Jürgen Klopp spoke glowingly about ‘four Liverpool legends’ ahead of an emotional Anfield farewell for Roberto Firmino, Naby Keita, James Milner and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
It was announced earlier this week that the quartet will depart the club upon the expiry of their contracts this summer and, therefore, Saturday’s meeting with Aston Villa will be their final home game as Reds players.
Tributes will be paid to Firmino, Keita, Milner and Oxlade-Chamberlain post-match and, during his press conference on Friday, Klopp said: “This game is super-difficult for different reasons.
“We spoke already with the boys earlier this week about it: it’s super-important for us and it’s kind of super-emotional as well for different reasons because we really say goodbye to, from my point of view, four Liverpool legends.
“Because two of them were here when I arrived, Millie and Bobby obviously, and nothing would have happened, all the good things in the last few years, without them – that is clear. Ox came in pretty early then Naby came in.
“Ox was just unlucky in moments, injuries, bad injuries in absolutely the wrong moment. I remember the game against Roma when he got badly injured and I had no clue how to sort that situation, he was that good and pretty much irreplaceable in that moment. That was obviously really hard but besides that he is a fantastic guy and was super-important for the team over the whole period.
“When people think about Naby, it’s probably as well a few too many injuries in that time but when you look back at important games you will realise how often he played in super-important games for us and how often he performed in these games.
“So, all four won pretty much each available trophy and we love them. That’s true as well but it’s professional football and nothing is forever, nothing is for eternity, that’s how it is.
“There is always a moment and it’s a good moment because it means one chapter will be closed and we can start writing a new one – that’s good as well, for them and for us. But there will be no forgetting from us, 100 per cent not.
“I will be forever thankful to them because how I said, without them nothing would have happened. They were super-important in all that they did and that’s the farewell they deserve.
“We have to be ready for a proper battle. Aston Villa are fighting for European football, we do that as well, so it’s our last home game, the crowd will be ready, has to be ready for the game first because we can celebrate the boys afterwards.
“Everyone should stay, it will be great, it will be absolutely emotional, 100 per cent. But before we have 90-odd minutes to fight and that’s what we have to do.”
The manager was later asked if he could sum up their contribution to the club and replied: “No, we don’t have enough time. We don’t have enough time and what I don’t like as well – and I’m pretty sure that Millie and Bobby wouldn’t like it as well – is if we forget Ox and Naby. I really would like to ask our people tomorrow to not forget that.
“You can imagine Bobby, my God, how much I love the guy, and that he has the Bobby Firmino song and stuff like this is 100 per cent deserved. But we have time if we want until Monday to give them all the farewell they deserve, that’s really important.
“I think in the last seven-and-a-half years, Bobby and Millie, if you don’t know yet what I think about them then you just have to go back and read it. My English is not good enough to really express my respect for them.
“But that’s the same for Ox and Naby, to be honest, for different reasons. In the football world we all talk about the first line-up and stuff like this… Millie played an incredible number of games, I think I am the manager he played most often for in this insane career. I’m not sure there will be another manager where he will play for more often so maybe I won that race. Probably the same for Bobby.
“Ox came here as a young talent for me, he was already kind of settled at Arsenal, was a big talent at Arsenal, and became here a father, a grown-up man, a great character, a really good guy. Naby, everybody knows we spent a lot of money, there were a lot of expectations there of course and because of injuries in the wrong moment he could not fulfil all of them, but a lot of them [he did].
“Go back and look at big, big games – the goals he scored, the games he played and the football he could play in his good moments. I wish them just all the very best, that they just find a place where they are as much respected as here, and needed and find their luck again because they had a lot in the last few years and I hope they can do that again.”