From Tears to Turkey to Tyneside: Inside Loris Karius' five years of footballing hell ahead of shock Carabao Cup final appearance

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Loris Karius Liverpool 2018 Champions League final HIC 16:9
The ex-Liverpool goalkeeper, who is set to make his Newcastle debut at Wembley, has had a tough time since his Champions League final nightmare

He’s a confident guy, is Loris Karius, but even he must have wondered whether an opportunity like this would ever come his way again.

Five years is a long time to wait for a shot at redemption, but the German will get his in the Carabao Cup final at Wembley on Sunday. A chance to banish some demons, to play the hero for once. A chance to rewrite the story of a career which until now is defined only by its worst night.

Newcastle’s biggest game since 1999 will be Karius’ first for an English club since 2018, when his errors cost Liverpool the Champions League final against Real Madrid.

He has not played competitively for any club in nearly two years, and his Magpies career so far consists of just a 45-minute run-out against Al Hilal in a mid-season friendly in Saudi Arabia in December.

All that will change this weekend, though, when he lines up against Marcus Rashford and Manchester United beneath the Wembley arch.

With Nick Pope suspended, Martin Dubravka cup-tied and Karl Darlow having been sent out on loan, Karius will be asked to step up and deliver for Eddie Howe’s side, as Newcastle look to secure their first major trophy since 1969.

If he can do it, then maybe we can all finally move past the tears of Kyiv. And after everything Karius has been through in the intervening period, who could begrudge the 29-year-old his day in the sun?

This is his story...

  1. The fall

    The fall

    “Haven’t really slept until now. The scenes are still running through my head again and again. I’m infinitely sorry. I know that I messed it up with the two mistakes and let you all down. We will come back stronger.”

    Karius is something of an Instagram specialist but the above message, posted on May 27, 2018, is the one he will always be most remembered for.

    What was supposed to be the greatest night of his young career had turned into a nightmare, his blunders gifting goals to first Karim Benzema and then Gareth Bale, as Real Madrid secured victory in an otherwise evenly-matched Champions League final.

    Karius was in tears at the final whistle, though he was, to his enormous credit, brave enough to front up in front of the TV cameras post-match. “If I could go back in time, I would,” he said. “Today, I lost my team the game. I feel sorry for everyone.”

    He flew to the USA after the final and, at Liverpool’s request and following a call to Klopp from German legend Franz Beckenbauer, underwent medical checks at the Massachusetts General Hospital, where it was revealed he had suffered a "visual spatial dysfunction" concussion during a collision with Real’s Sergio Ramos shortly before his first big error. 

    “Five days after the final, Loris had 26 of 30 markers for a concussion still,” said Jurgen KIopp later. “We don’t use it as an excuse, we use it as an explanation.”

    Few, in truth, showed much sympathy. Karius, at that point, had played his last competitive game for Liverpool.

  2. Leaving Liverpool

    Leaving Liverpool

    After a summer of soul-searching – and plenty of Instagramming in California - Karius reported for pre-season with Liverpool, and while the Reds pursued a new No.1 in Alisson Becker, the plan was for the German to act as understudy, with Simon Mignolet allowed to leave the club.

    But a friendly at Tranmere changed all that. Karius, taunted mercilessly from the stands, blundered again, fumbling a free-kick from Oliver Norburn to cost his side a goal. In the aftermath, Ben Tollitt, Rovers’ Liverpool-supporting winger, was caught telling the goalkeeper “you are f*cking shite!”, while on the sidelines, Klopp's grimace told its own story.

    It was clear to Liverpool that the wounds of Kyiv were still raw, both for the player and for supporters, and that having Karius around as No.2 to Alisson would represent too great a risk.

    Mignolet’s proposed move to Napoli was shelved, much to the Belgian’s annoyance, and by the end of August Karius had moved to Turkish side Besiktas, signing a two-year loan deal for a fee of £2.25 million ($2.7m), with the option to make the move permanent for £7.25m ($8.7m).

  3. Turkish despair

    Turkish despair

    On the face of it, Karius did a decent enough job rebuilding after leaving Liverpool. He made 35 appearances in his first season with Besiktas, with the Istanbul giants finishing a close third behind champions and local rivals Galatasaray in the Super Lig standings.

    The spotlight, though, continued to shine brightly. He was mocked for a bizarre error in a Europa League game against Malmo, allowing a mishit cross from the right to sail over his head and into the net, and after a poor performance against Konyaspor, his coach, Senol Gunes, gave an interview in which he questioned Karius’ mentality.

    “He has gone a bit stagnant,” Gunes said. “Something is wrong with his electricity, motivation, enthusiasm for the game.

    "It hasn't worked out and we have a problem. Let me put it this way, if I still had Tolga [Zengin] available, I would play him.”

    Off the pitch, Karius had issues too. He reported Besiktas to FIFA after they failed to pay him for four months during his first campaign in Turkey and though he stuck around for another season, playing a further 30 times, another issue over unpaid wages led to him cancelling his loan contract in April 2020. 

  4. Back to Germany

    Back to Germany

    Karius returned to Liverpool in the summer of 2020, but with Adrian established as the Reds’ No.2 and young Irishman Caoimhin Kelleher emerging fast, he was informed by Klopp that there was no prospect of first-team action.

    Interest from French side Montpellier and Bundesliga outfit Hertha Berlin came to nothing, but towards the end of a transfer window elongated by the coronavirus pandemic, Karius was able to secure a move to another Berlin side, Union, on a season-long loan.

    It looked a good fit, Karius returning to his homeland, where he still boasted a good reputation from his time with Mainz, and expecting to play for a team that had consolidated its top-flight status the previous season.

    He would, however, make only five competitive appearances, kept out of the side by the veteran Andreas Luthe, with manager Urs Fischer’s decision more than justified by Union’s impressive seventh-placed finish.

    "Of course, when I moved, I was told that I would play, otherwise I wouldn’t have come either,” Karius would subsequently tell Bild.

    "We looked each other in the eye at the end of the season and shook hands. Everyone told me that I was incredibly important to the team and that they were sorry how it went.

    "But when you look at it all, it was certainly not exactly fair. Simply because of what was shown to me in advance.”

  5. Left in limbo

    Left in limbo

    With a year remaining on his Liverpool contract, Karius returned to Merseyside in the summer of 2021 and found himself as fifth choice, behind not only Alisson, Kelleher and Adrian but also Brazilian teenager Marcelo Pitaluga.

    Liverpool had expected to field offers, but received only one, from Swiss side Basel. Karius made it clear he had no intention of accepting it, and so spent the campaign training with the Reds’ goalkeeping contingent without ever coming into contention to play.

    “I found myself in a situation where I had to stay at Liverpool knowing I wouldn’t get my chance,” he would later say. “It was discussed openly with the manager. There’s no bad blood, but knowing the situation from the beginning was tough.”

    Liverpool, it should be said, had no complaints about Karius’ attitude during his final year at Anfield, but he never came close to featuring, even in a season disrupted by outbreaks of Covid. He was, in fact, removed from the club’s 25-man Premier League squad list following the mid-season signing of Luis Diaz, and was released almost unnoticed at the end of the campaign. 

  6. Last chance saloon?

    Last chance saloon?

    Having tried unsuccessfully to find a club ahead of the season, Karius was given an unexpected opportunity to return to England with Newcastle in September.

    The Magpies had loaned Dubravka to Manchester United, and needed emergency cover after Darlow suffered an ankle injury in training.

    Karius signed initially until January. “He comes with a wealth of experience,” said Howe. He would feature in eight matchday squads prior to the World Cup, finally getting his first appearance in that Saudi Arabia friendly on December 8.

    “I thought it was a great chance to go back to England and prove myself again,” Karius said in December. “Obviously, the last few seasons have been a setback for me. It has not been easy at times.”

    On January 19, despite the return of Dubravka from United, it was announced that Karius’ deal had been extended until the end of the season. “To be continued…” he posted on Instagram that day.

    How pertinent those words seem now, as he prepares for his Wembley date with destiny.