Jurgen Klopp criticised journalists for playing an “easy game” over his comments about Liverpool’s Champions League semi-final at Camp Nou and also slammed “s***” stories regarding his feelings towards Barcelona’s former Reds midfielder Philippe Coutinho.
In a pre-match interview with DAZN, the Liverpool manager recalled taking his squad to watch a 2016 Champions League match between Barcelona and Borussia Monchengladbach, in an attempt to assuage any fear factor surrounding playing at one of Europe’s most famous stadiums.
“It wasn’t a top game as such because Barcelona were pretty dominant, but it was important for the team to see that it was just a football stadium and not some sort of temple or something,” Klopp said.
This was construed as a slight in some quarters, including apparently by Barcelona’s social media team, who tweeted a video clip of Camp Nou that was captioned: “Our home. Our temple. Our fortress.”
At his pre-match news conference ahead of Wednesday’s keenly anticipated clash, Barca coach Ernesto Valverde dismissed the furore.
“What he meant by that is it’s just two goals and 22 players chasing after a football,” Valverde said.
Speaking after his opposite number, Klopp displayed clear exasperation when the matter was raised.
He said: “This is such a poor game, eh. Journalists…
“I have to give like 500,000 interviews before a game like this, you say something and they pick the word out and they say, ‘he said no temple of football!’.
“I say 500,000 positive things about Barcelona and you try to play that easy game and you try to make a big thing.
“I am a football fan much longer than I am [a coach], what could I say that is bad about this stadium?
“But it is still a stadium where you want to play football, good football, the best football we can play. That’s allowed and that’s why we try it.”
Klopp was similarly wary when asked about Coutinho, who has generally flattered to deceive since moving to Catalonia from Anfield for €160 million last January.
“I know a lot of people make s*** stories about that,” he said. “Yes, we miss Phil Coutinho a lot because he’s a world-class player.
“I loved working together with him but we’ve had to deal without him and we’ve done well. That’s all I can say about that. He’s a really good player.
“When I first heard he wanted to go to Barcelona, I couldn’t imagine that we would do this well without him but we did and it’s all good. For both sides.”