The Guardian

Klopp hails Raducanu as ‘talent of the century’

- Andy Hunter

Jürgen Klopp has described Emma Raducanu as “the talent of the century” and admitted he was overwhelme­d by the 18-year-old’s sporting reaction to winning the US Open.

The Liverpool manager is a keen tennis player and watched the teenager make history on Saturday as the first qualifier to win a grand slam title.

“It is long ago that I watched a full tennis game and I was impressed by the power, the speed and the whole game,” said Klopp. “Women’s tennis is obviously in a brilliant moment. These two girls, 18 and 19, what they showed in the game was massively impressive.

But then when they got the trophies during the ceremony, how both girls spoke was really inspiring to be honest. Even more so than the tennis, which was inspiring enough.

“I was absolutely overwhelme­d by the way they presented themselves. [Leylah] Fernandez was obviously disappoint­ed and Emma showed great respect for her. They knew they will face each other in the future very often and be in many more finals. I wish that for them. It was a great show of sportsmans­hip and elite sport and how humble you can be while so young and on top of the world.”

Klopp added: “I will watch women’s tennis much more, for sure, than I did in the last few years.”

Raducanu spoke to Boris Johnson yesterday. A No 10 spokesman said the prime minister “praised her determinat­ion, skill and mental strength during a series of tough matches and said the whole of the UK had united behind her success. Both the prime minister and Emma agreed on the importance of continuing to support grassroots tennis and in encouragin­g young people to take up the game.”

With Milan in town, surprising­ly for the first time at Anfield, it was understand­able that Istanbul cropped up several times during Jürgen Klopp’s press conference yesterday but also something of a diversion from the task in the Liverpool manager’s hand. Group B, complete with champions, history and above all pedigree, allows little time to reminisce.

Liverpool and Milan have never met outside a Champions League final and a contest between two clubs crowned European champions 13 times in total seems a fitting way to open a group of rare stature and intrigue. The Italian club have not competed at this level for seven years but won twice as many away games as home matches when finishing second in Serie A last season (16-8) and have lost only once in 11 away games in all competitio­ns.

Klopp sees no margin for error when plotting a Champions League course that also involves finding a way past Atlético Madrid and Porto. It is a four-team super league, if you will, but with risk, appeal and sporting integrity.

“This is the strongest group we have had since I am at Liverpool, no doubt about that,” said Klopp. “In 2013 at Dortmund we had a real Champions League group as well. We had Man City, Real Madrid and Ajax, which was a proper group where people said: ‘Oh my God, how will we get through?’ This is a proper group as well.

“What does it do for the competitio­n? It kicks out two really good teams from the knockout stages and it will deliver one really strong football team into the Europa League as well, that’s for sure. I never understand when people talk about changes to the Champions League. It is just not my thing. I like it how it is and this group obviously shows that there are no games where people think: ‘Do I really want to watch that?’

“This group will be exciting from the first second to the last second. Nothing will be decided early in this group. That keeps us on our toes and in between these games we have a very important competitio­n as well, playing Premier League and League Cup, then hopefully the FA Cup later in the season. But it’s exactly what we wanted. We play Milan, Atlético, Porto – unbelievab­le stadiums, great crowds, passionate fanbases. It’s exactly how you want football. Now we got it, so let’s deal with it.”

The group opener will be Liverpool’s first European game in front of a capacity Anfield crowd since 11 March last year when, with the pandemic under way in Europe, Atlético and their fans were allowed to travel to Merseyside for a last-16 victory that took place days before everything came to a halt.

“It is all about getting enough points to get through the group,” Klopp said. “We better not waste time. We should start with that tomorrow night. It is a long time ago that we had a Champions League game at home and the opportunit­y to experience again the atmosphere that Anfield is able to produce. We have spoken a lot in the past about European nights at Anfield and I can’t wait to experience that now. I am really looking forward to it.”

Stefano Pioli, Milan’s head coach, will be without Zlatan Ibrahimovi­c despite the veteran marking his latest injury comeback on Sunday with a goal in the 2-0 defeat of Lazio. Pioli said: “Zlatan wanted to join the match [against Lazio] and of course after the match he had some inflammati­on. We hoped he could play but he still had pain so we don’t want to risk tomorrow as it’s a very important match and we have so many matches. We are very well prepared.”

Liverpool’s injury focus remains on Harvey Elliott, whose breakthrou­gh season was cruelly interrupte­d when he sustained a dislocated ankle at Leeds on Sunday. The 18-year-old underwent successful surgery in London yesterday, while Leeds have announced they would appeal against the red card shown to the defender Pascal Struijk for his challenge on the midfielder. “I spoke to him the night of the game and he was in the best possible place,” said Klopp of Elliott. “He accepted already that he would be out for a while.”

As for his recollecti­ons of 2005, Klopp said: “I was thinking about not watching the second half because everyone in the world apart from a few people in the Liverpool dressing room thought the game might be decided … And then it became one of the biggest football sensations ever and I was really happy that I didn’t switch the telly off.”

 ??  ?? ▲ Jürgen Klopp says Group B is the strongest of his time at Liverpool
▲ Jürgen Klopp says Group B is the strongest of his time at Liverpool

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Kingdom