Rodri v Klopp: football’s two sorest losers facing off adds irresistible edge to Man City v Liverpool

Matt Stead
Jurgen Klopp and Rodri

The instinct of both Jurgen Klopp and Rodri is to blame everyone but themselves when Liverpool or Man City lose. Which makes it brilliant when they meet.


For someone who once pensively declared that “Spain might not have always had the most skilful players, virtuosos, but they had the most intelligent,” midfielder Rodri’s reaction to the country’s eighth defeat in 147 major tournament qualifying games was dense, naive and hardly indicative of a critical thinker.

“You have to respect it but for me, it’s a bit rubbish,” he declared of a Scotland side which disgracefully opted not to roll over and have their bellies tickled. “For me, this is not football,” he added. Respectfully, of course.

A pass accuracy of 87% for a team with 75% possession authorised him to pass that judgement as the arbiter of the sport. But this was not the first time Rodri had offered a sample of his fine whine to the world; he has been intermittently stamping on sour grapes for years.

“Football has not been fair to us,” was his searing take from a game in which Leicester did “nothing” except score five times, which understandably left the holding midfielder and his beaten teammates somewhat “confused”.

The same was said of Morocco – “they were very clear about how they wanted to play, they did nothing” – after an unceremonious 2022 World Cup exit for La Roja, while Norwich “didn’t do many things to win this game” despite humbling the reigning Premier League champions with a 3-2 win at Carrow Road in September 2019.

Amusing at it was to listen to Rodri, who made 47 career appearances under Diego Simeone, bristle in midweek at Scotland “always wasting time, provoking you” and falling over, that increasing and inherent lack of introspection has become tiresome and predictable. Perhaps it comes with the territory of a modern Manchester City and Spain midfielder, a player anointed as heir to Pep Guardiola by the man himself, who has been taught only one way to skin a cat and is horrified when exposed to any other method.

It is the by-product of the era of exhibition football, to lose sight of the fact that every game starts with two sets of players and staff trying to achieve their objective rather than only one. The shame is that Rodri flirted with a moment of realisation when acknowledging “they have their weapons and we have our weapons and we will learn for the next time”. But momentary clarity could not override entrenched entitlement.

A return to the club scene offers respite and an immediate assembly with a kindred spirit. While Manchester City would prefer a less taxing fixture with which to resume the trembling defence of their Premier League crown, a visit to Anfield at least gives them a chance to compare notes on the injustice of teams daring to counter-attack, the unfairness of opponents defending deep and the unsportsmanlike conduct of adversaries just generally trying to influence the game and result instead of respecting the showcase they should be honoured to be a part of.

Despite having far more practice in the art than usual of late, Jurgen Klopp remains similarly unfamiliar with the concept of a deserved defeat. If there is no reason or excuse to fall back on, the explanation behind Liverpool losing can only ever be that the very fabric of the game is at fault for making such fickle, capricious results possible.

As if a match between Liverpool and Manchester City needs extra spice, the fact that neither can afford to lose makes for another tantalising contest in their anthology. The former have distant Champions League aspirations to sustain; the latter cannot let Arsenal pull further into the distance. A draw serves the needs of no-one.

Yet a victory for either would leave the other scrambling for rationalisation which shirks self-analysis. A meeting between the two sorest losers in football means something must give.