In the buildup to Sunday’s final, there couldn’t have been two more contrasting approaches from the managers of Liverpool and Chelsea.
While Thomas Tuchel kept Edouard Mendy and Kepa Arrizabalaga in the dark over who would be starting, Klopp was unequivocal in his backing of Kelleher.
The Irishman, cemented as Alisson‘s deputy and cup goalkeeper, produced another brilliant performance over the course of two hours, with the game trailing out to a penalty shootout.
Tuchel brought Kepa on for the shootout, but he ended up the fall guy, blasting his spot-kick way over the bar to hand Liverpool the League Cup after Kelleher himself had found the back of the net.
Kelleher was the hero, then, and speaking to Sky Sports after the game, the 23-year-old revealed his interaction with Klopp.
“He just said ‘well done for scoring the winning penalty’,” he explained.
“There’s a wall at Liverpool, with all the goalies who’ve won the cups. He said: ‘Now’s your chance to get on that’.”
In his own post-match interview, Klopp reinforced this, as well as emphasising his belief that “there should be space for some sentiment” in football after rewarding Kelleher with his start.
“It’s so nice that it paid off, he deserves it,” the manager said.
“Ali did not play. At the AXA Training Centre, we have a wall at the goalkeeper area, I told him: ‘Great, if we win, we can put Caoimh on it!”
Time will tell whether the club follows through with this, and artist John Culshaw will no doubt be busy fielding calls in the aftermath of this trophy win – but there is no denying Kelleher deserves it.