Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp paid tribute to Simon Kjaer ahead of Wednesday’s clash with AC Milan, hailing the defender for his composure and humanity in response to Christian Eriksen’s collapse at Euro 2020.
Eriksen collapsed during Denmark’s European Championship debut against Finland in June, with Kjaer the first on the scene to put his teammate in recovery position before leading the rest of the team in forming a protective shield around the Inter man while receiving treatment.
The 29-year-old midfielder was later taken to hospital and it was later confirmed that he had suffered a cardiac arrest on the pitch, but doctors managed to resuscitate him.
Eriksen was equipped with a pacemaker before returning home, although it is unclear if he will return to play.
Kjaer received widespread praise for his quick thinking at such a pivotal time, with him and the eight doctors involved saluting the “true heroes of Euro 2020” and receiving the 2021 UEFA President’s Award from UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin the month. last.
Kjaer is expected to be on the Milan squad that will play the club’s first Champions League game in seven and a half years at Anfield, and Klopp hopes Liverpool fans will recognize the defender’s exploits.
“I’m usually more eager to focus on my players than on an opponent, but I have to make an exception tonight,” wrote Klopp in his schedule notes.
“Tonight it is possible that Simon Kjaer lines up against us and this is a person who I believe has the respect of the whole world of football and sport.
“Recognize true leadership in a crisis. I think the world recognizes this now more than ever with everything that happens around us.
“Like millions of others, I was shocked by the scenes that took place at the European Championship in the summer when Christian Eriksen fell ill during the opening match of the Denmark group.
“That night there were many heroes, not least all the outstanding medical professionals of the Danish national team, in the stadium and later in the hospital. But Simon shone on that traumatic day for his own conduct.
“The image of Danish players protecting their teammate while he is being cared for will, in my opinion, forever be one of the most iconic in the history of the sport. It showed the best of humanity. Compassion, care and love for their friend.
“Honestly, I have no idea how he managed not only to stay calm in that situation, but to have the clarity of mind to make the decisions he made in that moment. His conduct humiliates us all.
“I was told that Simon’s father is an LFC fan and, if so, he must be proud that his son is now recognized around the world as the epitome of our anthem, ‘You’ll never walk alone. ‘.
“I know that our fans are aware and generous of spirit and therefore I am sure that Simon will feel the gratitude of the home crowd tonight, but for the more than 90 minutes of play he is the opponent again.”
Finally together again under the lights… for another great European night at Anfield pic.twitter.com/55xtNVfST0
– Liverpool (@LFC) September 15, 2021
Wednesday’s game will be Liverpool’s first Champions League match in front of home fans since 11 March 2020, when the Reds lost 3-2 to Atletico Madrid after extra time and were eliminated from the competition in the round of 16.
Klopp believes that Liverpool has always lacked something in the absence of fans during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic, but according to him this has always been exemplified during Champions League matches.
“It will be so good just before kick-off to hear the Champions League anthem and see the players lined up in front of an entire Anfield,” he continued. “We have been missing fans for every second of every match during the pandemic, but I have to admit it was more acute on European nights.
“We take all the noise, all the color, all the positive energy and all the passion and intensity that is our trademark. Let’s give this appointment the stage it deserves. I honestly can’t wait. “
Wednesday’s game will be the first meeting between the two historic clubs that is not a European final, with their only previous clashes in the Champions League finals in 2005 and 2007, winning once each.