Dejan Lovren arrived at Liverpool in the summer of 2014 for £20M as manager Brendan Rodgers’ chosen man. The defender meant to fix a leaky defence, his presence first meant there was no room for fan favourite Daniel Agger. It nearly ended Mamadou Sakho’s time at the club, too.
Combine the fee and the departure of one of the club’s most popular players to make room for him and expectations were beyond high for the Croatian international. And, for 18 months, he failed to live up to them. For a time, he seemed set to go down as one of the biggest flops in Liverpool history.
"To be honest, I was always happy to be here," Lovren said this week, reflecting on his difficult start to life at Liverpool and his recent growth under new manager Jürgen Klopp. "But sometimes it goes well and sometimes not. Sometimes you need time. And it depends on people who manage you well.
"Since Jürgen has come, things have changed a lot. I changed also because I really like his work. This pressing and, I would say, the need to be always 100% ready for the fight in training and in matches. I would not say he gave me the confidence, but he gave me the push. ‘Here is your chance. Take it.’ I took it."
Since Klopp arrived, Lovren has slowly but steadily turned around his Liverpool career, and in 2016 he has been one of the outstanding performers—likely the club’s best centre half. Whether that might eventually have come to pass under Rodgers is anybody’s guess, but it never looked like happening.
Now, Lovren will need to continue that quality play against Manchester United on the road, with Liverpool’s rivals and Europa League opponents down two goals and likely to press hard in front at a fired up Old Trafford. Lovren, too, is fired up, and looking to finish what he and his teammates started last week.
"It felt like a moment," the defender added. "I don’t know if it was because it was Manchester United, but we need to play like this against every opponent and then the crowd will see. We need to see in every game the passion and fight. We need to finish well. We have a big chance to be where we want to be."