DOHA (Reuters) - Being crowned world champions should be the ultimate incentive in any sport, but Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp knows that when it comes to club football, Europe does not see it that way.
Klopp’s Champions League winners face South America’s Copa Libertadores champions Flamengo at the Khalifa International stadium in the Club World Cup final on Saturday.
While global bragging rights are on the line, many Liverpool fans see the competition as a distraction, taking away focus from their domestic title chase.
The competition also forced them effectively to forfeit their place in the English League Cup, playing a virtual youth team in their quarter-final against Aston Villa the day before they opened their Club World Cup campaign in Qatar.
In South America, however, the competition has always been viewed in a different light, offering clubs the chance to pit themselves against the supposed best in the world.
“This situation is different for Flamengo and for us,” Klopp said.
“Flamengo got sent here from their continent with a clear order to win it and to come back as heroes. We got told, ‘Stay at home and play the Carabao (League) Cup’. That’s a massive difference.
“We cannot change that. But we are here and we - my team - want to win the competition, even when we know it is very difficult because the other team is really, really good, but that’s how it is with the big competitions.”
While teams from Asia, Africa and Mexico all relish the chance to share the stage with the big names, for the South Americans this competition has always carried some weighty prestige.
“I think the view on it in Europe is completely different to the view in the rest of the world. But I like pretty much to change that view a little bit in the moment, it changed for me since we are here. Will that change the view of people in Europe? Probably not,” said Klopp.
The Liverpool boss was without key defender Virgil van Dijk and his fellow Dutchman, midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum, for the 2-1 semi-final win over Mexico’s Monterrey and says he will wait for late fitness tests on the pair.
Klopp has transformed Liverpool into European champions and runaway Premier League leaders but his Flamengo counterpart, Portuguese Jorge Jesus has also had a huge impact on his club.
The former Benfica and Sporting Lisbon coach only took over the Rio club in June, but led them to the Copa Libertadores title in November with victory over Argentina’s River Plate and then their first Brazilian Serie A title since 2009.
While Brazilian pundits praise the way Jesus has introduced a European-style pressing game, Klopp said that the coach has had an influence in many areas of Flamengo’s play.
“Jorge Jesus changed the fortunes and a lot of other things since he is in, brought new players in, in the defence especially. It is a really settled line-up, it’s a team where everybody knows what they have to do,” Klopp said.
“They have different ways of play, they have playing build-up, they can be more direct, they have speed up front, they have creativity in the centre of the park, they are cheeky on the wings, they can play crosses, they go inside, all that stuff. It’s just like a football team should be, like a successful football team is.”
Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Toby Davis
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