How Ragnar Klavan has become Liverpool’s new cult hero

How Ragnar Klavan has become Liverpool’s new cult hero

Who else thinks Ragnar Klavan’s last-minute winner at Burnley has made it into their favourite 10 Reds goals of all time?

That may be both short-termist and an overreaction, but there was something special about it.

It was a goal that leaves you on top of the world for hours afterwards, feeling invincible. I could have knocked out Mike Tyson between approximately 4:50pm and 10pm, or cruised to victory over Mo Farah in the 10,000 metres.

There were probably a number of reasons why it felt so huge.

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For starters, it was the first time we have experienced Liverpool score a winning goal in stoppage time since Sadio Mane’s tap-in at Everton 13 months ago, which is far too long.

Jurgen Klopp’s men had also only just conceded a rather soft equaliser to Johann Gudmundsson, so it looked as though two precious points had been thrown away.

The Burnley fans were loving rubbing our noses in it, so when Klavan’s effort nestled into Nick Pope’s net with 94 minutes on the clock, it felt even sweeter.

The manner of the goal was also drama personified, with the ball bundled over the line from Dejan Lovren’s flick-on, and the euphoric Liverpool supporters behind the goal added even more magic to it all.

The fact that it was Klavan who was responsible for arguably the Reds’ biggest moment of the season to date made it extra special.

The 32-year-old took a while to become a fans’ favourite at Anfield, following his low-key £4.2million move from Augsburg in July 2016.

There was nothing remotely spectacular about the Estonian, and considering too many people look at price tags as a way of rating a player these days, nobody was expecting him to be any more than a forgettable squad member.

That is how it played out in his first season as a Liverpool player, with 20 starts to his name, but all of a sudden, his reputation has soared, and he has become one of the most popular individuals in the squad.

A very consistent run has made people realise he is actually a perfectly competent centre-back, and he is now the latest in a long line of Liverpool cult heroes.

Quite what it is about him that has seen him adopt this tag is not as easy to put your finger on as other, more obvious examples, but you can still see what his appeal is.

Those slightly needless, but ultimately enjoyable, pieces of skill during games have clearly been part of it, but what else?

He doesn’t possess the character of Kolo Toure, Liverpool’s most recent cult hero before Klavan, but he does feel very easy to warm to.

The veteran is an unassuming figure who you never hear about off the pitch – when does he ever run his mouth in interviews in the manner Simon Mignolet and Lovren do?

He doesn’t have an expensive haircut; his celebrations aren’t choreographed; he never causes Klopp any issues off the pitch and he has no ego in the slightest.

In a recent interview, the former Augsburg man even admitted to asking Klopp for a selfie when the manager messaged him expressing an interest in signing him. That sums him up.

Klavan feels like one of us far more than many modern day footballers, which is a huge part of his charm. He is completely unfashionable, and Liverpool fans love that in a player.

Everything about the Estonia captain is old school, and although he has limitations as a footballer, he is thought to be a key component of the dressing room.

That winner at Burnley is only going to add to his legend, and there is a feeling that such a big goal couldn’t have been scored by a more down-to-earth, grounded player.

Klavan now joins an eclectic mix of cult heroes from the past – an array of footballers who we still think of fondly.

Neil Mellor was a fairly run-of-the-mill footballer if we’re all being honest, and he could easily have been consigned to history without anyone batting an eyelid.

One late strike against Arsenal, and another against Olympiakos, still see him talked about, however, and he has arguably forged a career in the media out of the exposure those two goals afforded him.

Djimi Traore and Igor Biscan were both very mediocre, but they triumphed in the 2005 Champions League, and really won over the fanbase with their effort levels. They are generally only talked about in a positive sense these days, which seems mad.

Gary McAllister was pushing 36 when he joined from Coventry and was an unpopular signing, but he will always have the winner at Goodison Park in 2001 and a number of other important goals.

Luis Garcia was a hit-and-miss player but we all know what he achieved; Maxi Rodriguez was loved by the masses; Titi Camara stole our hearts; Sotirios Kyrgiakos had elements of Klavan about him.

There have been far better players than those mentioned, who have contributed a lot more over a sustained period for Liverpool, but they didn’t etch their name into Anfield folklore and become loved in the same way.

With every week that passes, the more Klavan’s stock rises – the term “Klavan D’or” is now being used after his impressive run of form – and he has responded superbly after being written off early in his Reds career.

It is great to see a humble person, and an underrated player, being cherished so much, and it will be interesting to see how much more his cult status grows from this point on.

He isn’t Liverpool’s long-term solution at the back, but he is building an unlikely legacy.