Cody Gakpo exclusive: Liverpool forward on Jurgen Klopp’s departure, chasing the quadruple and Reds youngsters

Cody Gakpo on Liverpool youngsters’ stunning week: “One of Jurgen Klopp’s specialities is giving us that belief we can do it, even though we’re having a tough time with injuries, without us having some really good players that are really important for the team”

Image: Liverpool's Cody Gakpo earned the first of what could become four winners' medals against Chelsea in the Carabao Cup final

For those on the outside, Liverpool’s season has been split into two distinct chapters: before and after Jurgen Klopp shocked the football world by announcing he would be leaving the club at the end of the campaign.

It has been easy and automatic to frame everything since that landscape-shifting news as an ode to a remarkable manager; a team determined to ensure he exits drenched in champagne and bordered by silverware.

While Liverpool’s squad are subscribed to giving Klopp the send off his transformative tenure deserves – successfully starting with the Carabao Cup – the truth is more mundane and less ‘for the plot’.

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In a lounge overlooking the pitches at the club’s expansive training facility, Cody Gakpo tells Sky Sports News the smell of trophies was in the air long before the manager’s announcement.

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Relive Liverpool’s 1-0 extra-time win over Chelsea in last weekend’s Carabao Cup final

“When the season started we did well at the beginning, and we already felt this could be a special one,” the Netherlands international said.

He flagged one moment in particular. “Newcastle away, we got a red card and still managed to win the game,” he said. “In moments like that, you get the mentality building in the group that something special could happen.

“So we said to each other ‘don’t look ahead, keep focused, keep working really hard and do what we always do’.

“We knew it was going to get tough, we’re going to have some obstacles – we have them now with the injuries – but we always try to stick together and keep moving forward.

“It seems really special from the outside, I can imagine. From the inside, with the youngsters coming through, it is… but we’re really focused and not looking at it like that.”

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The Football Show panel discuss if Liverpool’s injury crisis will hamper their chances of achieving the quadruple in Jurgen Klopp’s last season in charge

It is remarkable that a team that thrives on emotional connection can also be so surgical. That was best summed up by the squad’s reaction when Klopp gathered them together to break his personal news ahead of their FA Cup fourth-round win over Norwich, shortly before it was publicly shared with the world.

The German later said he was impressed with the “professional way” his players handled it. Like “it was just an announcement”.

Gakpo credits the “mentality of the manager and so the team” that they went “straight back to business”. The forward admits to a “shock moment when he got us all together and told us he was leaving at the end of the season. It’s human to have that feeling.

“When you see what the manager did all those years for the club, it’s amazing. But we also knew we were in a good moment and we have to be focused to win games and that’s what we are.”

Despite a double-digit injury list, Liverpool have one trophy boxed off, two more in sight and are perched atop the league with eight of their academy graduates coming up trumps in the Carabao Cup final and to secure a spot in the FA Cup quarter-finals against Manchester United.

What is the secret? “One of Klopp’s specialities is giving us that belief we can do it, even though we’re having a tough time with injuries, without us having some really good players that are really important for the team,” Gakpo said.

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Speaking after Liverpool’s 3-0 win over Southampton in the FA Cup, Jurgen Klopp compared his academy players to teenage darts sensation Luke Littler!

“We have managed through the situation, that’s because of the young players who have come in, the manager, his staff and the fans – the togetherness, this total picture, it gets us through.”

That unity in strength was evident at Wembley, where a thundering chorus of ‘Allez, Allez, Allez’ seemed to help stunt Chelsea and sweep Liverpool to glory.

“The fans were amazing during the final,” Gakpo beamed. “They are always amazing but during the final they were there when it was really hard. Extra-time is tough, both teams are tired.

“I wasn’t on the pitch but you’re trying to find energy from some places and then you hear the fans singing, it gives you energy by itself.

“We scored the winner and after we sang You’ll Never Walk Alone with them, those are really special moments.”

Was it better than Gakpo could have imagined when he agreed to join the club? “I didn’t know it was that special,” he offered.

“You know it’s a big club with special history and really special fans but to really experience that is way more special than you can ever think of.”

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Kweku Afari and Pete Smith take a closer look at the impact of the young players at Liverpool and believe the club have something special going this season

It is an interesting juncture to consider how different the picture could have been. The FA Cup showdown at Old Trafford pits Gakpo against the club who could have been his employers.

United were the first among a clutch of Premier League sides in the summer of 2022 to discuss a transfer with his then side PSV Eindhoven. Erik ten Hag was the driver of a potential deal and the preference of Gakpo’s coach at the time, Ruud van Nistelrooy – goalscorer supreme under Sir Alex Ferguson – was for him to join United.

The move was in motion until a week before the transfer window ended, with funds being diverted elsewhere. United opted to spend £86m on signing Antony from Ajax instead.

“It was the summer before. I was in contact with the club and the manager – he’s Dutch so I spoke to him as well,” Gakpo recalled.

“At the end of the day it fell through, that’s it, and in the winter Liverpool came. It was the best decision for me.”

Leeds and Southampton had tried to profit from United pulling out in the final days of the window without success. Sometimes things work out for the best?

“Yes they do,” Gakpo said with a cheeky smile, hinting at good times to come.

What does that look like, exactly, in his mental sketch? “The picture is we win all the trophies obviously, and after the last game, we throw the manager in the air. And all the trophies are there around him.

“And a parade! I saw some pictures and videos [after the 2019 Champions League final], it was amazing.”

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