On September 11 and 12, 2001, there were due to be Champions League fixtures across Europe. Our writers — who were covering three of the matches — look back at what happened…
Real Mallorca vs Arsenal, Group C, September 11
David Seaman went into his hotel room, picked up the remote control, and started flicking through the channels, hoping to find anything watchable to pass the time before Arsenal’s first Champions League game of the season. Match-day preparations for away fixtures always followed the same schedule. Manager Arsene Wenger liked his players to go through a stretching routine in the morning, then have a meal and go back to their rooms for a rest before reconvening later in the afternoon.
“I put the TV on and it was just Spanish channels, so I couldn’t really understand it,” goalkeeper Seaman recalls. “I could see this tower burning. I was trying to figure it out. I swear, as I was looking at it, that’s exactly when the second plane hit the second tower. I thought it was a clip from a movie. It was too unbelievable. When it dawned on me that it was real, it was hard to know what to do. It was so horrible to watch. You start thinking of the people who were in the towers. The TV pictures were fixed on live events and showed everything. We could see people jumping out of the building. Oh my god.”
Arsenal were in Palma on the day of 9/11. Their hosts, Real Mallorca, were Champions League debutants. It was lunchtime in Spain on a day that felt like one of those almost-perfect away trips — beautiful late-summer warmth, lovely food, a new stadium to tick off — when news began to spread about atrocities so extreme it was an attack on humanity itself. Arsenal’s directors were in a restaurant close to the beach when Danny Fiszman’s phone rang. Mobile communication was much more rudimentary in those days so there was no internet at the touch of a button, no app alerts, just a call or a text message.
On the other end of the line was one of Fiszman’s relatives — a New Yorker. “Are you watching the news?” The voice down the end of the phone relayed the basic details. “I just wanted you to know that, when you do see the news, I’m OK.” Lunch was curtailed and Arsenal’s senior figures returned to their hotel to watch, horrified, the footage unfolding on their TV screens.
Versions of the same scene were being replicated in restaurants and bars across the city as word spread to the fans who had travelled to the Mediterranean island for the game. Miles Saward, from Sport Options, was used to arranging for groups to criss-cross Europe and beyond as a travel operator specialising in sporting events. Even though he had supporters of Hibernian and Manchester United on the move to Athens that same day (both clubs were due to play in Greece that week), as an Arsenal supporter he had chosen to accompany the trip to Mallorca instead. A busman’s holiday of sorts.
“I was at a bar, watching the news like probably everyone else somewhere in the world,” he remembers. “I felt sick. The Marriott which was under the World Trade Centre had been reduced to rubble, and we had stayed there. We had a lot of people for Lennox Lewis vs Evander Holyfield at Madison Square Garden not that long before. We used that hotel. We had about 400 people in there. Fuck. It was so eerie.
“I started getting these vague messages that all international flights would be grounded.” Saward felt responsible for the 200 people he had brought to Mallorca for the game, plus those heading to Greece. Quite apart from the logistics, he couldn’t face going to the Arsenal match. It felt somehow immoral.
David Miles was Arsenal’s club secretary. He had been at lunch with the directors and as soon as he returned to the hotel he got in touch with the UEFA representatives and venue director to find out what was going on. His first thought — and the thought of many — was that their game, and all games, would be called off. “The venue director told me he was in touch with UEFA HQ — because they don’t do anything unless it is cleared by Nyon. A little later, I got a call back to let us know all the games were going ahead.” Even reflecting on it now, the shock at the decision still reverberates. Miles takes a deep breath and his voice carries that same disbelief he felt on the day. “‘Really…?’ It did seem strange, after something so horrific, to think football must go on.”
UEFA instructed there should be a minute’s silence at all matches but otherwise clubs were ordered to go on as normal. “We were advised there could be more security issues and problems if we postponed,” a UEFA spokesman explained. ”We took the decision that there should be a minute’s silence to show respect but recognised that, at an advanced stage of preparations, the games should go ahead.”
“I let everyone know at our end,” Miles continues. “I told Arsene, from a team point of view. We had to talk to our travel people. Because the towers had gone down, there was a sense that this could happen to other targets around the world. Canary Wharf (a 770ft — 235m — office building in London), for example, could have been a target. We looked into landing the charter (flight back to the UK) outside the London area, because of concerns about the air space around London. Even as late as during the game we were taking calls about the logistics and possibilities. The team were not aware of the background conversations, we didn’t want to unsettle them any more than the case already by telling them we might not fly back tonight.”
Seaman explains how it is for players, even in the most unusual circumstances. What you feel, what you want, gets suppressed. “It was hard to focus on the game,” he says. “This was a major incident in the world and that was obvious. But as a player you have to wait for a decision, you have to wait for the authorities. Players are used to being told what to do. We were told it was going ahead and we had to play. We had to switch our minds to player mode and try to do our job.”
Lauren, Arsenal’s right-back, says the club tended to try to protect the players as a matter of course: “I couldn’t believe that America, the most secure country in the world, could have that security broken so easily. It did not seem possible. But as players, we didn’t talk about it. Wenger always tried to take the pressure off the team. The staff did not extrapolate their worry into us. We were in a kind of bubble. I tried to concentrate on the game.” The more profound thoughts would come later.
For the record, Arsenal lost 1-0. Ashley Cole conceded a penalty and was sent off early on. While mindful that this was an unprecedented situation with no rules about how to behave, it is bizarre to now read a match report from the time which focuses on the details of the game before mentioning the events of the day only in the final couple of paragraphs. “I bet there was not a player on the pitch who had not thought about what had happened that afternoon while they were playing,” Seaman says. “It’s not often that you feel a match doesn’t mean anything. But in that scenario, it didn’t. It’s a feeling I never experienced again and I never will. I don’t want to…” His voice trails off.Ashley Cole trudges off after his red card in Arsenal’s loss to Real Mallorca (Picture: Laurence Griffiths/Allsport)
Miles remembers the atmosphere inside the stadium being strangely sombre and disconnected from normality. “Someone asked me afterwards what was the game like, and I couldn’t tell them,” he says. “ I couldn’t tune into it at all. It got totally glossed over.”
Saward was waiting outside the ground for the fans on the Sport Options trip to come out. “We had coaches going back to the airport, and everyone was crowding around, some shouting, some not shouting, some saying, ‘Let him speak’. I do have that recall of absolute fear, and trying to be calm for everyone. ‘What am I going to say?’ ‘If we can’t go home, what are we going to do?’
“There are all sorts of bods around Arsenal. It is one of those clubs where people just know stuff. People were saying, ‘You are definitely not getting out tonight, what are you going to do?’, there were people who thought we were going to get shot down. It was a mad night. It was dramatic. It was a real moment, wherever you were and whatever you were doing, and we happened to be trying to get on an aeroplane a few hours after the attacks, which was very surreal.”
On the runway, the fans boarded their plane in total silence. Some were praying. Some were close to tears. Some were palpably struggling to keep calm. Saward did not even know if the flight would take off even as the doors closed. “I was in the cockpit with the pilot and co-pilot, and they genuinely did not know if we would leave or not. We were waiting on the tarmac for an hour or so. Suddenly, they got the nod. We had clearance to take off. We had to fly at lower altitude than normal to get back as quickly as possible. We must have been one of the last planes flying before they grounded all flights,” he remembers. There was a panic mid-flight as their path took them through an electrical storm and with all the fear some people wondered if they could see bombs in the sky.
“When we landed,” he recalls, “everyone was grateful.”
Seaman still wonders why they played that awful day. UEFA’s reasoning was that it was too late to call off the games on the Tuesday night without any contingency for what to do with all the teams, fans and delegations who had travelled. But they did postpone all football that week from then onwards. UEFA’s chief executive, Gerhard Aigner, explained how the governing body felt it was “right that the European football family should respect the loss and suffering now being felt by those families who have lost their loved ones by postponing all games scheduled to be played this week”.
Many from Arsenal wished the same had happened when they were asked to carry on at a time when nobody really wanted to play or watch sport. “Nothing of that magnitude had happened before in our lifetimes,” says Seaman. “When they cancelled the rest of the Champions League games the next day, I wondered why they didn’t act quicker for us. It was not the right way to go about things.”
Liverpool vs Boavista, Group B, September 11
For Liverpool, it was supposed to be a red-letter day. There had been a few of those already in 2001 — putting the frustration of the 1990s behind them as they won the League Cup, FA Cup and UEFA Cup finals in the space of three heady months — but for manager Gerard Houllier, his players and the supporters, there was a real significance to their long-awaited return to the European Cup stage.
This was not just Liverpool’s first campaign of the competition’s Champions League era. It was their first since their defeat by Juventus in a 1985 European Cup final overshadowed by the Heysel Stadium tragedy. Liverpool had been banned from European competition for six years — other English clubs for five years — as punishment for the hooliganism that culminated in tragedy at that final in Belgian capital Brussels.
Their return to Europe in the 1990s brought a succession of humbling experiences: knocked out of the UEFA Cup by Genoa, Brondby and Celta Vigo, and from the old Cup Winners’ Cup by Spartak Moscow and Paris Saint-Germain. On other occasions, they missed out on European qualification altogether. Liverpool had been left behind, so winning the UEFA Cup and then finally reaching the Champions League felt crucial in terms of prestige, never mind finance.
At his pre-match press conference, Houllier looked ahead with a sense of pride and excitement at being “back into the major competition” after such a long time. In his column in the match programme, he said the visit of Portugal’s Boavista would make for a special night at Anfield.Liverpool players line up as the Kop watches on, just hours after the terrorist attacks in New York (Photo: David Davies – PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)
“It had been hugely hyped,” one Liverpool executive from that era recalls. “There had been such a big build-up. Even for us as officials, it was a big step up from the other competitions. There had been a lot of excitement within the club. But it was rendered completely irrelevant by the ghastly things that were happening in the world that day.”
For Liverpool’s players, the usual routine before an evening match at Anfield was to meet for lunch at a local hotel, then go for a couple of hours’ sleep and relax before meeting again for their pre-match meal during the afternoon.
It didn’t work out like that at the Moat House hotel that day.
Some of the players drifted off to sleep quickly enough, but others turned on the TV and were stunned by the news that was filtering through from New York. Defender Jamie Carragher recalls he slept first and then, upon waking up, was directed to the news channels. Others didn’t sleep at all, either because they were watching the harrowing coverage or because, having done so, they were so horrified they couldn’t get what they had seen out of their minds.
Carragher says it was all he and his team-mates were talking about when they reconvened at the pre-match hotel. If there were any discussions about whether the match would go ahead, they took place through chief executive Rick Parry and club secretary Bryce Morrison. The players were sheltered from any such discussions, but not from the horrifying reality of events across the Atlantic.
A personal recollection is of walking into the press room at Anfield beforehand and seeing every journalist huddled around a TV, watching in stunned silence. The usual small talk and airy chit-chat was abandoned. Then, on heading up into the press box maybe 10 minutes for kick-off, you were struck by the number of empty seats in the ground and the lack of crowd noise. Anfield would usually be raucous on a big European night. Not that night.
Carragher recalls the atmosphere was “weird”. Jorge Silva put Boavista ahead inside three minutes and, whereas an early goal for the opposition would usually rouse the Anfield support into pumping up the volume, the atmosphere that night remained flat. Michael Owen equalised on the half-hour, but the game simply petered out towards a 1-1 draw in the second half.
Looking back, it seems incongruous that there was a minor squabble between the managers afterwards. Boavista had seven players booked, but their coach Jaime Pacheco blamed Liverpool for what he considered an over-zealous approach, saying, “We came here to play football, not rugby. Compared to Liverpool, we are not well endowed physically. We could have been massacred by some of their challenges.” Houllier disagreed, saying his players were “strong and physical”, but never excessively so.
Gary McAllister said a few days later that, unlike some, he didn’t feel the events in New York affected him for the simple reason that, despite having spent the afternoon watching the TV coverage with room-mate Nick Barmby, “the vastness had yet to register”. Had they been playing the following evening, he would have found it more difficult because by then “the full significance had sunk in — and there was a need to show respect”.
Perhaps Houllier put it best, reflecting later in the week that the game should not have taken place.
“If you don’t have that drive and desire to win the game, there’s not much point in playing,” he said. “At the end of the night, a journalist wrote that a draw was the right result because no one would have wanted to celebrate. I agreed with that. No one had the heart to celebrate.”
Olympiakos vs Manchester United, Group G, September 12
It was Steve Curry, one of the journalists who regularly covered Manchester United in those days, who broke the news to Sir Alex Ferguson. We had just arrived at Athens airport. Ferguson had agreed to do his usual interview by the luggage carousel with the journalists who travelled alongside the team on their foreign excursions.
“Apparently, a plane’s gone into the Twin Towers, Alex.”
Ferguson wanted to know more. He asked if it was a light aircraft and we did not know. He remembered there had once been a freak accident that took a plane into another New York landmark, the Empire State Building. But nobody really knew any more. So the tape recorders went on and his interview started.
He was on good form, too. On the Saturday, United had beaten Everton 4-1 at Old Trafford. Midfielder Juan Sebastian Veron had put on a masterclass and, in the match-day programme that day, the more observant readers might have noticed newly-signed Laurent Blanc’s face had been superimposed over Jaap Stam’s in the official team photograph. Centre-back Stam had been sold, controversially, two weeks earlier.
On the morning of September 11, United were flying into Greece to play Olympiakos the following day in their first Champions League group match of the 2001-02 campaign. The final that season was to be at Hampden Park in Glasgow, and Ferguson was becoming irritated by the media narrative that he might lift the trophy in the city where he grew up.
“Some bloody idiot with a television camera has just come up to me asking about it,” he growled. “I’m fed up listening to it all.”
It was, he said, in danger of becoming “an albatross” and it felt like a warning to all the journalists in his company that he wasn’t going to tolerate the same question being put to him before every Champions League game.
We changed the subject to talk about Veron’s mastery of the ball. Ferguson was just as effusive about Blanc and seemed surprised to learn it was going to be the first time the Frenchman had ever played in the Champions League. And there was a classic Ferguson put-down when he was told David O’Leary, his Leeds United counterpart, had said the decision to move out Stam to Lazio could cost him the European Cup. “What can I say?” Ferguson responded, in his most dismissive tone. “I am only 60, after all.”
He ushered us away with the usual fond farewell — “away, and write yer shite” — and the players were on their bus to the team hotel when the news came through about a second plane going into the World Trade Center’s other tower.
Fabien Barthez, United’s France international goalkeeper, heard about it first. He was dating supermodel Linda Evangelista, a New York resident at the time. She had rung Barthez, who was sitting at the back of the bus, and the other players could see from his reaction that something serious had happened.
Barthez did not speak perfect English, and that added to the confusion. But his voice was raised and he was unusually animated. Very soon, the other players were huddled around him, trying to find out more information, taking in the news. Ferguson heard the commotion and walked down the aisle to the back of the coach.
In ordinary circumstances, the players would have had a bit of lunch at their hotel and spent the afternoon resting in their rooms before travelling to the Olympic Stadium for a training session that evening.Fabien Barthez, seen here training the night before the eventually-postponed match with Olympiakos, was the first Manchester United player to hear about the terrorist attacks (Photo: Matthew Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images)
These, of course, were not ordinary circumstances.
When the players arrived at their hotel, they did not even check in before heading to a downstairs lounge that was showing the horrors unfold on rolling 24-7 news. Ferguson and all the coaching staff joined them. There was no Twitter at the time. But in those moments, nobody needed it. Thirty, maybe 40, people were gathered around one small television.
“I’ll never forget what we saw,” says one player.
Back in Manchester, United chairman Martin Edwards was going about his usual business.
“I was in my office,” Edwards tells The Athletic. “I took a call from my stockbroker. ‘Have you got a television in front of you?’. There was one in the next room. He said, ‘Turn on the television – now!’”
United’s supporters had already begun arriving in Athens. Many had flown in the morning and knew nothing about what had happened until they touched down and switched on their phones.
Others had flights out from the UK booked for the Tuesday evening and half-expected they would be stopped from taking off. Hibernian were also due to play AEK Athens in the first round of the UEFA Cup on the Thursday, and the Scottish club’s followers were arriving in the Greek capital.
“We were on one of the last flights out of Gatwick airport,” says Kerry Davies, one of the United fans on the trip. “I’d been watching everything unfold on television during the day and when we got to the airport we weren’t even sure the flights were going to leave. It was just a really weird atmosphere, from start to finish.”
Edwards had stepped down as United’s chief executive a year earlier and that meant it was his successor, Peter Kenyon, who liaised with UEFA and the travel authorities about what would happen next. Ferguson’s pre-match press conference was cancelled, and the Tuesday night training session curtailed.
The decision to call off the match was officially relayed in a statement from UEFA headquarters the following morning and Kenyon made it clear United backed the decision. Football, he said, felt “irrelevant” in the context of what had happened in New York and Washington, DC.
Olympiakos, however, were unhappy with UEFA’s stance. “We are very, very upset,” said a spokesman for the Greek champions. “This cancellation changes all our plans.”
If that sounds terribly callous, it is worth remembering it was one of those occasions when the football authorities all seemed to have a different idea about the best course of action. The Football League went ahead with their midweek League Cup matches. FIFA also opted against postponing international matches in Asia the following weekend. But UEFA had been heavily criticised for going ahead with the Champions League matches the night before.
It was different for the Wednesday night games (the UEFA Cup fixtures scheduled for the Thursday were also called off) and, as soon as the announcement was made, United set about trying to find out when they would be allowed to fly back to the UK.
Every player got a knock at their hotel-room door to be informed that a team meeting had been arranged downstairs. They had already guessed what it would be: Ferguson was waiting for them. He told them their game was off and that they would be returning to Manchester as soon as it could be arranged.
The Olympiakos game was eventually played on October 10 and United decided at some point to make a financial gesture to all the supporters who had travelled for the original date. Every fan who had bought a ticket was given £150 in compensation to help cover their travel costs.
First, though, United had to arrange with the relevant authorities how to get Ferguson and his players safely back to England.
Many of the players on their flight out of Athens were keen to get home but, at the same time, anxious about being in the air in the circumstances. The players talked between themselves about whether they, too, might be a target for terrorists.
Ferguson was in his usual position — front row, aisle seat — beside his coaches and the directors but, for once, he did not have a book with him to read. The players were a few rows back and the journalists were at the back of the plane. Security was at its highest level. And it was quiet.
Usually, the mood on those trips would be quite upbeat, as long as United had not lost. Not that day, though. The plane took off and everyone sat there in near-silence.
Arsenal’s players line up for a minute’s silence ahead of their Champions League game with Real Mallorca on September 11, 2001 (Top photo: Laurence Griffiths/Allsport; graphic: Sam Richardson)
Jurgen Klopp continues to be frustrated by the lack of club, player and management involvement over significant decisions in the game, including international exploits.
Despite serious concerns over player welfare and at a time when the pandemic is still very much ongoing, the players are the ones who are being forced to take the brunt of the punishment.
Whether Alisson and Fabinho are free to play remained unknown by Friday afternoon, even after one of Brazil’s games had to be cancelled and in the knowledge that a 10-day quarantine would be enforced on their return to the UK.
Klopp remains bemused by the absurdity of the situation and the various international rules that need to be currently navigated.
“When the discussions came up before this last international break were with all clubs in Europe, and they all had the same opinion,” Klopp told reporters.
“But they didn’t have all the same problems.
“Because Brazil is for sure a red-list country for England, but it is not a red-list for Germany and I don’t think it is for France, so it’s not the same problem.
“But a problem, in general, is that we are not involved in all these kinds of decisions.
“We will see now, probably all footballers say we don’t need a World Cup every two years but it might happen anyway!
“So it’s like ‘okay, why did you ask if you are not interested in the opinion.’
“So it was not the same problem for all leagues because Brazil is not for all countries on the red-list, like England is, by the way, is for Brazil as well.
“But it’s funny enough because a Brazilian player can go to Brazil, I think, [from England] and would not have to be quarantined but an Argentinian player who is going to Brazil from England has to quarantine.
“Interesting! That’s why they cancelled the game, I don’t get this kind of thing but it is how it is.”
The manager did not hide his thoughts on the matter as he spoke to the press, having also taking aim at FIFA, but wanted to stress that any ban for his players cannot be used as an excuse at Leeds.
“My personal opinion in nobody should be banned because there is no solution for us to get around that,” Klopp added on the Brazil situation.
“In the game between Brazil and Argentina, because the Argentinian players came to Brazil and were in the last 10-14 days in England they should have quarantined there.
“So as long as all the countries use their own rules we will not get out of that.
“If they cannot play, we will go [to Leeds] and will not use it as an excuse and use our best players. It’s not right.”
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp cannot understand why England boss Gareth Southgate wants to use the "best right-back in the world" Trent Alexander-Arnold as a midfielder.
With a plethora of right-sided defenders at his disposal, the national team boss decided to shoehorn the 22-year-old into the side for the World Cup Qualifier against Andorra in a more advanced position.
It was an experiment that lasted just 45 minutes before Alexander-Arnold was restored to his preferred role where he looked much more comfortable and threatening.
Klopp has been forced to play the academy graduate in midfield on a couple of occasions when injuries bit deep into his squad, although not since May 2018, but he had no intention to revisit the plan.Image: Alexander-Arnold played in midfield for England against Andorra
And speaking ahead of Liverpool's Sky Sports Super Sunday clash against Leeds, Klopp said he thinks Southgate got it wrong in more ways than one against Andorra.
"In this game, in a game where England are that dominant for example, or that we are that dominant that Trent could play in midfield, I would rather he was the six than in this case the eight," said Klopp.Sunday 12th September 4:00pm Kick off 4:30pm
"That is possible but why would you make the best right-back in the world a midfielder? I don't understand that really.
"As if the right-back position is not as important as the others. People who say that I struggle to understand how you could think that."Former England internationals Stephen Warnock and Sue Smith analyse whether Alexander-Arnold's positional switch to midfield worked.
Alexander-Arnold plays a key role in Liverpool's attacking options and the numbers he has posted since establishing himself as first-choice right-back at Anfield are testament to that.
In 132 Premier League appearances he has scored eight goals and provided 34 assists but the majority of those (32) have come in the last three seasons, and in the club's title-winning campaign of 2019-20 only Manchester City playmaker Kevin De Bruyne created more goals.
"If you watch our games then you will see that Trent's position has already changed," added Klopp.
"Not in all the games but in games where it is possible, so there is no need to now make him a midfield player.
"It is a little bit a shame that we talk in 2021 like this about football. Players play everywhere, especially good players.Highlights of the World Cup qualifying group I match between England and Andorra from Wembley.
"Trent on the right wing was already everywhere on the pitch. Some people think that because he plays 10 yards further up the pitch he would be more influential.
"Being more influential than Trent Alexander-Arnold in the last, I don't know, how many years he has played for me is really tricky.
"It would mean I would have to have a proper look to find somebody.
"He plays the right position, we adapt and try and use his skills absolutely, but in the end the right-back is the one who defends the right side and he is doing that really well.
"All the rest when we have the ball, we use him as good as we can."
The Reds remain unbeaten after the opening three games, with Leeds next up – who have yet to collect their first three points of the new campaign.
The last visit to Elland Road was one marred by the Super League chaos and many had questioned if the 1-1 draw would mean anything by season’s end.
Now, there is no uncertainty and Klopp’s men will need to find their rhythm without delay against a well-drilled Marcelo Bielsa outfit in what is the first game of six in the space of 16 days.
Injuries and a ban for his two Brazilians means Klopp has a few problems to solve at Elland Road.Team news
The latest team news ahead of Liverpool‘s trip to Leeds is as follows:Liverpool’s XI vs. Leeds IF Brazilians allowed
A lot will hinge on the conclusion of the ban for the Brazilians, with two key players in limbo and time swiftly not on Liverpool‘s side.
It would see the Reds lineup like this in west Yorkshire:
If the five-day ban remains in place for our No. 1 and No. 3, however, Klopp will need to shuffle his pack to cover their absence against an energetic Leeds:
It would see Klopp send out his side like this:
Kelleher; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson, Thiago, Elliott; Salah, Mane, Jota
It’s a bewildering position Liverpool find themselves in as they are at the mercy of the Brazilian FA standing down or those in air-conditioned offices making sure common sense prevails.
The Reds will be greeted by an electric atmosphere and it is important a busy month of action starts off on the right note, so politics will need to be put to one side and a Sunday afternoon ending with a victory.
Liverpool are preparing for a Sunday afternoon showdown with Leeds United, the backdrop of which remains a ridiculous international break with players forced to sit out the match.Jurgen Klopp takes aim at Fifa again
The boss has never been one to mince his words, nor hide his utter disdain for the lack of attention to players’ welfare shown by the game’s governing bodies.
Klopp has reiterated his stance that Fifa simply “don’t care” about the players and insisted finances remain the only factor Fifa take into account.
His press conference also took aim at the absolute nonsense around the Brazilian players not being allowed to feature (so far!) this weekend and how footballers are the ones being punished.
Here we listed the six key points Klopp discussed, often in passionate terms.End of the internationals
Latest Liverpool FC news
Does anyone else believe that Klopp and current squad can get numbers 20 and 7 in the bag? I 100% do …
— St John Handclap?? #freethenorth (@StJohnHandclap) September 10, 2021
Tonight’s the return of domestic action. Birmingham vs Derby, anyway. Or Lorient vs Lille? Or just get ready for a busy weekend.
Team news, stats and prediction ahead of Leeds vs Liverpool in the Premier League on Sunday; kick-off 4.30pm.Team news
Leeds United have Stuart Dallas available despite the Northern Ireland midfielder withdrawing from international duty for personal reasons.
Daniel James could make his Leeds debut at Elland Road, while Mateusz Klich and Junior Firpo have recovered from Covid-19, but the involvement of Raphinha remains dependant on his ban for not being released for international duty being lifted.Leeds United manager Marcelo Bielsa says the club made the right decision to sign Daniel James and the Welsh winger will be available this weekend.
Like Raphinha, Liverpool duo Alisson Becker and Fabinho remain ineligible to feature after failing to appear for Brazil national duty, while fellow Brazilian Roberto Firmino is out injured.
Virgil van Dijk and Harvey Elliott are both fit but James Milner, despite returning to training this week, remains a doubt to feature against his former club.Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp says he is still waiting to find out whether Alisson, Fabinho and Roberto Firmino are allowed to play this weekend. How to follow
Leeds vs Liverpool is live on Sky Sports Premier League from 4pm; kick-off 4.30pm. Sky Sports customers can watch in-game clips in the live match blog on the Sky Sports website and app. Highlights will also be published on the Sky Sports digital platforms and the Sky Sports Football YouTube channel shortly after the final whistle.Sunday 12th September 4:00pm Kick off 4:30pm Last time out... FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Liverpool's draw with Chelsea FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Burnley's draw with Leeds Opta stats
Liverpool FC Women's senior and U21s squads have given their support to If You Care Share's 'Inside Out' campaign to mark World Suicide Prevention Day today.
The campaign stresses how important it is to talk and get what’s on the inside out.
The U21s warmed up for their match against Manchester United at Marine wearing T-shirts carrying that significant message.
First-team players Rhiannon Roberts, Katie Startup, Rylee Foster, Jasmine Matthews and Meikayla Moore donned the T-shirts at training at The Campus, meanwhile.
Plus, the rest of the squad joined with the campaign’s request for everyone to wear an item of clothing inside out today by turning their training tops outside in.
It is hoped the simple action will prompt conversations and might save a life by helping someone to open up about their mental health.
You can share your ‘Inside Out’ picture on social media using the hashtag #AskMeWhy and more information is available @IFUCARESHARE.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp admits he still has "no idea" if the club's Brazilian players will be able to face Leeds United on Sunday, live on Sky Sports, with Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola also voicing his frustration.
On Wednesday it was revealed that FIFA had invoked Article 5 to block Premier League clubs from selecting players who they had refused to release for the latest round of international fixtures, following a request from the Brazilian Football Confederation.
It comes after Premier League clubs unanimously agreed last month not to release players for international matches in countries on the UK Government's red list.
If enforced, Article 5 would prevent players from playing in this weekend's round of Premier League fixtures and also Tuesday's Champions League matches.
Liverpool would be one of the clubs hit hardest by the restrictions with Alisson, Fabinho and Robert Firmino, who is currently injured, banned from playing against Leeds.
Liverpool believe FIFA has no basis with which to ban clubs from selecting the players but Klopp admits he is unsure if he will be allowed to pick the Brazilians on Sunday, as discussions continue over their availability.Sunday 12th September 4:00pm Kick off 4:30pm
"I have no idea when I can expect a solution," Klopp said.
"We will see. I don't know at the moment when I will have to make a decision about it. But there will be a moment.
"Today's training session will obviously be a very important one, it would nice if we could train with the team I want to play on Sunday. We will see."
Klopp added: "It is a really difficult situation and really tricky for all the clubs, and the players especially.
"We should not forget at this moment that the players wanted to play these games, the clubs wanted to let the players go but it was not possible."
Klopp believes the issue could also affect the next international break in October, particularly if more countries are added to the UK Government's red list.
"We still don't know what we can do right now at the weekend but that's the smallest problem because next time, we don't know how the pandemic develops - there could be 10 or 15 other countries on the red list," Klopp added.
"I hope that it's not the case but we cannot ignore that this could be possible. If that happens, then it's the same problem again with all the players.
"If we still think that the clubs and the players should get the punishment for something that we have absolutely no influence over, that for sure is not right."Guardiola faces wait over Brazil duo Pep Guardiola says he is unsure if the Brazil players in his squad will be available this weekend but is hopeful of a solution
Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola is also in the dark over whether Brazil duo Ederson and Gabriel Jesus will be able to play against Leicester City on Saturday.
City, in common with a number of other English top-flight clubs, did not want the players to travel because of quarantine restrictions on return to the UK.
With Brazil also having quarantine rules, Guardiola admits the whole situation is a confusing one.
"If they had travelled there they wouldn't be allowed to play for quarantine," said Guardiola during his Friday press conference.
"If they do it, so they cannot play in Brazil, and after they come back and cannot play here for 10 days.
"If they don't fly they are suspended for five days because they are here. It makes no sense."
Guardiola added: "Right now, at 1.35pm, it is unclear. I don't know, hopefully they can play. We are going to wait to see if they can play or not."Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel has suggested moving international fixtures to green-listed countries as a solution for making players available for both club and country amid the coronavirus pandemic Tuchel: Switch international games to green-list countries
Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel, who also has Brazilian defender Thiago Silva embroiled in the club vs country row, believes international venues should be changed moving forward.
Like his fellow compatriots, Silva did not travel to South America for Brazil duty in the international break, and could now face a five-day suspension.
The 36-year-old could miss Chelsea's Premier League clash with Aston Villa on Saturday and Tuesday's Champions League encounter with Zenit St Petersburg.
Asked if Silva faced a no-win situation, Tuchel said: "Yes, I don't understand it, it makes no sense from either side.
"Did it make sense from the Brazilian national team? No. Did it make sense for us? No.
"Because now we are in danger that he maybe cannot play the next two matches, because of a ban. If we would have sent him he would be out for 10 days in a hotel room, not able to train.
"Which I can understand because these are the travel restrictions at the moment. And nobody wants that.Image: Chelsea's Thiago Silva is another player who is affected by the club vs country row with Brazil
"So these solutions where we are right now, these discussions, I don't know if any fan or anybody involved in the game can understand the positive effect of it. There is simply none.
"The chairman is still in negotiations, and I'm still positive and he is not out yet officially."
Instead, Tuchel proposed international matches are switched from red-list to green-list countries moving forward, as happened in last season's Champions League.
"Personally, I think it could be a solution maybe to move games from red listed to green listed countries, like we did with the Champions League."Klopp: World Cup plans don't consider players Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp says he opposes plans to play a World Cup every two years because of the extra demands it will place on players
Klopp has revealed he recently held talks with FIFA's chief of global football development Arsene Wenger over the proposal to host the World Cup every two years instead of four.
However, the Liverpool manager has suggested he would be opposed to any plans that could lead to more matches in the football calendar and less time for his players to recover during the summer break.
"There is no other sport in the world with such a relentless calendar," said Klopp.
"There are more demanding sports like athletics, marathon running - but they don't run 20 or 30 or 40 a year.
"We all know why it is happening. Whatever people say, that it is giving other countries opportunities - that's why there are more teams at the World Cup for example.
"But in the end it is all about money. That is how it is."
Klopp added: "At some point somebody has to understand that without the players, the most important ingredient of this wonderful game, we don't play.
"So whoever thinks they are more important - FIFA, UEFA, the sporting directors, the managers - nobody is more important than the players."
Jurgen Klopp has rightly voiced his strong opposition to the lack of player welfare from football’s governing bodies, saying they “just don’t care” as the priority lays elsewhere.
With the voices surrounding the World Cup moving to a two-year cycle instead of four growing louder each day, the welfare of players continues to take a backseat.
But Klopp is once again fighting in their corner, slamming the “relentless calendar” that sees international players fail to have any time away from the game when they only have one body to see out their career.
It’s left the Liverpool manager crying out for common ground between all confederations with players, who are the “most important ingredients of this wonderful game,” to be at the heart of reforms instead of money.
As always, the boss hits the nail on the head in his passionate response to a schedule that is increasingly getting out of hand in a discussion that is borne from the Brazil fiasco.
“There’s not another physical sport with such a relentless calendar, certainly not a more physical sport,” Klopp told reporters.
“There are more demanding sports in the world, like athletics and marathons but they don’t run 20, 30 or 40 a year and other physical sports don’t have this calendar.
“We all know why it’s happening, whatever people say that it is about giving different countries the opportunity, that’s why there are more teams in the World Cup, for example, but in the end it’s all about money, that’s how it is.
“That’s fine. We do it because not because of money but because we love it, but of course we get lots of money as well.
“But in the end at some point, somebody has to start understanding that without the players, the most important ingredients of this wonderful game, we cannot play it, that’s how it is.
“Whoever thinks it’s more important than the players, is it FIFA, UEFA, the chairmen, the sporting directors, the managers – nobody is more important than the players!
“Imagine if it would be the case that every two years there is a World Cup, then we can be 100% sure that every two years there is a European Championship as well.
“That means for top class plays they just play every year a big tournament. Every year.
“In a physical and very demanding sport an explanation from people out there, in forums, is ‘but they earn that much’. That has nothing to do with it because that’s one body they have.
“All things that came up in the last few years as the new ideas or a reform were always about more games. I read that today [Gianni] Infantino said there were too many meaningless football games, if so don’t play it.
“But if you only have competition, like Nations League, when all managers are under pressure that’s really, really difficult.
“With only competition, there is never time for a pre-season with the key players of the squad. They can never prepare for the season they have to play without a break.
“That’s not right, in the long-term for sure not.
“We spoke about it very often, I always say the same but it’s obviously not important what I say because nobody listens.
“For example, nobody thought about the players when they decided that [Brazil’s] last game of three was Friday morning UK time at 1.30am and the next game could have been Saturday.
“They don’t care, they just don’t care. It’s only one main interest and all the rest is not interesting.
“There must be a point when FIFA, UEFA and other confederations start thinking about the game and not only about their benefit. I’m already 54 and I’m not sure I’ll be alive when that happens.”
Well said, Jurgen.
A blockbuster press conference from Jurgen Klopp on Friday ahead of Sunday’s trip to Leeds United focussed heavily on the farcical situation with Brazil’s FA.
Much of the press conference focussed on the situation regarding the Brazilian FA’s decision to impose a five-day ban on players who did not travel to take part in the internationals due to government quarantine rules.
Here are all the key points from the press conference…1. Klopp’s long response to Brazil quarantine situation
Klopp’s opening response on the situation was almost five minutes long. The boss had a lot to get off his chest, rightly so.
Klopp tackled the whole situation, highlighting the ridiculous scheduling of internationals, why footballers should be exempt from the rest of society, and how he has no clue if they will eventually be allowed to play in Sunday’s game.
“We live in a bubble. We are not part of normal life,” he explained. “We go work, training, stadium.”
“The real punishment is the players, because that’s what they want to do (play).
“The world lives in a pandemic, still. Football players so far had exemptions and it didn’t lead to any spread (of the virus).
“All the things, we get tested three times per week, that’s different to normal society.”
“It would be nice if we could train with the team I want to play on Sunday.”2. FIFA and authorities do not care about footballers
Adding on that theme, Klopp highlighted the ridiculous scheduling of three games now during these international breaks, with Brazil playing in the early hours of what was Friday in the UK.
“Nobody listens,” said Klopp. “Nobody thought about the players when they decided that the last (Brazil) game of the 3-game run (in this break) was Friday morning our time and the next game could have been Saturday. They just don’t care.”
Further highlighting the hypocrisy of the situation, Klopp explained how when he received news that the players would not have a travel exemption, he was with Arsene Wenger and another FIFA delegate and they all agreed then that simply the players could not travel!
“There must be a point when FIFA, UEFA and all the other confederations sit together and start thinking about the game, and not only about their benefit,” he said.
“[But] I’m already 54, I’m not sure I’ll be alive when that happens.”3. “It’s all about the money”
Asked about FIFA’s plans for a World Cup every two years, Klopp was utterly against the idea and accurately assessed: “It’s all about money.”
“There’s no other sport in the world, I’m pretty sure, with such a relentless calendar, year-round,” he said. “Not a physical sport.
“Other physical sports don’t have this calendar. We all know why this is. In the end, it’s all about money, that’s how it is.”
“Somebody has to understand, that without the players, we cannot play this game.
“Nobody is more important than the players. Imagine if we have a World Cup every two years, we can be sure then it will then be a European Championships every two years too, so then they play every year.
“So they would get, at the most, three weeks off each summer, every year. It’s just not possible.
“Every reform that gets suggested, it’s always about more games.”4. “Why would you play the best right-back in the world in midfield?”
The international break saw Trent Alexander-Arnold played in midfield by England boss Gareth Southgate, something Klopp was asked about but returned a very strong answer on.
Klopp was not only bemused by the suggestion that Trent should play in midfield, but doubled down by saying he cannot understand why anybody would even think to do it.
“If you watched our games, you’d see Trent’s position has changed, not in all games but some of them,” he said.
“It’s a shame in 2021 we speak like this, footballer’s play everywhere. On the right wing he is everywhere.”
Klopp added that if he were to play Trent in midfield, it would be in the ‘6’ position (the role Trent played at youth level) and not the ‘8’ as Southgate did.
“Why would you make the best right-back in the world a midfielder?” he summed up.5. Virgil’s fine and has trained
There was a minor scare when Virgil van Dijk went down seemingly injured for the Netherlands in the week, but the boss confirmed that Van Dijk trained on Thursday and is fine.
The rest of the players who were away on international duty have all returned fine also.6. A muted response on the transfer window
This was the first press conference after the transfer window was closed, but Klopp’s response to a question on it was very short:
“Good. All okay. All good.”
Liverpool will be preparing carefully in the coming days for the specific challenges of facing a Marcelo Bielsa tactical system, explained Jürgen Klopp.
The Reds resume Premier League business on Sunday with a trip to Leeds United, aiming to build on the seven points they collected in the three games before the international break.
With several players only returning to the AXA Training Centre in recent days from duty with their countries, Klopp is looking to maximise the time he now has with the full group to make specific tweaks for the clash with Bielsa’s Leeds.
“In general, Marcelo Bielsa’s style and philosophy and how they defend is different, it’s man-marking over the whole pitch. So you have to know about it,” he told Liverpoolfc.com.
“But we had with some players now a week’s time to prepare it and some only come back training today [Thursday] but have recovery and stuff like this. So maybe tomorrow [Friday] and hopefully Saturday we have two sessions where we can probably prepare it. But it’s special.
“Against Leeds, high intense, they go for it. They are good in possession, I think so far second or third in possession. Didn’t have the points yet they want to have but they for sure think they have a good chance against us. But they didn’t play us yet in this season.
“We are hopefully good, as good as we can, and then we are difficult to play. How always, when we are difficult to play we have a chance to win – and that’s what we try.”
Elland Road will be full for the 4.30pm BST kick-off, marking the first time Liverpool have experienced the stadium at capacity in a league match since February 2004.
But Klopp and his players do not have to look far for expert advice on what to expect in Yorkshire.
Reds vice-captain James Milner, who was back in team training during Thursday’s session, began his professional career with hometown club Leeds.
“I heard about it but cannot say a lot. We have to probably ask Millie exactly how it is,” said the boss. “Millie knows it from both perspectives; not sure, maybe not. Not sure if he played there with another Premier League team. Who knows? But he can tell us how it is and he will tell us.
“We are used to a very special atmosphere obviously when we play at home. In the Premier League there are obviously some grounds with a really good atmosphere – so, if Leeds is another one, good for them and we have to deal with it.”
Sunday’s encounter is the first of seven for Liverpool in 22 days, encompassing fixtures in the league, Champions League group phase and Carabao Cup.
Following a more staggered beginning to the season, then the pause for international football, Klopp is eager to enter the rhythm of three games per week again.
Asked about using the squad for the upcoming period, he said: “Absolutely, that’s how it is.
“And how you know, we are Liverpool and that means everybody expects us to win each game. It’s not about, ‘Here we can a little bit…’ We will use each source, each leg we have and we’ll try to be as successful as possible.
“I’m actually looking forward to it. It’s now really long enough – we had a long summer, we had a long pre-season, now we had these three games with always a week between. Now, come on, we are used to the rhythm of playing every three days.
“We wanted [and] we were so happy to qualify for the Champions League – now it starts, so all good.”
Watch Jürgen Klopp's pre-Leeds United press conference on demand now.
Liverpool return to Premier League action with a trip to Elland Road this Sunday, aiming to build on a start to 2021-22 that has yielded seven points from three games.
The Reds boss previewed the clash with Leeds during a chat with the media via video call and you can see everything Klopp has to say in our YouTube video below.
App users should tap here to view the video.
There are less than 53 hours until kickoff at Elland Road and the availability of the Brazilian duo remains a mystery after the Brazilian FA triggered a five-day ban.
Discussions remain ongoing between the Premier League, FIFA, the FA and the government but the farcical situation is one that simply punishes the players twice over for something completely out of their control.
“The thing I want to say about that is just, let’s look at the full case. So, we all know we are in the middle of a pandemic, which is difficult for all parts of life and for football it was difficult as well.
“We have a few more games to play than we have to play usually internationally. We had a summer break where all of a sudden somebody organised again a Copa America, where they could have played the games, for example, without playing a Copa America, which they had a year before.
“But people decide without us these kind of things. OK, nobody cares, that’s how it is. They play a Copa America, then they still have more games to play. Then a week or 10 days before the international break we get, ‘OK, we play now three games and the last game is on Thursday night.’
“So we have nothing to do with that. Friday morning, by the way. Friday morning, 1.20am, would have been Brazil against Peru. We have nothing to do with that, we cannot decide anything about it, we just read these things.
“Then we have to think, ‘OK, clear, they are invited.’ But when they come back they have to quarantine [for] 10 days. Again, it’s not our decision, we didn’t say they have to quarantine [for] 10 days, we didn’t say you have to go to the national team, we can’t say nothing – we just sit in between and we think, ‘OK, what’s going on?’
“Our players, if they come back then they have to quarantine 10 days in a random hotel, next to the airport probably, which is not good for any people who have to do that but for a professional football player, being 10 days in a hotel – with the food they get from there – you lose everything. You lose muscle, you lose everything.
“And now, the next thing, we have a football game to play again and they tell us we cannot play our Brazilian players. It’s like, ‘Huh?’ So, we did nothing. We didn’t organise the Copa America, we are not responsible for the games they couldn’t have played.
“We didn’t invite players, we didn’t say when they come back there’s no exemption. We all didn’t do that.
“But in the end the only [people] who get punished are the players and the clubs – and we have nothing to do with the whole organisation around. It’s like, ‘What is happening?’
“So I don’t know what will happen at the weekend, to be honest. In this moment, we have to see what other people decide and then we will again accept that probably, do what people tell us and try to win a football game.
“But the whole situation is really just like the whole world in the moment in a nutshell – ‘Ah, in football they have these problems as well.’ Yes, we have these problems. And now we will see who finds the solution.”
As ever, it’s a point well made by Klopp and all he and Liverpool can do now is wait for the final decision to come, hopefully, sooner rather than later.
This hasn’t just been because of injuries picked up in the heat of World Cup qualifiers, however. Positive COVID-19 tests, international health restrictions related to the pandemic and even a military coup have meant that 25 players are doubtful to feature as the domestic top flight gets back down to business over the next few days.
In addition, eight Premier League clubs were still waiting at time of publication to learn whether their players from certain South American countries, who have complained to football’s world governing body FIFA, will be suspended for a five-day period. This comes after their clubs refused to release them for this last international window.
From Brazil, these players are Liverpool’s Alisson Becker, Fabinho and Roberto Firmino, Manchester City’s Ederson and Gabriel Jesus, Manchester United’s Fred, Chelsea’s Thiago Silva, and Leeds’s Raphinha. Wolves could be without Mexico’s Raul Jimenez, Newcastle without Paraguay’s Miguel Almiron, and Watford without Chile’s Francisco Sierralta.
Newcastle head coach Steve Bruce did say that Almiron was “available” for their trip to Manchester United at his press conference on Friday morning, however the Premier League is yet to confirm that is the case.
Of the remaining players, here is why they returned to their Premier League clubs with question marks hanging over their heads after a particularly gruelling international window.