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    Liverpool's clear defiance under Jurgen Klopp – the more you criticize, the more they double down

    Jurgen Klopp (center) celebrates with his team after Liverpool won the Carabao Cup final Photo: Sebastian Frey/Getty Images

    In one of the rare moments of this pulsating final, the Liverpool fans entertained themselves as best they could, lighting up, scarves twirling, in a rendition of Allez Allez Allez that seemed never to end. The instigators at Chelsea did their best to organize a response, but they failed to do anything better than waving a few plastic replica flags. In some ways it was the perfect distillation of the day, a match where the private equity guys from west London were faced with an overwhelming emotional force.

    At the center of this red rhapsody, as always, was Jurgen Klopp. He was the figure who launched his assistants into the air at the final whistle, performed his trademark triple fist bump for the faithful and then, in a tearful crescendo, swayed with his team to You'll Never Walk Alone on the Wembley halfway line. . Just think, there are still three months left until his last election campaign. If he ends it, as is still possible, with a quadruple trophy in May, it will rank as perhaps the sport's most extravagantly tearful farewell.

    It is this choreography that lies at the heart of Klopp's genius. Somehow this son of the Black Forest came to understand Liverpool, be it a club or a city, in all its idiosyncrasies, establishing himself not only as a visionary manager but also as a totem of the community. Where he leads, everyone else follows. And so when Klopp prefaced that victory over Chelsea by brushing aside criticism of his celebrations by declaring that they were “for us and no one else,” fans dared to drink to the triumph as if they had just won Champions League.

    <р>Wembley's giant screens flashed warnings that pyrotechnics were prohibited both inside and outside the stadium. A bit of hope: When Virgil van Dijk's shot pierced the net in the 118th minute, fans lit contraband flares as if it were an Istanbul derby, filling the north-west London night sky with the acrid tang of bright red smoke. That's the thing about Liverpool under Klopp: the more you criticize them, the more they double down.

    You saw it in the mass “God Save the King” jeers before kick-off. When the Kop sparked a similar reaction after King Charles's coronation last year, television controversies lined up to condemn the behavior. But they might as well be whistling in the wind. Ultimately, the fans' disdain for the national anthem was officially endorsed by Klopp, who repeated Liverpool's position that the decision whether or not to boo was a personal choice. This was enough for the students in red, who, having received here another chance to anger their ill-wishers, gladly took advantage of it.

    Liverpool fans fired red flares after Virgil van Dijk's winning goal. Photo: Jacques Fini/Getty Images

    Klopp is the human force field around which everything at Liverpool coalesces. It was his decision to send a group of academy players to crush Chelsea's resistance in extra time that brought the most generous reward. All in all, quite the storyline: home-grown youngsters thwarting opponents who cost £1 billion to assemble. Not that Liverpool could be called frugal. But it is Klopp's cult of personality, coupled with his formidable tactical acumen, that makes the difference in such a tight contest. The fact that three closed Wembley finals in two years between these teams were decided in Liverpool's favor is no coincidence. Not with the unstoppable nature of Klopp on the touchline.

    What will they do without him? Those who hang on his every word hardly need to think about it. In an ideal world, Xabi Alonso would arrive from Leverkusen in the summer to fuel the club's insatiable hunger for success. But nothing can replace Klopp's enormous influence at every level of this institution. The intensity of passion shown after this impressive victory could only be attributed to Liverpool, but it also owed a lot to the manager. He had only left two clubs before, Mainz and Borussia Dortmund, and by the end both were weak at the knees with gratitude. At Liverpool, his absence will leave not just a hole, but a crater.

    Klopp doesn’t care what outsiders think. Liverpool's post-match celebrations Photo: Andy Raine/Shutterstock

    It was enlightening to hear Klopp later describe it as the most valuable trophy he has won. Better than a first Premier League crown in 30 years, better than two Bundesligas against the might of Bayern Munich? It would seem for the simple reason that this performance demonstrated all the qualities he had spent nine years instilling at Liverpool: persistence, resilience, an inexhaustible belief in himself. The fact that it was Van Dijk, the only true veteran left on the pitch, who intervened at the death of the winner, only added to the feeling.

    The power that Klopp's presence exerts cannot be overstated. A few minutes before the start of the match, a guest of the company insisted on posing with him for a selfie. It's as if the closer he gets to writing the final chapter, the more everyone around him wants him to immortalize this moment. Above all, he will be remembered for the defiance he displayed in every department. It's the mentality that allows Liverpool to cope with all the blame, nagging and humiliation and decide that, ultimately, they just don't care.

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