Phil Roberts looks at the overall health of Liverpool Football Club after winning their 6th European Cup and compares it to the situation in 2005.
Amidst the celebrations, the cheers, the hugging and the red flares I took a brief moment of contemplation for myself.... what did this mean, who would we sign now that we were the European Champions and what might Liverpool achieve next? The date was the 25th May, 2005 and Liverpool had just beaten AC Milan in the Champions League final to earn the club’s fifth European Cup. In the next couple of weeks Liverpool were strongly linked with Luis Figo, with the man himself stating that it had long been an ambition of his to play in England and that he would love to do it with Liverpool! As a supporter my mind raced with the thought of us signing a Galactico! I was dreaming of domination!
As it turned out Liverpool went on to sign Peter Crouch, Bolo Zenden and Pepe Reina that summer. Don’t get me wrong, I look back on those players now with great fondness, but it wasn’t quite what I was expecting at the time. In the 05/06 season Liverpool finished third in the Premier League with Steven Gerrard as our top goal scorer, amassing a respectable ten goals from midfield. It was the same old, same old. Liverpool had been ‘not quite good enough’ for most of my life. I was used to seeing us having seasons like that. There was to be no dominance domestically, nor in Europe (though we did go on to reach another final in 2007 of-course).
When I think back, I was pretty naive at the time. Yes we‘d won the European Cup, but we were massive under dogs. We knew how to defend and Rafa had us well drilled and hard to beat over two legs, but we were not the best team in Europe, far from it. We had a spattering of serious quality in the likes of Steven Gerrard and Xabi Alonso, but we also had the likes of Djimi Traoré, Harry Kewell and Jan Kromkamp. Worse still was the ownership situation. David Moores never possessed the ability to take Liverpool to the next level and he was looking for a buyer in order to sell his shares and get out. Little did we know at the time what horror awaited us!
Fast forward to the 1st June 2019: The location...Madrid! Once again I found myself surrounded by thousands of people wearing red, dancing, hugging and singing through thick clouds of red smoke. Once again I found myself drifting into a moment of quiet contemplation amongst the euphoria of winning another European Cup. This time it’s different! This time we just might be the best team in Europe! Ok, Manchester City pipped us to the Premier League by a point, but we far surpassed them in the world’s premier club competition! This time we have great owners who’ve learned from a few early errors but are vastly more competent and ethical than the last shower! This time we had a team of eleven great players out on that pitch, a young team with fantastic balance and a near perfect harmony! The team is led by a manager that any club on the planet would be honoured to have in their hot seat!
Under Jurgen Klopp the team has shown incredible improvement and this was our third European final in his short reign. The problem was that Klopp’s record in finals had been abysmal. I believe it was more down to misfortune, but his detractors might have pointed to a lack of in-game management, or a leaning towards over-excitement which potentially rubbed off on his players. It’s natural. People will always look to explain things they don‘t understand with crazy theories, it’s human nature and football is as fickle as it gets. But until a Klopp team went on to win a major honour we would always have that monkey on our back.
This Liverpool team in the 2018/19 season were breaking records every week and had produced the truly spectacular feat of accumulating 97 points. We had conceded the least goals in Europe and lost only once all season (in the league). To have walked away from that season empty handed would have been a travesty. I dread to think what that would have done to the players and supporters emotionally and what impact that might have had on us. Going into future finals still with that monkey on Klopp’s back would have ratcheted up the pressure tenfold, with the weight of “yet another failure” looming ominously over us on each occasion. I believe that in getting over the line in Madrid it casts a new air of confidence over the club. We go into next season playing with our chests out as the European Champions! Our hype has been vindicated and I’m excited about what that means going forward!
The last time Liverpool looked like they were putting the pieces together and on the verge of becoming something special the team fell apart. Two of our best players in Luis Suarez and to a lesser extent Raheem Sterling left the club to seek a guarantee of winning honours (and more money). Our talismanic captain Steven Gerrard was on the verge of calling it a day and our beloved centre half hero Jamie Carragher had retired the year before. This time it seems like our best players are keen to stay! Now our eldest players in James Milner and Jordan Henderson look like they could go on for at least another three years. This team is a team that can improve! That’s the exciting thing! The vast majority of them are very young men who are either in the beginning of their primes or have their prime ahead of them! If you’re one of the best players in Europe why wouldn’t you chose Liverpool as your next destination? I try to imagine what the world’s best players might want when choosing their next club: an exciting young manager who can improve you? A team where you have a real chance of winning major honours? A good salary? A team that plays attractive attacking football? A fan base that will adore you and give you chills almost every time you step onto the pitch? A club with immense status? Liverpool promise it all and although we don’t necessarily need a ‘Galactico’ to take us to the next level this time, the world is surely Klopp’s oyster? I’d like to think that Klopp can all but name his man and the deal will be done. I know football is never that simple but once Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp come calling for you, surely now there won’t be too many players able to resist?
From ownership, to management, to playing staff, the club seems to be in a great place. Together they have created the best platform we could have possibly hoped for and I have the confidence that we will now make the most of that and go on to experience many more unforgettable moments over the coming five years or so. Here’s to the future!