Liverpool coach Jürgen Klopp paid tribute to Simon Kjaer ahead of Wednesday’s clash against Milan and praised the defender for his serenity and humanity in response to Christian Eriksen’s collapse at Euro 2020.
Eriksen collapsed treatment during Denmark’s European Championship opener against Finland in June.
The 29-year-old midfielder was subsequently hospitalized and was later confirmed to have suffered cardiac arrest on the pitch, but the medics were able to resuscitate him.
Eriksen was given a pacemaker before returning home, although it remains unclear if he will ever play again.
Kjaer was widely praised for his quick thinking at such a crucial time as he and the eight medical professionals involved praised the “real heroes of Euro 2020” and received the UEFA President’s Prize 2021 from UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin last month.
Kjaer is expected to play on the Milan team that will play the club’s first Champions League game at Anfield in seven and a half years and Klopp hopes Liverpool fans will recognize the defender’s achievements.
“I usually focus on my own players rather than an opponent, but tonight I have to make an exception,” wrote Klopp in his program notes.
“Tonight it is possible that Simon Kjaer will play against us and this is a person who I believe has the respect of the entire football and sports world.
“In a crisis you can see real leadership. I think the world is recognizing this now more than ever in everything that happens around us.
“Like millions of others, I was shocked by the scenes at the EM in the summer when Christian Eriksen fell ill in the opening game of the Danish group.
“That night there were many heroes, not least the remarkable doctors of the Danish national team, in the stadium and then in the hospital. But Simon shone for his own behavior on that traumatic day.
“The image of Danish players protecting their teammates the way they have been 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 not only to maintain his own composition in this situation, but also to have the clarity of mind to make the decisions he was making in that moment. His humble behavior all of us.
“I’ve been told that Simon’s dad is an LFC fan – and if that’s the case, he’ll be bursting with pride that his boy is now recognized worldwide as the epitome of our anthem ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’.
“I know our fans are knowledgeable and generous and so I’m sure Simon will feel the gratitude of the home crowd tonight, but he’s the opponent again for the 90+ minutes of the game.”
Finally together again under the lights … for another big Anfield European Night pic.twitter.com/55xtNVfST0
– Liverpool FC (@LFC) September 15, 2021
The competition on Wednesday is Liverpool’s first Champions League game in front of a home crowd since March 11, 2020, when the Reds lost 3-2 to Atletico Madrid after extra time and were knocked out of the competition in the round of 16.
Klopp believes that in the absence of fans at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, Liverpool were always missing something, but in his opinion this has always been illustrated during Champions League matches.
“It will be so cool to hear the Champions League anthem just before kick-off and see the players in front of a full Anfield,” he continued. “We missed fans for every second of every game during the pandemic, but I have to admit that it was most acute on European nights.
“Let’s have all the noise, all the colors, all the positive energy, and all the passion and intensity that are our trademark. Let’s give this device the stage it deserves. I honestly can’t wait. “
Wednesday’s game will be the first meeting of the two historic clubs that is not a European final. Their only previous encounters were the Champions League decisions in 2005 and 2007, each of which was won once.