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29th Sep 2020

SLOPPY HOW? A play-by-play dissection of Klopp vs Keane

It was dynamite TV. Jamie Carragher could have acted as Scouse diplomat at any point in the altercation but thought, 'Fuck that!' Why ruin the unravelling spectacle of Roy Keane getting his comeuppance?

Nooruddean Choudry

Sloppy how?

Forget the football – this is what we want. A pundit renowned for going in two-footed on modern players (“I am sick to death of this goalkeeper. I’d be fighting him at half-time. I would be swinging punches at that guy…”) confronted with his own words on live telly by a vengeful manager. It was pure box office – pay-per-view good. This is football as WWE. All that was missing was Jurgen Klopp stopping mid-interview to charge through the corridors of Anfield and trying to find Roy Keane to confront him face-to-face.

The best thing about the whole palaver was its wholly innocuous beginnings. There are many shades to Keane’s punditry – many of them on the puce end of the spectrum – but Monday night Roy was positively magnanimous. He was calm, collected and unusually forthcoming in praise. Even his usual derision for Arsenal was tempered with a ‘they’re good, just not good enough’ sentiment. It made what was to come especially delicious because, for once, Roy Keane was not actually the aggressor.

Instead of holding court with one of his trademark rants of increasing fury, whilst the likes of Patrice Evra, Micah Richards or Gary Neville respond with semi-nervous ‘What is he like?!’ laughter, Keane was caught completely off guard by a remote yet all-too-present Jurgen Klopp. It was evident from the usually genial German’s demeanour that he had started the argument in his head way before the actual interview, and as such was raring to go once the post-match chat got underway.

No sooner had David Jones served up a mild loosener by enquiring what he’d enjoyed about his team’s performance that Klopp was straight into Keane with a proverbial reducer. “Everything,” he dismissed Jones’ opener before pushing his own agenda. “Did I hear right that Mr Keane said we had a sloppy performance tonight, because I could hear you already. Did he say that?” The faux politeness was dripping with passive aggression as Jones quite wisely deferred to Mr Keane.

Taken aback and very clearly unused to someone else taking the fight to him, Keane replied with a tone of voice two octaves higher than intended. He insisted he had been referring to a couple of isolated instances, with the high-pitched sincerity of a chastised schoolboy, but Klopp was having none of it.

“This was a sloppy performance tonight? Maybe he spoke about another game. It cannot be this game, sorry. That’s an incredible description of this game. This was absolutely exceptional. Nothing was sloppy, absolutely nothing. It was, from the first second, dominant against a team in form, 100% in form… About this game tonight, there is nothing bad to say. It was the opposite of sloppy.”

Keane was insistent there was no argument to be had, and rather that he’d been gushing with praise about Liverpool’s efforts, but Jurgen wouldn’t let it lie. He wanted clarity, and above all justification for the term ‘sloppy’. The whole elongated charade recalled that iconic scene from Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas, in which an incandescent Joe Pesci interrogates an increasingly uneasy Ray Liotta:

Roy Keane: You’re really sloppy.
Jurgen Klopp: What do you mean we’re sloppy?
Roy Keane: Sloppy, you know? Some of the play…was a bit sloppy.
Jurgen Klopp: What do you mean? You mean the way we dominated possession? What?
Roy Keane: It’s just, you know. It was just a bit sloppy, the way you missed a few chances.
Jurgen Klopp: Sloppy how? What’s sloppy about it?
David Jones: Jurgen no, You got it all wrong…
Jurgen Klopp: He’s a big boy, he knows what he said. What did you say? Sloppy how?
Roy Keane: Jus…
Jurgen Klopp: What? You said we’re sloppy. How the fuck are we sloppy? What the FUCK is sloppy about us? Tell me, tell me what’s sloppy…

All the while, Jamie Carragher was basically everyone at home but with a front row seat, quietly watching with glee as Keane received a severe chastisement for something he didn’t quite say, and Klopp smiled unconvincing through his pointed questioning. It would have been the easiest thing in the world for Carragher to act as Scouse diplomat and straighten out the misunderstanding, but why ruin dynamite TV being played out before our eyes?

As the altercation ended with Klopp saying “All good!” – when he clearly meant the exact opposite – there was the perfect denouement with a sheepish Keane exclaiming, “Very sensitive! Jesus! Imagine if he’d lost!”

The fact that the Liverpool manager had indeed been unnecessarily tetchy about perfectly reasonable phrasing was beside the point. It was the usually in control and domineering Keane being made to cow-tow and answer for himself that made it the thrilling spectacle it was. Next up, Souness vs Pogba please…