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Jürgen Klopp’s baseless Everton comments contradict the nature of football rivalry

To claim next week’s derby is the Blues’ ‘World Cup final’ was classless from a man who thrives off these sort of matches

Liverpool FC v Manchester United - Premier League
Klopp could not contain himself after Liverpool’s last-gasp derby winner in December
Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

In July 1966, Goodison Park was spellbound by the mastery of the late Portuguese striker Eusébio, whose four goals almost single-handedly booked his country’s place in the World Cup semi-finals.

The Grand Old Lady has not hosted another match of the sport’s most prestigious tournament since that year when Bobby Moore lifted the Jules Rimet but, next Sunday, football finally comes home.

At least, in the world according to Liverpool manager, Jürgen Klopp.

With the Reds set to make the short trip across Stanley Park on March 3, Klopp had the temerity to suggest that the next installment of the Merseyside derby will be Everton’s ‘World Cup final’, a comment that not only insinuates a sense of misplaced arrogance, but is an affront to all that supporting your club should stand for.

Everton v Liverpool - Premier League
Klopp is unbeaten in his two visits to Goodison Park
Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images

Make no mistake, those in royal blue would derive great pleasure from denting Liverpool’s quest to end their longest title drought. In a sense, then, maybe Klopp is correct; of the 11 games left in Everton’s lamentable, aimless campaign, next Sunday’s probably has the most riding on it.

The understandable emotions of glee and relief among some fans at the recent loss to the Reds’ title rivals, Manchester City, epitomised how Liverpool’s name being inscribed onto the Premier League trophy would leave half of the city utterly broken.

But take bragging rights, pride, or the desire to end a nine-year wait for a derby win out of the equation for a moment. To suggest next weekend’s match matters far more to the Blues than Liverpool is a flawed argument considering Everton’s effectively season ended in January’s galling FA Cup fiasco at Millwall, whereas Klopp still has eyes on the big prize.

Everton v Liverpool - Premier League
Mikel Arteta scored in Everton’s last win over Liverpool in October 2010
Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

In terms of tangible reward, it is a far bigger game for the red half of town, just as Klopp would be mistaken to think Evertonians would rather see their side win next Sunday than triumph in either of their 2016 cup semi-final defeats.

Perhaps his disparaging remark could be forgiven had he swept aside all that had lay before him in his near-three-and-a-half years at the Anfield helm, presiding over an imperious dynasty with a glut of honours heading Liverpool’s way.

Yes, he is unbeaten in his seven matches against the Toffees, but his tenure has simulatenously yielded as little silverware as that of Roberto Martínez, Ronald Koeman, Sam Allardyce and Marco Silva at Everton combined.

The Reds have undoubtedly improved since he replaced Brendan Rodgers in October 2015 but, thus far, the trophy cabinet has nothing to show for it. So, exactly where does his own superiority complex stem from?

Above all else, though, the German has immersed himself long enough in the game to know that rivalries mould football into the tribalistic showpiece we know and love. Remember, of course, his bellowing after Liverpool were 3-0 winners over City in March 2016; not at his own side’s excellent victory, but at the fact the Bayern Munich, so often the scourge of his former club, Borussia Dortmund, had lost that same night.

Borussia Dortmund v FC Bayern Muenchen - UEFA Champions League Final
Klopp’s Dortmund came up short to Bayern in the 2013 Champions League final
Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

If beating Everton were as inconsequential to him as he alluded to, would he have leapt hysterically across the Anfield turf and into his goalkeeper’s arms after Divock Origi’s fortuitous last-minute derby decider in December, a game few would deny the visitors merited at least a draw from?

Would an incandescent Klopp have belittled every interviewer who dared to disagree with his incontrovertible belief that Dominic Calvert-Lewin did not deserve the penalty he earned the Blues in last season’s corresponding fixture, which ended a point apiece?

And what would he make of his own fans; the ones who, like him after Origi’s goal, soared on to the pitch and let off pyrotechnics in delight after Mané’s 94th-minute winner sent the Goodison away end into ecstasy two seasons ago?

Everton v Liverpool - Premier League
Liverpool fans and players erupted in joy at Sadio Mané’s derby winner two years ago
Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Ultimately, the sport trades off the sort of enmity that splits Merseyside in half, and nobody, Klopp included, would have it any other way. Not the sort which manifested itself in hideously violent fashion in Everton’s defeat at The Den last month, but a healthy, civil disliking of one another, engraved in football vernacular.

Indeed, the day supporters morph into clones of Matt Dawson, the former rugby player and Evertonian whose baffling tweet of joy at the Reds reaching the Champions League final last May was rightly chastised by Blues, the sport will lose its soul.

So, while there is no need for Baddiel and Skinner, vuvuzelas or 4-4-f*****g-2 next Sunday, forgive us, Jürgen, because nine years of hurt has never stopped us dreaming.