Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp clarifies ‘little tournament’ AFCON comment: ‘It was ironic’ | Football News

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp was keen to clarify his use of the phrase “small tournament” in reference to the Africa Cup of Nations, insisting it was a frustration in the sense of irony rather than an insult to the tournament.

Klopp told an angry journalist that his remark – which came after Saturday’s 4-0 win over Arsenal – was a way of expressing his frustration with losing important players at an important stage of the season.

Liverpool are preparing to lose Mohamed Salah, Naby Keita and Sadio Mane in the month-long tournament that runs from January 9 to February 6.

In response to a reporter on Saturday, who asked if Klopp was “comfortable” they had had a busy period with “no international break until March”, Klopp laughed and replied: “I’ve heard that often there is no international break until March. In January there is a small tournament in Africa, I just want to say, and I think Asia plays games too – South America too, great, can’t wait.”

Klopp was then speaking in his Champions League post-match press conference after Liverpool claimed their fifth consecutive win in the competition to beat Porto 2-0 on Wednesday.

After a reporter said Klopp had insulted players, fans, people and the continent of Africa with the comment, Klopp replied: “I didn’t mean it that way. I don’t know why you took it that way.

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Mohamed Salah (left) will be in the Africa Cup of Nations, as will Sadio Mane and Naby Keita

“It’s not close to the idea in my mind that I want to talk about the Africa Cup of Nations as a small tournament, or that the continent of Africa is like a small continent, not at all.

“What I meant is, because people said, and if you watched the whole press conference, if you wanted to get it right, you could have got it right. I said ‘there’s no international break until March’ and I said, ‘Oh, there’s a little tournament in January,” and I didn’t mean a small tournament, just like I said when there’s still a tournament. It’s ridiculous. There’s still a tournament. A big tournament. We lose our best players in the Africa Cup of Nations.

“I’m not a native speaker, but if you want to get me wrong, you can do it all the time. I know I’d never think like that. I never understood why you thought such an honest thing, but it’s really not good, because I wouldn’t That never was, but that’s all for now.

“It wasn’t my intention, but you made something out of it. It’s not cool to be 100 percent honest.”

Klopp hails Thiago’s ‘Thunderball’

Liverpool celebrates Thiago after scoring against Porto
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Liverpool’s Thiago celebrates after scoring his amazing goal against Porto

After the 2-0 win, Klopp hailed Thiago Alcantara’s “thunderball” goal that put them in their path at Anfield.

The Spain international broke the deadlock with a tasty low shot for the first time at 25 yards which was later added to Salah’s sixth European goal of the season.

It was only the second time Thiago has scored in the 14 off-season since arriving in a £20m transfer from Bayern Munich, but it was a shot well worth the wait.

“We had more chances in the game but we scored in this situation,” he said of the midfielder’s opening match in the 52nd minute.

“Everyone who sees Thiago in training knows he has the technique to do it but even with this technique it doesn’t always happen that he can shoot such a thunderball. It was good timing, great goal.

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Klopp says he is “really happy” with his team’s performance in the 2-0 Champions League win over home side Porto.

Liverpool scorned their so-called ‘group of death’ with their 15-point group stage record, but Klopp said now was not the time to assess how well they played.

“We could have lost this match tonight, we gave chances when they could have scored so we shouldn’t make it too much because we were lucky in moments,” he said.

“We’ve had moments where we didn’t play quietly; I wasn’t expecting that tonight because we changed crucial things to be honest.

“We didn’t expect players to become a pressing machine right away, but we grow up in the game and that’s what happened. Lots of good things happened tonight but I’m not sure we should make the mistake of saying we this or that over and over again.

“We will know at the end of the season – but we are in a good moment and we have to try everything to keep it going.”

Liverpool matches during the Africa Cup of Nations (9 January – 6 February)

W/C Jan 10Possible Carabao Cup semi-final second leg

January 15: Brentford (H)

January 23: Crystal Palace (A) – Live on Sky Sports

February 5: Possible fourth round in the FA Cup

February 9: Leicester (H)

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