LIVERPOOL manager Jurgen Klopp became the first high-profile figure from the Premier League’s six breakaway clubs to speak out against the proposal for a controversial new European Super League last night.
Klopp took his team to Elland Road to take on Leeds United in a fixture that was overshadowed by events of the field and the announcement from English football’s big six that they have broken away from the Champions League.
Supporters from both clubs protested outside the stadium before kick-off while a light aircraft flew over the ground, trailing a banner which read “Say no to Super League.” Leeds players also wore t-shirts bearing the slogans “Earn it” and “Football is for the Fans” - a gesture to which the Liverpool manager took exception.
Klopp was also angry with emotive comments made by Sky TV pundit Gary Neville on Sunday evening which had referenced Liverpool’s “You’ll never walk alone” anthem.
But, in an explosive interview, the Liverpool manager repeated his comments, made two years ago, that the current Champions League should remain untouched, a statement which put him at odds with his American owners who have been a major driving force behind the rebellion.
"My feelings didn't change, my opinion didn't change,” said Klopp. “I heard for the first time about it yesterday. I was trying to prepare for a difficult game.
"We got some information, not a lot. It's a tough one. People are not happy with it, I can understand it.
“I can't say a lot more because we were not involved in the process - not the players, not me - we didn't know about it.
"I'm 53. Since I've been in professional football, the Champions League has been there. My aim was always to coach a team there. I have no issues with the Champions League.
"I like the competitive aspect of football. I like that West Ham might play in the Champions League. I don't want them to because we want to but I like they have the chance. What can I say? It's not easy.”
Klopp, who has managed in three Champions League Finals in his career, was quick to defend his players and called for protest banners - which had been put up at Anfield by Liverpool supporters yesterday - to be removed.
And he also reacted angrily to the t-shirts worn pre-match by Leeds players and Neville’s comments.
“I read already there are warm-up shirts, we won’t wear them because we cannot,” he said. “But if somebody thinks he has to remind us that you have to earn to go in the Champions League, it’s a joke.
“It’s a real joke and it makes me angry. So they put in our dressing room, if it was Leeds’s idea, thank you very much. Nobody has to remind us. Maybe they should remind themselves.
“And when other people from other clubs use our anthem against us, I don’t like that as well.
“So we can show nobody has to walk alone in these moments. There are things we have to sort obviously, but they are nothing to do with the football or the relationship between the supporters and the team.”