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Emotional Klopp tells fans ‘I love you to bits’ as his final match with Liverpool ends with a win

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LIVERPOOL, England (AP) — For the last time as Liverpool manager, Jurgen Klopp ran over to The Kop and delivered those repeated fist pumps that have been his signature during his transformational spell at Anfield.

The Liverpool fans — many with tears in their eyes, just like some of the team’s players — responded with a series of deafening roars, and then cheered Klopp as he did a circuit of the field.

Soon enough, he had disappeared out of view down the tunnel.

Gone, but never forgotten.

“I’m one of you now — I love you to bits,” Klopp said among his last words as he addressed the crowd inside Anfield after his final game as Liverpool’s manager, a 2-0 win over Wolverhampton on Sunday.

The match on the final day of the Premier League season doubled as a tribute to a German coach who led Liverpool to seven major trophies in his nearly nine years at Anfield and forged such a connection with the city that he has been compared to Bill Shankly — the club’s legendary manager from 1959-74.

No wonder Klopp looked emotional throughout an afternoon that Liverpool fans never wanted to come.

They lined the streets outside Anfield to welcome Klopp and his players, and then produced a paper mosaic of the word “JURGEN” in the stand opposite the dugouts as he emerged for the game.

“People are calling it The Last Dance. So let’s dance,” Klopp told Sky Sports just off the field before kickoff – and Liverpool obliged by strolling to one final victory for Klopp thanks to goals by Alexis Mac Allister and Jarell Quansah.

In some ways, it was business as usual for Klopp.

He touched the “This is Anfield” sign in the tunnel on the way out to the pitch.

He patrolled the middle of the field with his hands behind his back during the warmups, watching his own team — and then, with that trademark glare, his opponents.

He waved to fans behind the Liverpool dugout and tapped his heart just ahead of kickoff, before soaking in an emotionally charged rendition of the club’s anthem, “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”

“This morning I woke up,” Klopp said before the game, “and I was completely in game mode.”

The farewell party really started after the final whistle, which he marked by embracing each member of his backroom staff and also Wolves manager Gary O’Neil. Liverpool captain Virgil van Dijk was in tears as he hugged Klopp near the center circle.

The goodbye celebrations reached a crescendo as Klopp walked back out onto the field about 45 minutes after fulltime, wearing a red hoodie with the words “Thank You Luv” on the front and “I’ll Never Walk Alone” on the back, to speak to the crowd one last time.

“It doesn’t feel like an end. It feels like a start,” Klopp said. “Because I saw a football team full of youth, full of creativity, full of desire.

“For a few weeks, I got too much attention and it feels really uncomfortable but this time I realize a lot of things. People told me I turned them from doubters into believers. That’s not true. Believing is an act. You had to do it yourself. You did it. And nobody tells you now to stop believing.”

With Liverpool right back Trent Alexander-Arnold now in tears, Klopp continued in his speech to the home fans: “Because we have you, the super power of world football.”

He followed it up by chanting the name of Arne Slot, his likely successor.

“Arne Slot, la la la la la,” Klopp sang, to the tune of “Live is Life” by Austrian band Opus.

Liverpool finished third in the standings, nine points behind champion Manchester City, but at least won a trophy in Klopp’s final season — the English League Cup.

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AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer

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