Dejan Lovren spent six years at Liverpool, each one of them chock full of a few highs and fair number of lows. While the Croatian is responsible for one of the great Liverpool memories of modern times with his epic injury time winner against Borussia Dortmund, he has also starred in his share of shambolic feats of chaos.
Now plying his trade with Zenit St. Petersburg, the defender has apparently deemed there to now be enough psychological distance to feel comfortable recently discussing one particularly unpleasant memory with FourFourTwo magazine. We are of course talking about the first half against Liverpool’s October 2017 league trip to Tottenham that will live long in ignominy.
The Reds came into the match mired in mid-table barely two months into the season, but crucially and unbeknownst to disheartened Liverpool supporters, mere weeks from completing what would turn out to be the transformative January 2018 signing of Southampton’s Virgil Van Dijk. However, it was another ex-Saints defender in Lovren who led a defensive line on the day that featured Joel Matip, Alberto Moreno, a still-green Joe Gomez and Simon Mignolet in goal. A shiver surely just went down the spine of many a Red.
Four minutes into the match, Lovren forgets how to set an offside trap, watching admiringly as a simple ball sails over his head for Harry Kane to latch onto and fire the opening goal. Seven minutes later, the Croatian allows a floaty long throw from Spurs keeper, Hugo Lloris to fly slowly over his head—a theme on the day—leaving Kane to again waltz in unencumbered and lay on for Heung-Min Son to score.
Cameras panned to Reds’ manager Jürgen Klopp after the second goal, capturing the German sporting the wry, resigned smile of a man preparing to drop £75m on a brand spanking new center half.
With none other than Diego Maradona—rest his soul—watching on from the crowd, Lovren continued to put in a masterpiece of a horror show performance, allowing Son to mosey on past him for several more attempts on goal before Klopp decided he had seen enough, memorably, substituting the defender in the 30th minute.
“Let’s just say when Klopp took me off after half an hour against Spurs, when we were 2-1 down, I was shocked,” Lovren is genuinely quoted as saying in the interview.
The Reds went onto lose 4-1 in what was arguably the nadir of Lovren’s time at Anfield. Indeed, it was a half of football that left Liverpool supporters either emotionally scarred or needing to subconsciously erase the memory of all events that occurred that day as a coping mechanism for the trauma.
Thankfully, the Reds famously emerged from that rock bottom, and it is not a stretch of the imagination to believe that Lovren’s catastrophically bad performance that day give Klopp and FSG the impetus to pull out all the stops to outbid Manchester City’s oil riches to win Van Dijk’s signature.
The man who once labelled himself one of the best defenders in the world also chose to draw positives from that fateful day:
“That moment was decisive for me to change something in my mind and work even harder,” Lovren continued. “From then, I was flying until the end of my stay at Liverpool.
“Nobody else would see that, but I’m looking at it from my way. From that moment on—and even Klopp knows it—I started to play well.”