As if the task against the star ensemble of real madrid was not difficult enough, jurgen klopp has to deal with problems of a special kind before the champions league final.
The duel with the royals on saturday (20.45 a.M. CEST) falls in the middle of the fasting month of ramadan, and two of liverpool FC’s key players are devout muslims: top goalkeeper mohamed salah and his congenial strike partner sadio mane. Together with brazilian roberto firmino, they form the most prolific attack in champions league history.
It would have been fatal if the reds’ goal machine – the trio scored 29 goals on their way to the final – had been powerless against real. Because during ramadan, muslims are not allowed to eat or drink from sunrise to sunset. Until the 14. June, the day of the world cup opening match, the fasting period still continues.
At least salah is known to be a practicing muslim. "Ramadan means a lot to me. He fills me up and makes me happy," said salah, who has risen to premier league superstar status this season under klopp. Salah scored a record 32 goals in england’s elite league and was voted best player of the season. Last summer, liverpool had to transfer just 42 million euros to AS rom, but in the meantime his market value has skyrocketed many times over – and interested parties are lining up.
Liverpool’s opponents real madrid are also said to have the agyptian on their radar, whatever the cost – although coach zinedine zidane says: "i wouldn’t swap cristiano ronaldo for salah."However, in the case of a transfer, the transfer fee would be in the dimensions of neymar (222 million euros). The "pharaoh," long a folk hero in his home country after successfully qualifying for the world cup, is tied to liverpool for another four years – without an exit clause. At chelsea FC, those responsible are particularly worried, as salah once failed to make the grade with the blues.
Mane’s development under klopp has been as rapid as salah’s. The senegalese arrived at anfield road in the summer of 2016 for 40 million euros from southampton FC and is a real weapon with his speed on the left side. The 26-year-old can even exchange ideas with klopp in german, as he played for RB salzburg in austria for two years.
"I enjoy playing alongside these great players. I think there will be more goals," says the modest family mane, who, like salah, has a lot of faith. Religion is very important to him, the striker once said: "I pray five times a day."Sometimes on the pitch: after a goal in the champions league quarterfinal against manchester city, mane and salah knelt side by side for a prayer.
The trio is completed by the ex-hoffenheimer firmino. Together, the "fab three" have already scored 90 mandatory goals this season. "I’m never full," says firmino, who has just extended his contract until 2023. Klopp’s offensive play was also a reason for the brazilian to stay at liverpool. Even madrid star ronaldo is impressed by the trio. He feels reminded of the real of three or four years ago. All the more important for liverpool that the attacking machine also works against real – despite ramadan.
Schlieblich also remains a hinterturchen. Strict fasting rules allow an exception for travelers. And the final will take place in kiev, 2300 kilometers away from liverpool.