Klopp pays tribute to Kjaer leadership for response to Eriksen collapse

By Sports Desk September 15, 2021

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp paid tribute to Simon Kjaer ahead of Wednesday's clash with Milan, saluting the defender for his composure and humanity in response to Christian Eriksen collapsing at Euro 2020.

Eriksen collapsed during Denmark's European Championship opener against Finland in June, with Kjaer the first on the scene to place his team-mate in the recovery position before leading the rest of the team in the formation of a protective shield around the Inter man as he received treatment.

The 29-year-old midfielder was subsequently taken to hospital and it was later confirmed he had suffered a cardiac arrest on the pitch, but medics were able to resuscitate him.

Eriksen was fitted with a pacemaker before returning home, though it remains unclear if he will ever play again.

Kjaer received widespread praise for his quick-thinking at such a crucial juncture, with he and the eight medics involved hailed the "true heroes of Euro 2020" and presented with the 2021 UEFA President's Award by UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin last month.

Kjaer is expected to be in the Milan team that will play the club's first Champions League match in seven-and-a-half years at Anfield, and Klopp hopes Liverpool fans recognise the defender's exploits.

"I am usually more keen to focus on my own players rather than an opponent, but tonight I must make an exception," Klopp wrote in his programme notes.

"This evening it is possible that Simon Kjaer will line up against us and this is a person who I think has the respect of the entire football and sporting world.

"You recognise true leadership in a crisis. I think the world acknowledges this now more than ever with everything that goes on around us.

"Like millions of others, I was rocked by the scenes that unfolded at the European Championship in the summer when Christian Eriksen fell ill during Denmark's opening group game.

"There were many heroes that night, not least of all the remarkable medical professionals for the Danish national team, in the stadium and subsequently at the hospital. But Simon shone that traumatic day for his own conduct.

"The image of the Danish players shielding their team-mate as he was cared for will, in my opinion, forever be one of the most iconic in sporting history. It showed the best of humanity. Compassion, care and love for their friend.

"Honestly, I have no idea how he managed to not only keep his own composure in that situation, but to have the clarity of mind to make the decisions he did in that moment. His conduct humbles us all.

"I'm told that Simon's dad is an LFC fan – and if that is the case, he must be bursting with pride that his boy is now recognised worldwide as the epitome of our anthem, 'You'll Never Walk Alone'.

"I know our supporters are knowledgeable and generous of spirit and therefore I am sure Simon will feel the gratitude of the home crowd tonight, but for the 90-plus minutes of the game he is again the opponent."

Wednesday's contest will be Liverpool's first Champions League match in front of a home crowd since March 11, 2020, when the Reds lost 3-2 to Atletico Madrid after extra-time and were dumped out of the competition at the last-16 stage.

Klopp feels Liverpool were always lacking something in the absence of supporters through the peak of the coronavirus pandemic, but in his opinion that was always exemplified during Champions League games.

"It will be so cool just before kick-off to hear that Champions League anthem and see the players lined up in front of a full Anfield," he continued. "We missed supporters for every second of every game during the pandemic, but I must admit it was most acute on the European nights.

"Let's have all the noise, all the colour, all the positive energy and all the passion and intensity that is our trademark. Let's give this fixture the stage it deserves. I honestly cannot wait."

Wednesday's match will be the first meeting between the two historic clubs that is not a European final, with their only prior clashes being in the Champions League deciders in 2005 and 2007, winning once each.

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