Adam Lallana exclusive: 'I'm honoured to have been a part of Liverpool FC'
Adam Lallana confesses to feeling mixed emotions as he prepares to bid farewell to Liverpool Football Club after six successful years on Merseyside.
The midfielder will bring the curtain down on his Reds career against Newcastle United this weekend before departing the club upon the expiry of his contract.
The 32-year-old will seek a new challenge elsewhere after 178 appearances and 22 goals for the club following his transfer from Southampton in June 2014.
He does so as a Premier League, World and European champion.
On and off the pitch, Lallana has played an integral role in helping Jürgen Klopp’s side develop to a position whereby the successes of the past two seasons have been made possible – so much so, in fact, the manager recently declared him a Liverpool legend, a sentiment shared throughout Melwood.
The No.20 sat down with Liverpoolfc.com at the training complex this week to reflect on his time with the Reds in an emotional interview, which can be read in full below. Registered users can also watch it in full via the video below. App users click here to watch.
Adam, firstly you are leaving the club after six years here, how are you feeling about it at the moment?
Good question. There’s definitely a sadness obviously. I was back in Bournemouth at the weekend and I was driving back up, it’s a long journey and you do a lot of thinking don’t you? I just want to enjoy this week as much as possible. There are parts of me that are excited about my next challenge which I’m close to knowing what’s happening so there’s a mixture of emotions really at the moment. But what I keep bringing it back to is just making sure I enjoy every last day of my last week really because there’s a lot happening. There’s obviously a big day, a big game on Wednesday, so I just want to make sure that I enjoy it with my teammates because we’ve all been part of this special year and this special award that we are going to win together. So, yeah, it’s odd - especially on the back of lockdown when everything went quiet for so long. So, the kind of realisation really is only starting to kick in I think the past week.
It has been an incredible journey over the last six years hasn’t it with highs and lows, what have you maybe learned about the club that you didn’t know when you first walked through the door at Melwood?
It is up there with the best clubs in the world. Running right through the whole infrastructure, [from] how the Academy is run and how they’ve developed the lads now. I think the main thing that we’ve achieved in the last six years is becoming winners and that’s been the icing on the cake in the last 12 months. I think I’ve lost three finals here, they were all one after the other, so to be leaving having won four trophies is somewhat remarkable really, I still can’t believe it. So, I think it’s kind of a fitting time to leave and end my chapter here. Like you mentioned there’s been plenty of highs but also plenty of lows as well that have been difficult. So, to leave with the trophies and with the amazing memories, with so many friends as well that I’d probably class as family, makes it special and fitting I think.
A truly magnificent servant to our wonderful club ❤️ Thank you for everything, Adam 🙌 #YNWA https://t.co/mhP10NNKDy— LFC (Liverpool FC) 24th Jul 17:10
If we go back to your first season as a Liverpool player there were some disappointments in terms of results and the kind of final standing in the table but how was it as a first season as a player with this club?
Hugely difficult. I’ve had this conversation in the last couple of weeks speaking about memories with my dad, and that first season was so tough. Especially coming off the back of what happened the year before and the expectations were so high that season. We obviously lost Suarez and Sturridge was injured and I think we had seven or eight new signings and everyone found it difficult to settle. I remember the three or four players that were probably the best for us that season where the lads who had been here for three or four years - Henderson, Raheem [Sterling], Coutinho, Gerrard - so it was really tough that first year. But we all had to kind of ride the wave. The last game of the season was that 6-1 defeat away at Stoke City, Stevie’s last game, it was very difficult, but obviously since Jürgen came in… and that’s not forgetting the job that Brendan done because although we had a difficult season, we all had a difficult season and I think the infrastructure he began to create here in his tenure as Liverpool manager was fantastic and gave Jürgen something to build on. But during Jürgen’s five years so far it’s not all been plain sailing, it’s been one step back to move two forward and that was [for] two or three years we faced them difficulties. There were always signs that we were going in the right direction, getting to finals, beating City at the Etihad a couple of times, but then we’d always take that step back I felt. Listen, it’s been a journey but one that I’m privileged and honoured to be a part of.
In your second season here Jürgen did come in as manager and if you remember his first game it’s fair to say now there’s that iconic photo of you and him embracing on the touchline, that’s a photo that’s going to be shown for years to come when people are summing up Jürgen’s time at the club…
It’s an iconic [photo]. I remember that game as if it was yesterday and I could probably name you the XI that played away at Spurs. I kind of fell into his arms. That was the beginning of what was an exciting five years. We’re speaking about five years, but I really do believe this is just the beginning of a big period for this football club that can really consolidate fighting for titles, fighting for championships, and that’s what I’d like nothing more than to happen – for them to continue their success and to be dominant all over Europe in the next two, three, four years.
There have been disappointments on the way for the team, one of them was the Europa League final in 2016 but in some ways now when you look back did that kind of set the tone for what the team went on to achieve in later European runs?
I think so, yes. I mean kind of looking back now, I didn’t realise how much of a success that would have been winning that Europa League. The manager’s first year, I mean if you look at the squad it was kind of a young, inexperienced squad and the manager hadn’t spent much in the transfer market in that first year. He kind of inherited a squad really. So, of course you learn from defeats. If there’s one thing you need to take from defeats it’s learn how to lose and you don’t want to be there again and it’s a great sign getting to finals. OK, there’s no guarantee to win a final but to win a final you need to get there and we were doing that consistently. So, obviously after Kiev it was ultra disappointing but the way we bounced back and won it in Madrid was remarkable but no surprise because of the group of men we’ve got in our dressing room.
In your third season the team got back into the Champions League and you obviously played a massive role in making that happen. Did that season really show that this team was beginning to move firmly in the right direction?
Definitely. The manager recruited very smartly in the transfer window. I think that might have been Sadio’s first year, maybe Gini’s. I’ve mentioned it before but even Ragnar Klavan coming in, Joel Matip, really solid signings that knew how the manager wanted to operate. Although there were steps back in that season, there were still probably more steps forward than more consistent dominant performances. So, that was a really enjoyable year and to get back into the Champions League was a huge success at that point.
You looked like you really enjoyed your football that season too…
Yeah, it was probably one of my better seasons for the club. I was fit consistently and I look back at that season and the last game of the season it was a big game [against Middlesbrough] and we needed to win to get back into the Champions League. That was the start of our journey back towards winning in Madrid really.
The following season it did end in disappointment in Kiev and the team has bounced back since in probably the best way possible, but we had such a good run to the final didn’t we, some really incredible nights…
We almost went into the Champions League as underdogs really and I could sense that the manager loved that. He knew so much about the Champions League and you almost see it in his personality and the way he spoke that he was delighted we were underdogs, because there would be no kind of pressure there. But he knew exactly how to operate, how to perform, how to set up. To kind of sit here, it’s easy to say but there’s no surprise that we went to back-to-back finals. Because of his experience and he probably knew how good we were and what challenges we had along the way.
To win it a year later, for you personally as a professional how did that feel to win what many believe to be the biggest trophy in club football?
Well, it’s the best, isn’t it? It’s the best European title there is to go for and to win it with the group of lads that have obviously achieved so much but then also felt so much heartache the season before, even going back two more seasons to the Europa League final. There are times when you do think, ‘Is it really meant to be?’ So when we won it, it’s a feeling that is hard to describe really. You grow up thinking about the Champions League [and] winning it. In 2005 everyone knows exactly where they were when they were watching that game and when Liverpool came back, so to kind of be a part of the team to achieve it again and then the next season go and do what we’ve done this season, it’s hard to believe really. It’s something I’m immensely proud of and feel a part of, because I do understand that although I’ve not played a huge role in the last couple of years I try to look at the bigger picture. From when I came to the club and now to when I’m leaving, I feel the club has progressed and I feel privileged and honoured to be a small part but definitely a part of that.
There was some footage that came out of the lads in Madrid on the pitch at the end of the game and towards the end of that footage you hear you speaking to your dad on the phone. Because we are fortunate enough to go on these trips and go around Europe with the team we’ve all seen your dad and your mum too on the trips, but to have him there in Madrid and be able to speak to him that must have been really special for you…
I can’t really remember the conversation. I think I was trying to look for him because I knew my lad wanted to come down onto the pitch. But to be able to have your family at big occasions like that is something at the time we probably take for granted because you’ve got so much going on. There’s obviously the iconic footage of Jordan hugging his old man and I know Jordan’s dad well. It was such raw footage and real raw emotion but that’s what happens when you have evenings like that and things like that are achieved. So, we are lucky enough that again for Wednesday night although there’s not going to be supporters there the club and the Premier League have managed to find a way to get our families into the ground. I don’t think people realise how important and such a cherished moment that will be. To have my mum and dad, wife and kids there at the game to be able to see me lift the trophy you just can’t put anything against that. When I realised we had the opportunity to invite our parents it’s something I probably took for granted but when you actually think of it, if my son became a Premier League champion and I wasn’t able to be there to see him lift it I’d be absolutely devastated. So it’s a great thing the commodities have managed to come together and grant us that special evening with important members of our family that are allowed to be there.
The manager recently described you as a Liverpool legend. I know you are too modest to agree with that but he is right because you’ll forever be remembered as part of a squad that won the Champions League and also ended that 30-year wait to bring the title back to Anfield. To have written your name into history in that way what does that mean to you?
Maybe he has gone a bit over the top there! But we are a group of legends, I can definitely see that. It’s not due to one or two individuals as why we have been so successful - it really is the infrastructure and the manager has created that. He’s recruited, he’s let people go when he’s saw fit or necessary, he’s moulded and created the culture that breeds throughout Melwood now. You only need to look at the young lads who are coming through. Neco Williams, Curtis Jones, Harvey Elliott, Sepp [Van den Berg], Ki-Jana [Hoever], I’ve trained a lot with them over the last two years, so I know what a good place Liverpool is in at the moment. I know how talented the young crop are that are coming through are going to be and how successful the Academy is going to be the future. Trent obviously came through the Academy as well. I do feel like I’ve had a bit of a part to play in that over the last couple of years. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed [it]; whilst obviously playing and competing for Liverpool, I’ve enjoyed mentoring the young lads and seeing them do well and progress and do well in training. That was me 10, 11, 12 years ago and it’s gone so fast. Life goes so quickly doesn’t it? I think it’s so important to try and get that message across to the young lads: enjoy every training session, learn from every training session because the career goes so quickly. My six years have gone in a flash. My two kids have grown up in Liverpool, it’s all they know. I’ve not just built friends and teammates here, I’ve built friends that I see as family forever and that’s where the sadness comes from. I’m not leaving Liverpool because you know, I [just] want to continue to play here and I’m sad about leaving, because it’s the right time for me to leave. I’m desperate for a new challenge, I’m desperate to play a bit more. I still feel like I’ve got two or three years left at the top. It’s more of the relationships that you create and in a week’s time I could be, I will be somewhere else and not seeing these people that I’ve fought for and fought with over the last six years. So that’s where the element of sadness comes, but I’m thoroughly excited by next challenge and what that will bring. Listen, I’m still going to be in communication with the majority of the boys and the boss, Carole and Caroline the sweet dinner ladies that we’ve got here that have looked after me for the past six years. There are good and bad sides of being a footballer and moving away, but it’s never nice to say goodbye is it really?
It goes without saying one of the people you will be in touch constantly with is Jordan Henderson. You are best friends and are very close, to see him now lifting trophies and getting the praise he deserves, how does that make you feel?
Having been with Jordan throughout the whole journey I’ve been lucky enough to be alongside him when he had his dark moments and couple of injuries that he’s had… and he’s also been alongside me in my dark moments, injuries. We always come back to injuries. It’s not just defeats that are dark moments, it’s injuries as well. That will be a constant battle for Premier League athletes throughout football, footballing careers, because you are just looking for answers. Why? Try harder, do this, do that. There is nothing that will guarantee you fitness. You’ve just got to keep working, keep doing your job, keep working. I’d like to think I’m going to end up being alongside Jordan when he’s lifting the Premier League title and it just makes everything worthwhile; those dark moments, the frustrations, not playing. There was one morning, because we used to drive in [together] me and Jordan a lot. We haven’t done lately obviously because of the situation [with coronavirus]. There was one game when we lost, well we drew 3-3 away to Sevilla. I say we lost because it felt like a defeat. I remember Jordan said to me, he must have wanted the conversation, ‘I’ll pick you up tomorrow’. I just remember he had his hood up and he kind of took the brunt of that result, took full responsibility. We were 3-0 up at half-time and it finished 3-3, and and just hearing him say as captain, ‘That can’t happen, I’ve got to be responsible and I’m responsible for that being a Liverpool captain.’ Just to hear how honest he was, I was thinking ‘Are you crazy to be taking that responsibility? It’s the team’s responsibility and we’ve not even lost the game.’ But, that just epitomises his selflessness and how much responsibility he takes for this football club in the bad moments. That’s not in the good moments, that’s the bad moments. So that’s why he deserves this more than anyone else. He deserves to be captain of Liverpool holding the four trophies in one season more than anyone else and no-one can take that away from him ever. Being not just his friend, but his teammate makes me so proud and privileged. Yes, it’s nice that our families are close and my kids are the same age as his kids, but more than anything him being my captain and being next to him on Wednesday when he lifts that Premier League trophy, there is nothing that makes me happier really.
What’s been the personal highlight of the last six years for you?
Wednesday night. The Champions League was amazing, don’t get me wrong, amazing. I didn’t feature much and obviously I had injury troubles that year but it was great that I got back to being on the bench [for the final] because we were allowed nine subs. So, that was amazing, don’t get me wrong… Barcelona and how that happened, but on Wednesday night I really do feel like I’ve contributed to this season. Maybe not all the time on the pitch but I’ve had important moments. My goal at Old Trafford was lovely, I enjoyed it, but there have been big moments as well coming off the bench seeing games out. It’s over the course of a season, so everyone plays their part. There’s a whole squad, a whole group of us that have played our part. I won’t be there on Wednesday [at Anfield] thinking I’m not sure if I deserve to be a part of it, I’ll be there knowing I’ve earned every bit of that and I’m going to thoroughly enjoy it and I can’t wait! What a way to go out!
How are you a different person to the lad that walked through the door six years ago, has Liverpool changed you in any way?
Yeah, definitely. When I came here I was the captain of Southampton. But I leave here now with so much more leadership qualities and experience than what I came here [with]. That’s partly down to how much I’ve learned under Jürgen - but not just Jürgen, how much I’ve learned because of my fellow teammates and how professional they are and how they keep pushing you to learn and to be better. Everyone can always be better and we are so lucky that we’ve got no egos in our squad. That’s what I’m kind of looking forward to taking into my next challenge wherever that is; try and install a mentality in the group to what is similar to what we’ve got at the moment at Liverpool because we are fortunate enough to be in and around this and grow with this mentality with this group of lads the last three or four years. You only need to look at the results and what it’s achieved.
What would you say to the fans?
Thank you so much for accepting me, especially in my first year when we all had quite difficult moments - the players, fans - but I really did feel straight away that the type of player I was – and am - they warmed to me. I always feel that if you show a good attitude and you work hard, they will always give you time and after the first tough season it felt like I improved the more I settled. When Jürgen came in we had a couple of great seasons to get us back to the Champions League. They’ve obviously stayed patient with me through my injuries and although I wish I could of on a personal note maybe contributed a little bit more, the end goal was always to come here to win medals and be part of a special group. That’s what we’ve done and we’ve achieved that together. It’s going to be unfortunate I won’t get a chance to properly say goodbye but I’m pretty sure I’ll be back at Anfield and hunting for three points against them, but I’m sure they’ll give me a nice welcome and it’ll be nice to say goodbye properly and I’m sure that will happen next season at some point.