Jurgen Klopp congratulated Manchester City on their Premier League title, and then promised his side would be back.
“We will go again, 100 per cent,” Klopp said, acknowledging his team’s deep disappointment but insisting that they had not passed up their best chance of winning the league.
There were contrasting emotions at Anfield after the 2-0 victory against Wolves that sealed an unprecedented 97-point season, yet was rendered immaterial by City’s 4-1 win over Brighton.
“When you really want something, you have to feel the disappointment as well,” Klopp said. “We will go again. But it will take a few hours to get over.”
The achievement of being the Premier League’s greatest ever runners-up was not one Klopp wanted on his CV. The puzzle of how to topple a City side of such relentless, indomitable quality will likely consume him for most of the summer.
“As long as City are around, with the quality and financial power they have, no other team will pass them easily,” Klopp admitted. “That’s clear. So we need to be very, very close to perfection to win the Premier League.”
But mixed in with that was Klopp’s genuine sense of pride and achievement at a breakthrough season, and one that may yet end with silverware in the Champions League final.
“We have made unbelievably big steps, and I expect more to come,” Klopp said. “This team is not the finished article. We have to build again.
“Whatever happens in life, if you see it as the only chance you have, I feel sorry for you. The people who will tell us it’s now 30 years [since Liverpool last won the league], they have bigger problems.
“This is one of the best teams to play for Liverpool, 100 per cent. Ninety-seven points is incredible. And only because City is there, it’s not enough. In any other country, it would easily have been enough. These boys have my maximum respect.”
There were warm words for goalkeeper Alisson, who won the Golden Glove award for most clean-sheets.
For full-backs Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold, who broke the Premier League record for assists by defenders.
For Sadio Mane and Mo Salah, who both shared the Golden Boot with Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang, another of Klopp’s former charges at Borussia Dortmund.
“Auba scored twice at Burnley?” Klopp asked after being told the news. “Wow. All my players, huh! Do they have to make three golden boots…?”