Florent Sinama Pongolle makes Klopp plea & reveals Champions League parade agony
Florent Sinama Pongolle spent five seasons with Liverpool but despite failing to establish himself as a permanent fixture in the first team, it was his crucial goal against Olympiacos which sent the Reds into the last 16 of the Champions League in the 2004-5 season.
The Reds went on to win the tournament with one of the greatest comebacks of all time against AC Milan in the final and in an exclusive interview with Ladbrokes, the Frenchman discusses the aftermath of that win and his disappointment with how those players who were not part of the match-day squad in Istanbul were treated.
I scored to keep Liverpool in the Champions League in 2005, then watched the trophy parade on TV
You go from this crazy night of celebrations, taking pictures next to the trophy, celebrating with your team-mates, to what turned out to be one of the lowest moments of my career. Everything was great, we were all celebrating as a team, and then the next day, for people like myself, Anthony Le Tallec and Neil Mellor – who were all a part of the Champions League journey – we just had to witness everything that happened.
We didn’t get to travel back to Liverpool with the match-day squad. We all had to see the families of our team-mates leave Istanbul with the squad – why not us? What about us players who were a part of that journey?
There was a bus parade which had already been organised in town once the players arrived, but because we weren’t on the plane with them, it meant we weren’t going to be a part of it. I think it was the worst moment as far as organisation and logistics go, that Liverpool have ever had.
I mean, for a club of Liverpool’s size to make those decisions and organise things the way they did – I struggle to believe that it was a wider decision made by the club. I think it was some kind of personal decision from someone high up. I’m not saying it was the club’s decision; it was simply someone else who decided that was how it was going to be. I don’t blame the club as a whole for it, and I would never want the club to think that.
We took a later flight, which got delayed, and we heard from police in Liverpool that things had to go on time – they couldn’t wait for us. That’s it. I watched it on TV, man. I was sad. I was watching my team-mates with their wives celebrating on the bus! Quite simply, I’ve gone from one of the happiest moments of my playing career to the saddest, in the matter of hours. But that’s life, I suppose. That’s football!
Trusting someone else’s decision is something which I look back at now in hindsight – and with age – and I can’t help but think things would be different if I could live that moment again. We were young and naive and just did what someone told us to do. But now? If that happened, I’d be saying to someone “hold on a minute, we’re travelling with our team-mates”. But we weren’t to know at that age. I guess we were just fragile, young and naive.
It’s something I will have to carry with me forever, that I never got the chance to celebrate that journey. In fact, if I could say something, I hope that Liverpool win the Champions League this year, and Jurgen Klopp brings myself, Neil [Mellor] and Anthony [Le Tallec] back for their bus parade! If anyone sees this who could make that happen – that would be the greatest present the club could give one of their former players! Another chance to celebrate.
How Momo Sissoko tried (and hilariously failed) to stop burglars from stealing my Champions League medal
My Champions League medal, along with my miniature replica trophy – given to me by UEFA – was stolen one day while I was on international duty. It was taken from my flat by a gang from Liverpool who targeted five or six of us who were all away with our national team at the time. I mean, what are you going to do with that medal after you’ve stolen it? I don’t know. You can’t do anything with it.
There’s a funny story attached to mine being taken, though. I’m a positive person and I really believe you’ve got to try to see the funny side in moments like this. I left the keys to my flat with Momo (Mohamed] Sissoko, who was living in the same building as me. This is a real story, I promise. Momo and one of my other friends were collecting some DVDs from my flat – I had this big collection which came over from France – you know when you could only play certain DVDs in certain regions? Well Momo and one of my other friends were heading to my flat to pick out something to watch and they saw that my front door was open.
When they pushed the door further open, they’re facing the guys that were robbing my flat! So Momo is scrambling around looking for something to protect himself with before heading towards these guys… but they start running away.
And I swear to God, this happened! They sprinted out of my flat, and because I was on the top floor, they had to run down all of these flights of stairs. Momo, behind them and chasing after them, he calls the lift! Oh my God… when my other friend told me this, I could not stop laughing. Could you imagine this? So Momo Sissoko, a Premier League footballer, sees some guys in my flat and, while they’re running out the door and down the stairs, he’s waiting for the lift doors to open! Of course they were long gone by the time Momo got down to the ground floor.
Look, it’s not a nice story at first, when you hear that something like this has happened to you, then above everything else I was just happy that my friends didn’t get injured. But then they told me this story and I was just laughing so much. Obviously these guys are long gone by the time he finally gets out of the lift – my God, it’s a true story which still makes me laugh when I think about it now.
Sadio Mane has been Liverpool’s player of the season
Luis Diaz has had a fantastic start to his Liverpool career. What a player – he’s a machine! I love his spirit, I love his mentality, but it’s hard to say he’s been their player of the season.
I would say that title has to go to Sadio Mane. He’s had such an impact this year, especially when he’s been used in a more central role. He won the Africa Cup of Nations for his country for the first time in their career, but at club level he’s done an incredible job across a number of different positions his manager has requested. He’s scored in some important games – I just think he’s had more of an impact than, say, Mo Salah – who has also been brilliant, to his credit.
From what I’ve seen on the pitch, I’d go for Sadio as Liverpool’s player of the season.