Jurgen Klopp insists he “feels for” Pep Guardiola and his Man City squad after the club were banned from the Champions League for two seasons on Friday night.
It was news met by almost wholesale joy from supporters across the rest of the Premier League, with City’s questionable spending prompting a strict ruling from UEFA.
With City already 22 points behind heading into the weekend, it was a bitter blow for Guardiola and his players, who dropped a further three adrift with the Reds’ 1-0 win at Norwich on Saturday.
Speaking after that victory at Carrow Road, Klopp showed empathy towards the “sports people” at City, praising their performances regardless of the funding.
“Of course it was a shock. [My reaction was] ‘wow, what’s that?’,” he told Sky Sports.
“The only thing I can say, I’m a football coach so I can speak about football, and what Pep and Man City did since I’m in England is exceptional.
“About all the rest I have no idea. What happened, who did what and stuff like this.
“I can imagine that in the moment it’s really difficult for the sports people to understand.
“You believe the people you work with, that’s how it is, and they tell you it’s like this and that, and obviously somebody sees it completely different.
“I really feel for them, to be honest, for Pep and the players, but that will not help.
“It’s the first verdict, they will appeal, and we will see what happens then. But it’s obviously serious, otherwise UEFA would not react like that.
“How I said, the football they played and play was exceptional, and will be exceptional.”
He echoed his praise in his post-match press conference, before adding: “In the end you have to respect the rules.”
It is an understandable stance for Klopp to take, with the Liverpool manager in no way required to express an opinion on the workings of City away from the pitch.
He highlighted the respect he has for Guardiola as a contemporary, though the 25-point gap is made even more impressive given there is no indication of nefarious means behind the Reds’ own success.
Liverpool remain financially sound, with their progress the result of exceptional recruitment and coaching, and Klopp is deserving of considerable praise for this.
For all the talk of a “tainted title” for the Reds due to the first-time influence of VAR this season, there will be no asterisk against their honours list, unlike those at the Etihad.