Last Saturday marked the 27th edition of the Champions League final in its current guise, and the all-English affair was hotly anticipated. Both Liverpool and Tottenham had mounted thrilling comebacks versus Barcelona and Ajax respectively in the semi-finals, representing some of the very best matches ever seen in the competition.
However, the final itself did not live up to the pre-match hype, perhaps in part to a penalty conceded by Spurs within the opening 30 seconds of the match. The spot-kick was duly converted by Mohamed Salah, and from that moment onwards, the game never really clicked into gear in the way that was expected.
Any high-octane, exciting football that had been on display in previous encounters involving these two sides throughout the season was sadly lacking and – while supporters of the Merseyside outfit celebrated their 2-0 win in spectacular style back in the city on Sunday – many neutrals were left feeling a sense of anti-climax.
Yet one thing that did not fail to live up to expectations was the character displayed by both men in charge. Those who watched both Jurgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino become emotional when talking to BT Sport about personal pictures from their past couldn’t have failed to become moved by their raw honesty.
That was just one example of how English football has been blessed with some brilliant characters, thanks in large part to an influx of foreign managers. They say that “variety is the spice of life,” and thanks to Klopp, Pochettino as well as the likes of Pep Guardiola, Maurizio Sarri, Nuno Espirito Santo and Unai Emery, the Premier League really does have an interesting mix of personalities.
After all, a mix of personalities only serves to increase the sense of entertainment in sport, and character was not in short supply during Saturday’s final.
When interviewed on the pitch after the match, Klopp was questioned about why he was not already drenched in beer, as is customary in his native Germany. “I don't know, it's usually 20 minutes after the game and I'm already half-p***ed,” the entertaining boss laughed. “I didn't even get a water!”
Going on to make a quip about his family’s patients over numerous previous defeats in major finals, Klopp also sang on camera about Liverpool’s sixth Champions League trophy, changing the word “sex” for “six” in the Salt-N-Pepa song “Let’s Talk About Sex!”
With the Liverpool boss looking slightly worse for wear on the team bus on Sunday, it’s clear that he was able to enjoy the celebrations with a few drinks, and it is this human side of football that so many enjoy being able to watch.
In a similar way, many neutrals would have felt for Pochettino after his side lost, especially after the manner in which Tottenham reached the final. His tears of sheer joy after winning in the last minute versus Ajax were shared again and again on social media, and although he failed to enjoy similar success in the final, he was classy in his reaction to the defeat.
“Now it's impossible to talk and we will all be very disappointed," he told reporters after the match. "The season was fantastic. We need to feel proud. I feel so proud of all the players, the fans and the club. We can't give the last moment, the last game of the season, a massive reward for our fans.”
They may not have produced the kind of football for which they have become known, but Jurgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino entertained us in the Champions League. Long may they and other similar characters continue to do so.