In defense of Loris Karius
On Saturday night, as 11 players on the pitch danced around in jubilation, 10 more downed their heads in despair. Millions of fans around the world filled the air around them with screams of joy, while millions more disappeared into the silence that threatened to engulf them.
But one man stood alone, no shoulders to cry on. No pats of pity on his back. No words of consolation could bring him back to normalcy. One man stood alone among a sea of 61,000 people dressed in red and white.
Loris Karius, Liverpool's No.1 keeper, had made a mistake. And then another. What was worse was that it was on the biggest stage of world football against the biggest team in Europe - the Champions League final against Real Madrid.
Former Liverpool manager, Bill Shankly, most famously said:
Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I assure you, it's much more serious than that.
Considering that, Karius had indeed committed a grave sin. He had robbed Liverpool of a trophy, their first major trophy in over 6 years (the last trophy was the Football League Cup in the 2011-12 season), almost single-handedly.
The immediate knee-jerk reaction would be to call for Karius's head. To take the No.1 shirt away from him. To banish him to the reserve squad. To put forth a bid for a better keeper from Serie A or La Liga. To do everything in power to ensure that the name Karius is never heard in England ever again.
Karius is certainly not among the Top-10 goalkeepers in the world right now. He was not called up to Germany's world cup squad, which means that there are at least 3 keepers in Germany who are better than him - or that is at least what his coach feels. This match couldn't have come at a worse time for him.
But here's a fact that might be a little too far-fetched: Footballers are humans too.
I get that it is not an easy statement to process, so take your time. But after extensive studies by scientists, this is what they have agreed upon. Footballers are humans too. Footballers can make mistakes too. Sometimes even two on a single night.
At 24, Karius has all the time in the world to establish himself as a solid shot-stopper. He also has the potential to be one - In the 2015-16 season when he was at Mainz, Karius was voted as the second-best keeper in the league, only behind Manuel Neuer. When Neuer is the only keeper ahead of you, it ain't such a bad life.
For comparison, David de Gea is 27. In his debut at Manchester United, he was widely criticized for not being able to save a shot from West Bromwich Albion's Shane Long. 6 years later, we all know how the decision to stick by his side has panned out for the Red Devils.
Thibaut Courtois is 26, and he alternates between being exceptional to not being able to save the only shot of the game that comes on target. The thing is, even the best keepers can, and will, have bad days.
Roma's Allison Becker, the man most rumoured to be on Liverpool's radar, is 25 and will be an upgrade on both Karius and Simon Mignolet. But he won't come cheap. He is in contract with the club until 2021, and they won't let him go for without trying to break Liverpool's bank.
There's even rumors of Roma attempting to tie him down with a 90 million euros release clause. At some point in time, the Coutinho money will run out and Liverpool will have to decide if the money being spent is really necessary.
At the end of the game, Karius was seen apologizing to the travelling fans, his hands held up in benevolence and begging for their mercy. Even the most stone-hearted Everton fans would not have found the sight anything but sad.
Does anyone deserve this fate, let alone a goal-keeper? Imagine being in a job where you say sorry to 60 thousand people every time you make a mistake, but also being ignored and forgotten when you are doing your said job. Most of us would go mad.
Karius didn't just stop there. He went on Instagram to take the apology further:
It is obvious that Karius is hurting. Of course, his mistakes will never be forgotten - not in this age of YouTube and Twitter. But they can be forgiven. And they must be forgiven. The confidence Klopp and the Kop keep on Karius now will be the difference. And if they do stick by Karius, he will come back stronger.