their ignorance by the new man in charge.
“You had no choice under Kloppo. He was very challenging. If you didn’t get to the second ball, for example, he would scream and the next time, you really made sure that you got there, double-quick (laughs). If you didn’t run all day, you found yourself on the bench or in the stands in no time.
“Those years were extremely important for my personal and professional development,” Can says. “I came to England [from Bayer Leverkusen] as a 20-year-old and there weren’t that many Germans in the Premier League then. I was very confident as a youngster that I could take that step. But you don’t know if you’re ready until you give it a go. I played in defence quite a lot (under Brendan). But when ‘Kloppo’ came, I found my role in central midfield. That was the breakthrough for me.
“People still come up to me and talk about the Watford goal,” he smiles. “That’s one of my favourite moments.”
As mentioned in a previous roundup, Can was diagnosed with thyroid cancer soon after leaving Liverpool. “I had thyroid cancer and I urgently needed an operation,” Emre Can told DAZN.
“This has changed a lot in my life. You can have a lot of money, you can have everything, but health is the most important thing.”
Jonathan Northcroft of the Times says Jurgen Klopp is the right man to rebuild Liverpool
“Amid all the talk of Liverpool’s Quadruple chase, few paid attention to Klopp on the final day of the league season, when Manchester City shaded the title race. “We’ll build a team again and we will go again,” he said at the time.
“Klopp knew there and then — before Paris — that a rebuild was needed. He has always respected, and worked with, the “self-sustaining model” of Liverpool’s owner, Fenway Sports Group (FSG), and was especially hot on Núñez . When he did the analysis on Benfica before meeting them in the Champions League quarter-finals last season, he is said to have exclaimed, “wow, this guy is perfect” and Núñez followed up with superb performances in the tie.
“It’s clear from Intensity that the mood [before the season started] was ebullient. A contact who encountered Liverpool staff at The Titanic Hotel, the club’s base before home matches, three games into this season was struck by how tired they already seemed.
“Lijnders has been criticised too but he, Kornmayer and others were there while Liverpool were winning titles and Champions Leagues and pushing for a Quadruple, so why are they suddenly a problem now?
“Boosted by receiving indications that Klopp will be backed to significantly improve his squad, the hope is to finish strongly and in the summer be finally in a position to “build a team again and go again.”
Jonathan Liew in the Gurdian on Liverpool’s remaining causes for concern
“We have been here before with this Liverpool, a club forever turning the corner only to encounter another corner. And for all the riotous fun of the second half, there were also some warning signs for them. Another slow start. The continuing struggles of Fabinho. Those weird 10-minute periods when Liverpool simply forget to pass the ball, as if under some malign collective spell. Indeed for much of the first half-hour they looked like a pale shadow: frazzled, tired, dead behind the eyes.
“There’s a lot of talk about fatigue. But the problem here isn’t so much physical as mental. Perhaps the reason Liverpool start so badly is that they have lost the ability to self-motivate. They need something to kick them to life. Often, to their detriment, it’s going a goal down. Here, on the other hand, they get a little stroke of fortune.
“It’s no exaggeration to suggest that if James Tarkowski’s header goes in, the entire DNA of this game mutates. Instead it hits the post, Dwight McNeil’s follow-up hits the heels of Abdoulaye Doucouré, and suddenly – for the first time in what feels like years – there’s space. Liverpool never get space. Klopp’s Liverpool used to be a counterattacking team. Hardly anybody lets them counterattack now.
“It is Bajcetic who is the real revelation here. How refreshing it must be for a raw, skittish midfielder like Fabinho to have a player as mature and assured as Bajcetic alongside him to learn from. And the Spaniard is the perfect teacher: brave on the ball and an intelligent mover off it, the sort of player who always knows exactly how much time he has on the ball, who can speed play up or slow it down. Which is not bad for a guy who six months ago was literally a child.
“They long to build something new, but they can’t do it on their own. Liverpool’s future looks bright enough. It’s the present they need to sort out.”
Caoimhe O’Neill of the Athletic on Stefan Bajcetic
“As Stefan Bajcetic skated around the pitch at Anfield on Monday night rocking in and out of tackles, winning back possession and displaying a reading of the game beyond his 18 years, back home in Vigo, his dad was watching the game on television.
“In northern Spain, Srdan Bajcetic had his TV muted as his son made his 13th appearance for Liverpool and his first in a Merseyside derby.
“Bajcetic senior — a former midfielder at Celta Vigo, the La Liga club whose youth team he now coaches — prefers to watch his son’s matches without distraction. No volume helps him to concentrate on the action. And though there may have been no actual sound coming from his TV, his son’s intrepid performance will have been booming out of the screen in a different way.
“Bajcetic junior was named player of the match as Liverpool defeated Everton 2-0. There were other candidates, but the teenager ran clear, quite literally, of everyone else.
“He covered more than 11km overall and in the first half, no Liverpool player managed more than him. When he left the pitch late on he was given a raucous standing ovation. He is the third youngest player, after Raheem Sterling and Michael Owen, to start for Liverpool against Everton in the Premier League.
“Manchester United were actually among the teams who wanted to sign Bajcetic, but Liverpool’s recruitment team – led by academy manager Alex Inglethorpe – worked hard to convince him he belonged in another kind of red shirt.
“Since he started playing for us, he’s been our best player,” Monday night’s opening goal scorer Mohamed Salah said.”
Radio Merseyside's The Red Kop podcast on Liverpool’s chances of getting top four
Liverpool's match against top-four challengers Newcastle on Saturday will be the "real test" for the Reds.
That is the view of Jamie Holme from the Boot Room Podcast who was speaking to BBC Radio Merseyside's The Red Kop podcast and added: "Going away to a Newcastle team who, over the course of the season, don’t concede very many goals, they have an intensity and way of playing that actually reminds me of a Klopp side in a way."
After an impressive performance in the Merseyside derby, Holme did not feel that was the "benchmark" for Liverpool but he could see "green shoots".
"The players looked rested and Salah made reference in his post-match interview to the fact they’d had a good week’s training," Holme added.
"You’ve got big players coming back into the fold, I think the team were boosted by the returns of [Diogo] Jota and [Virgil] Van Dijk on the bench, but more importantly the structure of the team looked better.
If Liverpool beat fourth-placed Newcastle on Saturday, they will be six points behind them with a game in hand and Holme feels the race for top four "is not too far away if we get our act together".
After recent suggestions by some Liverpool fans that Klopp should walk away, Holme still feels the German is the right man to lead the team.
"I have so much confidence in him and his coaching staff of being able to turn this around because this Liverpool team aren’t a million miles away," he said.
"With one or two additions, the right type of players in the summer, this Liverpool team could be bang at it again and there’s no one I’d rather have at the helm than Jurgen Klopp.
"He understands the players, the club, the fans, the city and any talk of him leaving the club makes me very uncomfortable."
Jurgen Klopp gave his players a two-day break after 3-0 defeat to Wolves, via the Times
“Jürgen Klopp has said he did not want to see his players for two days after his side’s defeat by Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday that left Liverpool’s season at its lowest ebb.
“After holding an analysis meeting as usual with his squad the day after the 3-0 loss at Molineux, Klopp gave his struggling side 48 hours off. They reconvened on Wednesday to prepare for Monday’s Merseyside derby.
“Klopp said facing his players immediately after the loss “would not have been helpful” and that it made “sense” to have a break.
Klopp said: “On Sunday after we spoke, I thought 100 per cent it makes sense if we don’t see each other for two days. It was helpful. I left on Sunday in an average mood and came back in a good mood and I worked through it. I had a lot of phone calls and stuff like this. That’s why it was very helpful.”
UEFA have accepted responsibility for the chaos of the 2022 Champions League final
UEFA bears "primary responsibility" for the chaotic scenes that "almost led to disaster" before last year's Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid, says an independent report.
Fans were penned in and teargassed outside Paris's Stade de France as kick-off was delayed by 36 minutes.
"It is remarkable no one lost their life," said the report, which UEFA commissioned after the 28 May final. UEFA and French authorities initially blamed ticketless fans for the events. The report says there is "no evidence" to support the "reprehensible" claims.
"The panel has concluded that UEFA, as event owner, bears primary responsibility for failures which almost led to disaster," said the report.
"All the stakeholders interviewed by the panel have agreed that this situation was a near-miss: a term used when an event almost turns into a mass fatality catastrophe."
While it said there was "contributory fault" from other bodies - particularly French police and the French Football Federation - the findings said European governing body UEFA was "at the wheel".
"UEFA should have retained a monitoring and oversight role [of security], to ensure it all worked. It self-evidently did not," the report added.
The investigation found eight key factors that "almost led to disaster" because of UEFA's failure, which included:
a disproportionately large number of Liverpool supporters being directed to the Stade de France Saint-Denis train station
poor route planning between the train station and the stadium
inadequate ticketing systems and entry mechanisms at the additional security perimeters
large groups of locals gaining entry to the stadium and a failure to police them
police using tear gas and pepper spray in the concourses
It also said the collective action of Liverpool supporters was "probably instrumental" in preventing "more serious injuries and deaths" outside the stadium.
The investigation was chaired by Dr Tiago Brandao Rodrigues, a Portuguese politician, with the panel also including experts and consultants from legal, policing and event-management fields, along with representatives from football fan groups.
For many Liverpool fans, the incident and subsequent attempted attribution of blame on supporters has evoked painful memories of the Hillsborough disaster.
The accusations made by UEFA and French authorities about alleged ticketless Liverpool fans in Paris were criticised by the Rodrigues-led report.
"The parallels between Hillsborough 1989 and Paris 2022 are palpable," it added.
"The similarities include the fact both events were preventable and both were caused by the failures of those responsible for public safety. Both events were foreseeable."
Following the publication of the review into the Paris scenes, UEFA apologised "most sincerely" for the events which unfolded.
UEFA said it would also announce a "special refund scheme" for affected fans.
"In particular, I would like to apologise to the supporters of Liverpool," UEFA general secretary Theodore Theodoridis said.
"For the experiences many of them had when attending the game and for the messages released prior to and during the game, which had the effect of unjustly blaming them for the situation leading to the delayed kick-off."
Official LFC reaction to the report
“Liverpool FC welcomes the Report into the chaos at the UEFA Champions League final in Paris which fully vindicates Liverpool fans while finding UEFA primarily responsible for organisational failings, absence of overall control or oversight of safety and security, poor planning and lack of contingency plans.
“The evidence-based Panel Report also found that there was ‘a clear and immediate danger of a fatal crush’ and that the action of Liverpool supporters saved lives.
“Liverpool FC thanks the Panel of experts who have worked diligently over the last eight months to ensure the facts are established and calls on UEFA to fully and transparently implement the 21 critical recommendations to ensure safe passage for all football supporters at every UEFA match.
“It is shocking that more than 30 years after the Hillsborough disaster any club and our group of fans would be subject to such fundamental safety failings which have had such a devastating impact on so many. But even more concerning is the realisation that for families, friends and survivors of Hillsborough, Paris has only exacerbated their suffering.
“Our thoughts go out to all our fans who have suffered as a result of Paris and we would remind them of the mental health support we put in place in the days following the disaster that was the UEFA Champions League final in Paris.
“As a football club with proud history in Europe, we call on UEFA to do the right thing and implement the 21 recommendations to ensure the safety of all football supporters attending any future UEFA football match.”
Jurgen Klopp’s reaction to the report
Klopp said: “I think it’s super-important that, finally, it’s official, let me say it like this. I’m not sure, at least in my life, that there was ever a case with more evidence, where I knew more about [it] when I was not directly involved, because I was on the other side of the wall in the stadium, pretty much.
“But families, friends, they were all there and everybody knew how our supporters behaved, but it really feels good, it feels just right that it’s now official and everybody knows it now because there were so many things said after the game which we knew were wrong. It was just lies. So, I’m really happy that it’s finally said officially.
“There were big mistakes made. They had to change the venue a few months before it actually happened- I understand and that’s difficult. But to put it into a stadium which is not used regularly, just for some big events and stuff like this and not all the time... So, as an example, I’m German and this is why I say it, but as an example if you used Berlin – a big city, enough hotels, somewhere used to having big events every two weeks with 70,000 people in the stadium and stuff like that, it would have been exactly the same, but the supporters wouldn’t have been from Germany, but from Spain and England [and] that would be the only difference.
“So, there was a good chance to find a better venue than [this one in] France. So, this in the first place – that they didn’t oversee it, the problems they had with the experience of the venue, I am not sure, 16 years ago or something like that with another Champions League final where they knew it didn’t work out too well, I think that is the first problem and all the other things [followed]. Big events are organised so often and when you are under pressure, you have time pressure, you still have to make the right decisions and that’s [a] responsibility for specific people. And so yes, I hope they listen, I hope they learn.
“The only good thing in all the bad things that happened there is that many journalists were there in that crowd. Independent, no Liverpool shirt, just being there and wanting to do their job and they knew exactly that it was wrong as well and I think that helped because otherwise they probably all would have to go through that as well. I think we were really lucky that not more happened.
“It was a day of, I’m not sure how you say it, but the day of ‘goodwill lies’ – when you have to lie to protect the other person. Because we all had messages from our people outside before the game and then the game got delayed, so we started looking at the smartphone again, ‘What’s happening?’ We knew because people couldn’t get in and everybody said, ‘No, I’m fine, I’m fine...’ and nobody was fine. Nobody was fine.
“Then the game started and I heard from people that everybody who was in the stadium was just there and thought, ‘I made it somehow, wow.’ It was not the mood you are in when you want to watch a Champions League final. So what it all took away and the strangest thing is that after the game, like an hour after the game, the least important information on that night was that we lost the final. That’s really crazy. And that shows just how it all went.”
Pep Guardiola apologises to Steven Gerrard over disrespectful comments
"I don't know if we are responsible for Steven Gerrard slipping," Guardiola said last week when talking about the Premier League charging City with more than 100 breaches of its financial rules.
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has [since] apologised to Steven Gerrard for comments he made about the ex-Liverpool captain's slip against Chelsea.
"I apologise to Steven Gerrard for my unnecessary and stupid comments," said Guardiola.
"He knows how I admire him and his career and what he has done for this country I am living and training in.
“I am ashamed of myself for what I said because he [Gerrard] doesn't deserve it," he said.
"I truly believe my comments about defending my club but I didn't represent my club well putting his name in these stupid comments.
"I apologise, I said to him personally but I commented publicly and have to do it here as well. I am so sorry to him, his wife Alex, his kids and family because it was stupid."
Neil Jones writes that Liverpool were interested in Enzo Fernandez but put off by the price tag
“He [Fernandez] played only 29 games for the Portuguese giants, but his performances for Argentina in Qatar meant Chelsea were prepared to push the button on him in January. Other clubs, Liverpool included, had been put off by Benfica’s talk of an initial £60m ($73m) valuation, but Boehly’s Blues were prepared to go far higher, making the 21-year-old the final signing of a quite incredible window.”
Liverpool linked with other Benfica talents (Neil Jones)
Florentino Luis (23-year-old midfielder): “Florentino is the only player to have featured in all 33 matches for Benfica this season, and his skills as a defensive midfielder - he made more interceptions than any other player in the Champions League group stage and averages more defensive actions in the opposition half per 90 minutes than any player in Europe's top six leagues - have already drawn attention from Premier League scouts, with Liverpool and Arsenal among those to have made checks.
“He is the kind of player every coach would like to have in their squad,” former Benfica coach Joao Tralhao tells GOAL. “He’s an amazing boy, a hard worker, calm, professional, always prepared to listen and he is a proper team player. He doesn't think only of himself.”
Antonio Silva (19-year-old centre back): “Another homegrown prospect being linked with a move to England, and specifically Liverpool, Silva joined Benfica as a 13-year-old and, six years later, is firmly established at the heart of their defence and has already been capped at senior level by Portugal.
“Tall, quick and incredibly comfortable in possession, the teenager has formed a fine partnership with Argentine World Cup winner Nicolas Otamendi. Benfica have conceded only 12 goals in 20 Primeira Liga games this season, testament to the youngster’s reading of the game, positional play and fast-improving physicality.
"He's incredibly talented," Tralhao says. "He is full of maturity and game understanding; calm, patient and skilful on the ball. He has great anticipation, and he is aggressive in individual duels."
Andreas Schjelderup (18-year-old attacking midfielder): “One of many highly-promising Norwegians to have emerged in recent years, teenage attacking midfielder Schjelderup made the move to Portugal from FC Nordsjaelland in January, with Benfica paying a reported €14 million (£12m/$15m) to land him.
“He could have joined Liverpool at 16, and visited the likes of Ajax, PSV Eindhoven, Tottenham, Juventus and Bayern Munich too. “It was very tempting,” he later admitted. “I'm a Liverpool fan myself, but I kind of did not want to be one in the crowd. It is a longer way to go to get into the first team at those clubs."
“He is well on the way to stardom now, though, finishing the first half of the 2022-23 season as the top scorer in the Danish top flight to earn his switch to Benfica, where he will look to help fill the void left by the departure of Fernandez to Chelsea. He is capable of playing either out wide or as a No.10 or second forward.
"He is a very special player," Nordsjaelland manager Flemming Pedersen said of Schjelderup during the teenager’s first season with the club. "His top level can go wild. He will be a top player in one of the five big European leagues."
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