Europa League final: What next for Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool?

By Phil McNultyChief football writer in Chantilly
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp
Klopp replaced Brendan Rodgers at Anfield in early October last year

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp - drained and coming to terms with the manner in which Sevilla dismantled his team in the Europa League final in Basel - uttered two small sentences of huge significance in the game's inquest.

Klopp had watched powerless as Liverpool collapsed like a house of cards from a lead and a position of superiority to lose 3-1 to Sevilla, squandering the chance of Champions League football next season in the process.

"This team will be a bit different next season, it is clear," said Klopp. "We will do something with transfers."

Klopp's personality, allied to Liverpool's history and ambition, will always attract players - but life will be infinitely more difficult in a fiercely competitive summer market without the magnet that the Champions League, or indeed European football of any sort, provides.

So what will Klopp need to change - and maintain - after Liverpool lost their second final of the season following the Capital One Cup defeat by Manchester City?

Liverpool lack mental strength

The manner in which Liverpool's performance fell off a cliff once Kevin Gameiro equalised for Sevilla 17 seconds after the break, cancelling out Daniel Sturridge's brilliant opener, was alarming and Klopp was clearly taken aback.

"We lost faith in our style of play," said the German. "We changed from passing simple and quick to slow and complicated and lost our formation."

This was a damning indictment but a painful truth. Yes, Gameiro's equaliser was a psychological blow but Liverpool still had virtually the entire second half to put matters right.

Former Liverpool defender Mark Lawrenson:
"I would imagine a lot of homework has gone into new signings this summer. I'd imagine Liverpool have spoken to agents and will have an indication of whether players are coming.
"If you are in a room with Klopp then I'd think it was hard to say no to him. This summer's transfer window is going to be the biggest ever in the Premier League in terms of money spent.
"Roberto Firmino, Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge are not going anywhere this summer - other than on holiday."

Instead, they visibly wilted and fell apart in key areas of the field. They were overrun in midfield and exposed in defence. Their body language sagged. It was a desperate sight as Sevilla tore them to shreds.

The Spaniards are a very fine side who have now won the Europa League three seasons in succession but they are not Barcelona. Manchester City beat them 3-1 in their own stadium in this season's Champions League.

Klopp has managed his resources with this final in mind and Liverpool have shown incredible reserves of mental strength in this competition - notably when scoring three goals in the last 20 minutes to beat Borussia Dortmund at Anfield - but here they were weak and shrunk ominously at the first sign of adversity.

The difference was that they were inspired by a fervent Anfield atmosphere against Dortmund. In Basel, Liverpool's performance, and simply the way they looked mentally shot from the moment Sevilla equalised, gave their supporters no hope.

There were no Liverpool leaders on the night and certainly no sense they were about to mount a comeback of Dortmund proportions. This time the final whistle was a mercy.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp with his defeated players after the final whistle of the Europa League final
Manager Klopp is an inspiring and charismatic figure - but Liverpool lack a genuine leader on the field

Even Klopp's old tricks carried an air of desperation. He exhorted Liverpool's fans to inspire their team as they sank but it looked the act of a manager who knew the game was up. What were Liverpool's players doing to inspire their fans? He might have been better exhorting them.

When Klopp goes shopping this summer he must prioritise strong characters and find a leader who will stop what happened in Basel happening again on the big occasion.

Liverpool have conceded 19 points from winning positions in the Premier League this season. They are third in this list behind Chelsea (21) and Tottenham (20) - a statistic that adds weight to the argument that Klopp's team is a fragile one.

Klopp will search for better players this summer. He must also find mentally tougher ones.

Who will be in danger?

When it comes to the case for changes, exhibit A in Basel was left-back Alberto Moreno. It was the second time the Spaniard has played a significant part in a Sevilla Europa League win, having been part of the side who lifted the trophy against Benfica in 2014.

Moreno's hopeless performance brought criticism raining down on him, with BBC Sport analyst Mark Lawrenson in Basel saying simply: "He cannot defend."

Liverpool defender Alberto Moreno struggled against Sevilla
Liverpool defender Alberto Moreno conspicuously struggled against Sevilla

He will surely be replaced and there needs to be much greater pressure placed on goalkeeper Simon Mignolet, who was hardly culpable here but has had another unconvincing season. Klopp is being heavily linked with 22-year-old Mainz keeper Loris Kariusexternal-link in a £5m deal but a more experienced candidate may be preferable.

Klopp has tried to address one issue in central defence with the signing of Joel Matip from Schalke but there are other holes he needs to plug.

Dejan Lovren has had a good season despite being disappointing in Basel - while 35-year-old Kolo Toure was Liverpool's best player against Sevilla but will it be enough to earn the Ivorian a new contract?

Martin Skrtel is another who is surplus to requirements and past his best at 31, while Mamadou Sakho faces an uncertain future following a failed drugs test.

So this area is a matter of urgency for Klopp, while in midfield Joe Allen and Lucas Leiva may yet find themselves surplus to requirements.

Bayern Munich's Mario Gotze has been touted as a possible marquee signing but would the man who scored Germany's World Cup final winner against Argentina in Rio in 2014 be prepared to forgo Champions League football, no matter how close his relationship with Klopp after their time at Borussia Dortmund?

Sevilla beat Liverpool in Europa League final
Sevilla have won the Europa League, previously the Uefa Cup, five times in 11 seasons

Udinese's young Poland midfield Piotr Zielinskiexternal-link is widely expected to join Liverpool in a £10m deal, but where is the strong leader Liverpool need? Jordan Henderson is captain and was only substitute in Basel after injury, but it is clear this Liverpool team lacks mental steel and needs a figure of authority they can rally around on the field.

And what of Christian Benteke? There is undoubtedly a fine striker inside Benteke waiting to get out but his £32.5m move to Liverpool from Aston Villa last summer looks increasingly like the wrong man to the wrong club at the wrong time.

He was Klopp's last resort in Basel, thrown on with seven minutes left and the game effectively gone having seen fellow Belgian Divock Origi turned to first despite not having played since sustaining an ankle injury against Everton at Anfield on 17 April.

Benteke did not suit the passing style of the man who bought him, Brendan Rodgers, and he does not suit Klopp's intense and energetic pressing style either.

If Liverpool can recoup £20m-plus, perhaps from West Ham, then Benteke's stay at Liverpool will surely end.

Reasons to be cheerful

Even the effervescent Klopp looked desperately low in Switzerland and Liverpool were a badly beaten and bedraggled side when the final whistle put them out of their misery.

Roberto Firmino, Daniel Sturridge and Kolo Toure
Sturridge has scored 12 goals in 24 appearances during an injury-hit campaign

This is hardly a club in crisis, however, and Liverpool can look to the future with a hefty measure of optimism.

The chief reason to be cheerful is Klopp himself. He has taken Liverpool to two cup finals this season, without any real adjustments to his squad, and galvanised the club. He wanted to turn "doubters into believers" and even this disappointment will not dent faith in the German, who was one of Europe's most sought-after coaches when Liverpool appointed him in September.

Sevilla's Europa League love affair
2006: Final v Middlesbrough won 4-0 in Eindhoven
2007: Final v Espanyol - won 3-1 on penalties (2-2 after extra time) in Glasgow
2014: Final v Benfica - won 4-2 on penalties (0-0 after extra time) in Turin
2015: Final v Dnipro - won 3-2 in Warsaw
2016: Final v Liverpool - won 3-1 in Basel

The 48-year-old has the passion and charisma, plus the coaching ability, that Liverpool's fans and players can thrive on.

His big game players were totally marginalised in Basel. Philippe Coutinho barely touched the ball while the disappointing Roberto Firmino was substituted. The Brazilian duo, though, have shown enough this season to offer excitement for next term.

And in attack Daniel Sturridge, the great enigma, scored a goal of rare brilliance, curving an effort with the outside of his left foot into the far corner of Sevilla's net to give Liverpool the lead and what turned out to be false hope.

If Klopp can keep Sturridge fit and in the right frame of mind, Liverpool will have arguably England's most naturally talented striker. Roy Hodgson may yet be the beneficiary of Klopp's work with Sturridge at Euro 2016 in France.

Klopp will also see his options increased next season by the return fitness of striker Danny Ings and young defender Joe Gomez, who both created such an excellent impression before both succumbing to serious knee injuries.

So, as Klopp will have been stressing to Liverpool's players, this is not all doom and gloom.

What does cast a cloud is that Liverpool need serious reinforcements and a disappointing defeat here that leaves them without Champions League and Europa League football next season will make it more difficult to secure the right men.

Liverpool collapse as Sevilla win Europa League


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