Jurgen Klopp has voiced his support for “competitive football” but urged Liverpool players and supporters to unite in opposing the proposed European Super League fixtures.
Liverpool were one of 12 clubs included in an announcement on Sunday for a separation competition featuring some of Europe’s elite squads, including all of the Premier League’s ‘big six’.
The condemnation of the project has been vitriolic and almost universal in football, while Klopp himself has already expressed his opposition when such proposals have been raised.
The Liverpool manager maintained this position in defiance of his club owners ahead of Monday’s Premier League game against Leeds United, but he reacted to reports that fans were removing Anfield’s banners and hosts warming up to Elland Road with shirts reading “Earn it” – in reference to the Reds’ candidacy to qualify for the Champions League – and “Football is for the fans”.
“I’m 53 years old and since I was a professional player the Champions League was there, I think. It was not possible as a player, but as a manager the goal was always to coach a team there, ”he told Sky Sports, whose pre-match coverage included a sustained attack on Super League plans by pundits Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher.
“I obviously have no problem with the Champions League, I also like the competitive nature of football. I love that West Ham can play Champions League football next year, I don’t want them to, to be honest, because we want to do it, but I love that they have the chance.
“What can I say, it’s really not easy. Liverpool Football Club is more than decisions and the most important part of football is the supporters and the team. We have to make sure there is really nothing in between.
“I heard we pulled banners at Anfield and I don’t understand that because the players didn’t do anything wrong. We didn’t win every game, but we went with everything. We want to qualify for the Champions League next year. We have to stay together.
“When other people from other clubs use our anthem [You’ll Never Walk Alone] against us, I don’t like that either. We can show that no one should walk alone at these times. There are things that we have to sort out, obviously, but that has nothing to do with the relationship between the supporters and the team – that, for me, is really important.
“In difficult times, you have to show that you really stand together. That doesn’t mean you agree on everything, but – again – the boys haven’t done anything wrong other than not winning every game. I really want to make sure everyone knows that. “
– Liverpool FC (@LFC) April 19, 2021
On Monday, UEFA announced its own plans for an expanded 36-team Champions League format, another development that tires Klopp.
“I know some things are going to change in football, I know some things have to change, for sure,” he said. “Power, where it is, is not quite right.
“UEFA can’t just decide things, FIFA can’t just decide things, everyone is planning more competitions. UEFA showed me [the Champions League plans] a few months ago and I told them there were more games so I don’t like it.
“For the [Super League] clubs, it’s all about the money, but what do you think of UEFA? FIFA wants the Club World Cup whenever it should be, but it’s about the money, nothing else.
“It’s not just these clubs, things will change, some things have to change.
“One thing that I can understand that people think is unfair is competitiveness. I understand that. I have already said it.