Dejan Lovren leaves Liverpool with no regrets as the defender becomes a 'new supporter' after winning the Champions League and Premier League in his six years with the club.
It was announced on Monday – the anniversary of the Croatian’s arrival in 2014 – that he has brought an end to his Anfield stay and will now embark on a new challenge with Zenit St. Petersburg.
Lovren departs with the legacy of being a member of the Reds side that ended the 30-year wait for a league title, having won a sixth European Cup too the previous year.
In total, the centre-back made 185 appearances and scored eight goals during his time on Merseyside, experiencing difficult moments along the way but ultimately playing his part in the highest highs of the last 14 months.
Shortly after his transfer was confirmed on Monday, he spoke to Liverpoolfc.com via video call from Croatia to reflect on his Liverpool career and explain why this was the right time to say goodbye.
He discussed the key moments of an eventful spell, the impact of Jürgen Klopp, his close friendship with Mohamed Salah and why the success of recent seasons can be just a beginning for the current team.
Watch the interview below or scroll down to read a full transcript…
This must be an emotional time for you and an emotional few days – how are you feeling at the moment?
Yeah, like all these six years, it was emotional from the beginning until the end. The last couple of days especially now, I was feeling happy winning the Premier League with the team. On the other hand, I was feeling sad I’m leaving a big, big club with so many memories in my heart which I will keep forever. But I can be proud of everything I achieved with the club. I came [here] like a boy at 24, 25 with hopes and dreams to achieve something big at the club. I always said to myself, ‘I need to bring something back home and bring people happiness.’ At the end, I can say we made it together. That was a big journey for me that I will always carry forever in my heart.
How were your final few days at Melwood? Did you get chance to say goodbye to everyone properly?
Yes [but] I couldn’t catch the people from Melwood, unfortunately – people in the kitchen and people around. We didn’t see each other for a long time because of COVID-19. But I had the opportunity to say goodbye to every player and the coaching staff. It’s sad, you know. But I made a lot of friends there and I told them today Liverpool have one more supporter and he’s from Croatia.
What’s the mental process of a decision like this one you’ve taken? You’ll obviously have your reasons for wanting a new challenge but you’re leaving a club you’re so used to after six years, the Premier League champions and world champions. What are the pros and cons and balancing you’ve had to go through?
It was a big decision in my life, in the end. I have kids who are going to school there, I made a lot of friends in Liverpool and I’m not the type of player who wants to change every couple of years [to] somewhere else. But it was a decision that I took with an open heart and a clear mind. It was tough. But I think it was the right decision to go [out] on the top and look later on and tell myself it’s a good decision. I think I gave everything for the club, I don’t know if I could maybe give much more; I always gave everything, 100 per cent on the pitch. I have no regrets for anything that happened, even with some mistakes, with tears, with bad moments, bad games – everything happened for a reason. And it just made it even better now. So, I think I can be proud of everything.
There have been some lovely tributes to you from everyone at Liverpool, not least from your good friend Mo Salah. He has spent a lot of time winding you up but he says he loves you and you can really see he means it in that message he sent you…
Yeah, I saw it. I don’t want to show too many emotions because I’ve already been crying before the last game. They saw that I felt the emotions. Especially also leaving Mo, my good friend. It was something special but like I always said, it’s just the beginning of a big friendship, even when we’ll be far apart. He knows he can always call me for whatever reason, I’m always here for him. It’s not just Mo, it’s all the people at the club – the staff, medical staff. We’ve been like a big family, and this is why Liverpool is so big: because we care for each other. I wish everyone good luck and I want that they stay healthy. We will always be in touch.
Do you think your friendship was a symbol of the dressing room and the power of football? You come from different backgrounds, different places and play different roles on the pitch, and you’ve grown so close…
Yeah, 100 per cent. People can see what is also important in football, it’s about friendships inside and outside the dressing room – it’s not just let’s play football and be only teammates. I only use teammates as a word, but for me it’s different – they are my friends, who I need to cover their backs and they are covering my back. We are all in the same ship. People understand the friendship, especially for me and Mo, what it means. I can see a lot of positive comments and maybe a couple of years later we can be all together, proud of this achievement.
You leave us with a Premier League winner’s medal around your neck. How important was it and what did it mean to you to sign off in that way?
Incredibly proud. You cannot imagine the emotions I still have, especially from before the last game. Liverpool lifting the trophy, unfortunately not with our fans, but we know in our hearts they have been with us from day one. So, I will carry this forever. Forever. I can proudly say later to my grandkids that I played for Liverpool that year when Liverpool won the Premier League. This one will never be forgotten. So I’m really proud.
You’ve been here throughout the whole of Jürgen Klopp’s era, you were already here on day one. You’ll know as well as anyone the way he’s transformed this club. Is there one or several key factors you can put it down to, what he’s done for Liverpool?
Definitely – from my perspective, without Klopp it wouldn’t be the same. We can all agree with that. He changed our mentality, he changed our work ethic, he changed a lot. Not just football-wise; he also changed things around the club, he got the belief from the supporters and even in bad moments fans were sticking around always. It’s great to see that. I just cannot thank Jürgen enough for his support, he supported me not just in football, he supported me around my personal life. And I will never forget that. I had many problems and only he knew the problems. He was like a friend for me, like a dad, who I could come to and say all the problems. One day, we will look back and we can laugh all together and share good memories. This is what we’ll do.
What are your personal highlights over the six years? If you had to pick out one or two things that meant most to you?
Many of them. I would say all the finals we played, even the lost finals, it was a big dream come true. Even when we missed [out] and there were tears and everything. Especially the moments against Dortmund, I think every supporter will never forget that. Nights like Barcelona, even Kiev – though we lost it, that was the main part where we switched on another gear and then we made it next year in Madrid. And then especially all these trophies we won this year. And then the top of the [mountain] – the Premier League.
You mentioned Kiev – you predicted almost immediately afterwards that we’d be back the following season. It’s an easy thing to say but a much harder thing to do. Why were you so convinced we’d do it?
Because I’m still convinced it’s just the beginning of something big for the club. With the right manager and the right approach of the people behind the manager, all the club staff, and at the end the players, they are going in the right direction. I knew it straight away from that moment on that we are so strong that we can beat everyone. I wasn’t afraid to say that.
How did you deal with that summer in particular, because for a footballer it couldn’t really have got much tougher. You lost the Champions League final and then the World Cup final with Croatia – two huge near-misses. Was it more pride or disappointment for you?
It was definitely a big disappointment but I’m a guy who will always dig deeper after a bad thing, even if somebody tells me you cannot do it, I will try to do it. This is the mentality of the team also – ‘We didn’t do it the first time, but we’ll have another year to prove everyone wrong.’ That’s the great winning mentality of this club and this team. I’m leaving a big club and I’m proud of that.
Did that make the experiences of the last 12 to 18 months all the sweeter? You’ve had those lows, you’ve refused to give up and you’ve had your reward personally and with Liverpool with all these trophies in the last year…
Definitely, this is what was keeping us motivated from that moment when Klopp came. He said: ‘Guys, we will also have bad moments but don’t put your head down, put it high up and be proud, however you played. But give everything on the pitch.’ And that was important for us from day one. Supporters recognise that and this is how we’re doing. There will never be perfect days but when you give everything on the pitch you can always hold your head up high.
That’s certainly something nobody can dispute with you – your passion. You really have given it everything from day one, which coincidentally was six years ago today when you signed for the club…
It’s unbelievable. Six years, the Champions League was the sixth trophy for Liverpool, I wear the number six. A lot of sixes, there’s a reason. It’s a good moment to go and to look back without any regret, that was the most important thing for me. To give everything and that supporters can say I gave 100 per cent for this club, this means more than anything to me.
And you and the rest of the lads, whatever you all go on to do individually, you take your place in the Liverpool history books now – a first title for 30 years and Champions League winners…
It was always a dream to come here and leave some footsteps. This is what I said also in the beginning when I arrived, I didn’t come here just to play games, I’m here to leave some footsteps and to be recognised even 10, 15, 20 years later, people will still remember the Premier League, the season where everything was won. It’s fantastic to be just a part of this club and I will carry all these moments forever. I couldn’t do much more, I don’t know what to do more – that’s why I’m saying I’m really proud of that.
Finally, then, what’s your farewell message to the Liverpool fans?
I just want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for supporting me in bad moments, on the worst days, and in the best moments. You saw me crying, you saw me smiling but you know I left everything on the pitch. Also around the pitch I tried to be the best member of the club to show that I really care for the people, for the Liverpool supporters. I hope you are happy with that. Like I said, I will always be a Red – you have a new supporter now from Croatia. Thank you again and see you soon.