Klopp’s Liverpool ‘joke’ has already backfired as touchline tiff with Salah sums up season collapse

Matt Stead
Liverpool forward Mo Salah and manager Jurgen Klopp
Mo Salah and Jurgen Klopp had a right old tiff in London

Jurgen Klopp and Mo Salah arguing on the touchline was always going to dominate headlines – and perhaps neither should be part of this bold Liverpool future.


The Jurgen Klopp Farewell Tour has inevitably included the closing of many celebrated chapters: his rivalry with Pep Guardiola, at the very least in England; a last trophy and visit to Wembley; final games against bitter rivals, however disappointing those results and performances were; and a sordid Mo Salah strop.

But the most emotional, devastating and historic of all was the realisation that this match between two teams whose next meeting will be overseen by different managers next season was Klopp’s last lunchtime kick-off.

After the immense sense of sadness that TNT had not drafted Des Kelly back in for the occasion had faded, West Ham and Liverpool eventually put on a gripping display which showcased their respective flaws more than it demonstrated their specific strengths.

No team has squandered more points after leading at half-time this season than West Ham. No team has salvaged more points from losing positions this season than Liverpool. Only Arsenal have scored more headed goals this season than West Ham. No team has benefited from more own goals this season than Liverpool.

The Reds trailed at the break to an excellent Jarrod Bowen header, equalised three minutes into the second half through an Andy Robertson goal, took the lead after a comical series of deflections last made contact with the unfortunate Alphonse Areola before crossing the line, and then drew when Michail Antonio evaded Jarell Quansah’s attentions and thumped his header past Alisson.

The outline of some games can be predicted fairly accurately before a ball is kicked; West Ham 2-2 Liverpool felt a little too scripted at times.

An injection of real drama was unexpected, not just because the stakes of this game were sorely diluted by the crumbling hopes of two teams limping towards the finish line with no genuine aspirations of achieving their loftiest objectives this season, but in how it came about. The four goals were nice and all, but the post-match discourse from this game will inescapably be dominated by the events which unfolded on the touchline.

Klopp dropping Salah in his latest attempt to fix a misfiring attack was always guaranteed to demand some column inches, but their touchline tête-à-tête shortly before the Egyptian’s introduction with a quarter of an hour left to play made it back-page, headline news.

Salah had looked decidedly – and understandably, for he is an elite-level footballer and competitor – miserable in the warm-up, but this was an entirely different side to him: arm-waving, final-word-having, shush-issuing anger at something Klopp leaned over to utter as West Ham sought an equaliser they would soon find.

Darwin Nunez, agent of chaos that he is, acting as peacemaker as departing manager and increasingly possibly exiting player, a phenomenal partnership that has helped deliver trophies, records, memories and more, clashed while Liverpool lost control of a game once more, felt like a neat and surreal summation of their current problems, both external and apparently internal.

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A notably weary and worn Klopp said the pair had “spoken already” about the situation in the dressing room, adding that he considered it “done”. But it brought to mind the German’s reasoning for why he felt it necessary to step down in the summer.

“For me it was super, super, super-important that I can help to bring this team back onto the rails,” he said in late January, of a team which would quite openly come off them within three months. “When I realised pretty early that happened, it’s a really good team with massive potential and a super age group, super characters and all that, then I could start thinking about myself again and that was the outcome.”

The feeling that Klopp was leaving behind a team at its peak, ready for his successor to steer to glory with a few simple tweaks, is gone. A report in the Daily Telegraph at the time said that the manager had ‘joked’ with the players ‘that his exit was partly their fault because Liverpool had reached such a high level so soon that he felt he could pass the baton on to someone else.’ No-one is laughing now.

Liverpool will be fine. Arne Slot is a natural fit for the post and can reenergise a club and squad sorely in need of it. This is a solid squad and the foundations are considerably better than those Klopp was forced to build on almost nine years ago.

But this was another sign that Klopp’s era might not be the only one ending this summer. Salah’s vibes have long been of a player coming to the end of his Anfield tether but even if he does not explore his options at the end of this season, Liverpool have to. Their attack is not functioning properly either with or without him and in the unlikely event a nine-figure fee remains on the table, it has to be considered to help fund their continued rebuild.

That is neither an easy nor exciting future to contemplate, such is the dark cloud which suddenly hangs over Liverpool’s present form. In a few short months, they have gone from Quadruples to quarrels.

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