Liverpool's latest Champions League performance under Jürgen Klopp was another example of how far they have come. The victory against Porto was proof of more than just Liverpool's sporting quality though.
Liverpool 2-0 Porto
(Keita 5', Firmino 26')
Liverpool have put themselves in a commanding position to make the Champions League semifinals for the second year in a row. But on a night when everyone wants to talk about whether or not Klopp is leading Liverpool to success, it is worth recognizing what he has already achieved.
Under Klopp, Liverpool have become competitive at the top level of European football again. Granted, they have spent a lot but Klopp has also worked to develop his players and the style of football this team plays. Naby Keita, a player that struggled when he first arrived, drifted imperiously around Anfield against Porto to deliver his second strong performance in five days. The Guinea-born midfielder scored an early opener, won six of his eight tackles in the first half and was weaving his way into the box in injury time at the end of the game. His development has taken longer than expected, but he is coming good at just the right time.
"Klopp has made Liverpool a desirable destination again. He's taken the club back to an elite level, something we've craved for years," life-long Liverpool fan Nina told DW.
Liverpool's elite performance was best seen in one move. On a night when former Bundesliga players scored all the goals in the two Champions League games, Roberto Firmino stroked home a second for Liverpool at the end of a slick passing move that has become customary for Liverpool. This isn't the first time Klopp's teams have delighted the home fans with their exciting football, but just because it isn't new doesn't mean it isn't worth recognizing. And Klopp himself did just that.
"Super goals tonight. The second goal was world class," Klopp said afterwards.
Klopp has already won
Klopp has created a Liverpool team that comfortably handled the first leg of a Champions League quarterfinal. It isn't that long ago that just being at that stage would have been an achievement for Liverpool. Now, this team is here to compete, which is all the more impressive off the back of a traumatic Champions League final loss last year.
"Really good. I liked the game," Klopp said, reminding us that even a strong performance can hide behind a modest scoreline.
Under Klopp, Liverpool's support also appears to have returned to special levels. "This means more" is the phrase being used to describe why supporting this Premier League club is so unique. Anfield, the Kop, "You'll Never Walk Alone" are all ingredients that make for a magical football atmosphere — and that's before Klopp's joyful jumps and sideline fist pumps are considered.
"He always puts a lot of emphasis on Liverpool supporters and the role they play in games," Liverpool fan Kam told DW.
It's doubtful that being a Liverpool fan really means more than it does for other teams and their respective communities, but there's no denying Jürgen Klopp has breathed new life into the club and its connection with the community. European nights against Porto might not have the same vibrancy to them as games against Barcelona or Juventus, but that is also partly down to the superior quality Liverpool's team have been delivering on the pitch.
Klopp built this exciting and fun-to-watch team. Klopp reignited the passion in the community and the stands. Klopp himself has grown as a head coach and a person. That is the achievement, and yet without a trophy since the 2012 German Cup Klopp will continue to be judged by the fact he doesn't win the games that will go down in history. Klopp has lost his last six finals, but watching Liverpool against Porto in the Champions League quarterfinals it was clear that in many ways Klopp has already won.
It was a night that showed just how far Liverpool have come, but also demonstrated what really matters.
"You can't ignore how the club has evolved under Klopp," Nina said, revealing the truth. It is Liverpool's evolution under Klopp that is the greatest victory of all.