NewsJürgen Klopp's UCL messages of thanks to Nat Phillips and Rhys Williams
Jürgen Klopp has explained why Nathaniel Phillips and Rhys Williams were among the first people he messaged when Liverpool advanced to the Champions League final.
A 3-2 comeback victory at Villarreal last month completed a 5-2 aggregate win for the Reds and set up a showpiece meeting with Real Madrid in Paris on May 28.
Klopp’s side’s third appearance in the European Cup decider in the past five seasons was only made possible by a late surge to qualify for the competition via their Premier League position last term.
A 10-match unbeaten finish to 2020-21 earned Liverpool third place and a Champions League berth, with Phillips and Williams crucial contributors.
The Academy graduates forged a vital partnership in central defence after the Reds lost Joe Gomez, Joel Matip and Virgil van Dijk to long-term injuries, and on-loan Ozan Kabak missed the final stages of the run-in.
And the pair’s efforts were immediately in the manager’s mind at Estadio de la Ceramica when, a year later, his team reached the Champions League final.
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“I messaged Rhys Williams and Nat Phillips because we wouldn’t be there without them," Klopp told Sky Sports News this week.
“I remember the final game of last season and they left the pitch with a bandage around the head, cuts on their faces, and that was really a symbol for the whole period. We went through on one leg, with one eye… it was incredible. It was such a tough season.”
The boss continued: “Hopefully nobody forgot how hard we fought to get here. We felt it mentally. The public wasn’t shy of telling us that we underperformed and all these kind of things.
“You try to understand, you think, ‘Wait a minute, we’re facing teams in the strongest league in the world having played for the majority of the time without our full defence.’ We had no centre-halves, had to play midfielders in the last line, then had to use other players in midfield and nothing worked really.
“In the end, we played with two incredible players – Rhys and Nat – but we couldn’t use them earlier because they needed time to adapt. So, yes, there was a bit of a point to prove and I’m really happy that the boys did that.”