Jurgen Klopp chose not to write about his Liverpool players ahead of their Champions League encounter with AC Milan – so he could hail “true leader” Simon Kjaer.
Milan defender Kjaer serves as Denmark captain and acted heroically to help save the life of Christian Eriksen after he suffered a cardiac arrest during a Euro 2020 fixture versus Finland.
The 32-year-old cleared his teammate’s airways, performed CPR and consoled Eriksen’s partner in the immediate aftermath of the harrowing incident.
Kjaer and Denmark’s medics were awarded the UEFA President’s Award for their actions, and Klopp is the latest onlooker to pay tribute to the towering centre-back.
“I am usually more keen to focus on my own players rather than an opponent, but tonight I must make an exception,” wrote the Liverpool boss in his match 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 Championships 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.”
While Eriksen was treated on the pitch at Parken Stadium in Copenhagen, Denmark’s players formed a wall to protect the Inter Milan playmaker from view.
How impressive was Simon Kjaer in the aftermath of Christian Eriksen’s collapse? Comment below.
Klopp was moved by the act of camaraderie and said he is “humbled” by Kjaer’s leadership during a time of intense duress.
The German added: “The image of the Danish players shielding their teammate 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 [Kjaer] 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.”
Liverpool host Milan at Anfield on Wednesday night as they look to kick off Group B with three points.