Klopp has huge rebuilding job

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That game finished with Liverpool grinding out a draw. A few months later they contested the League Cup final against fierce rivals but lost after extra time. Premier League form, meanwhile, was erratic and they flattered to deceive in the race for fourth place.

Europe, however, provided salvation. The campaign was breathless and featured a sequence of dramatic ties, an opportunity to settle a score with a bitter domestic foes and a comeback in one game that had Anfield shaking and defied belief.

Are we talking about Jurgen Klopp’s first year as Liverpool manager? No. That synopsis is from 2005 when Rafa Benitez was appointed but the similarities between his debut season and Klopp’s introduction to life in England are uncannily similar.

Benitez, memorably, signed off for his summer break clutching the biggest prize in club football after an extraordinary night against AC Milan and the hope following the miracle of Istanbul was that it would be the catalyst for, at some point in the future, Liverpool to become domestic champions.

It never happened, of course. Liverpool only mounted one challenge for the title under Benitez, in 2008-09 and just one more crack at the big time - out of the blue under Brendan Rodgers in 2014 - followed.

That, essentially, is what Klopp must change. For all that the last eight months have been dramatic and produced moments that will last years - winning the first European battle against Manchester United, that Borussia Dortmund comeback - they hanker for one thing at Anfield, to be back in the race on a frequent basis for the Premier League.

The wait since they were last crowned champions (26 years and one month) is now longer than United’s barren spell off top spot and they want to see change.

Leicester and Tottenham, after all, have altered the landscape this season. They have shown what fine managers can do with talented squads and lots of clubs will go into next season believing they can challenge.

What, then, gives Liverpool hope that Klopp can take them back to where they want to be? For starters, the first 45 minutes here in Basle provided compelling evidence. The way Liverpool held Sevilla at bay and looked to cause mayhem on the break showed how well they had been drilled.

When Daniel Sturridge opened the scoring with a quite magnificent goal - one which truly deserved the description of world class - everything was going to plan and Klopp, usually such a showman when Liverpool hit the target, simply turned to look at the directors’ box.

He gave a telling smile to where John W Henry, Mike Gordon and Tom Werner, Fenway Sports Group’s top brass, were sat that suggested ‘this is all part of the plan’. Had Liverpool gone into the interval with the game sewn up, there could have been no complaints.

Yet what followed in the second half showed what work there is to be done this summer. In a 20-minute spell, Liverpool slipped back into old bad habits. Suddenly the fans who had turned into believers became doubters once more and the players froze on the biggest stage.

You could see how much it left Klopp aghast. He implored the end housing Liverpool’s fans to pump up the volume but it made no odds. They were shell-shocked and the manner of the way Liverpool collapsed like a deck of cards was extraordinary.

It was not supposed to end this way but it did and now the real work can begin. Klopp has already warned his squad to expect a short summer break and when they return to Melwood they will be subjected to one of the most intense pre-seasons in the club’s history with three session a day.

Klopp is going to make sweeping changes to the playing staff and some of those who stopped playing will be cut adrift to make way for those who will be better suited to executing his plans. There will be no messing around.

Defeat, of course, means there will be no Europe for Liverpool next season but while their rivals are playing across the continent, might there be a chance for them to capitalise? Be under no illusions that will be his aim. He has not come to Liverpool to accept second best.

@DominicKing_DM

Daily Mail

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