Liverpool must not forget incredible run as Reds join special Champions League lineage

The Reds have made it to three finals in five years, but merely reaching the showpiece match in Paris warrants high praise after eliminating Villarreal in the semi-finals

Miguel Delaney
Chief Football Writer
Wednesday 04 May 2022 13:06
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<p>Virgil van Dijk and Mohamed Salah celebrate Tuesday’s dramatic win at the Ceramica stadium in Villarreal </p>

Virgil van Dijk and Mohamed Salah celebrate Tuesday’s dramatic win at the Ceramica stadium in Villarreal

As Andy Robertson sat down after another breathless and brilliant night, he offered pause for thought.

“We should never take these days for granted.”

It’s of course absolutely correct, but some at Liverpool could be forgiven for just looking to what next, because Jurgen Klopp has made these great days so routine.

After defeating Villarreal 5-2 on aggregate, the German ensured this was three Champions League finals in five years, to make it 10 in total. It is a consistency not seen since the very start of the club’s greatest glories, when Bob Paisley also made it three in five years.

The last of those was also in Paris, coincidentally enough, against Real Madrid.

Jurgen Klopp hjas led Liverpool to three Champions League finals since 2018

We may well see a repeat on their return to the French capital for this showpiece, and Mohamed Salah demanded a repeat, as he proclaimed he wants revenge for 2018.

That was Klopp’s first at the club, and he said the feeling still felt the same. The German had been asked how this compares to reaching this stage in 2018 and 2019.

“Outstanding,” Klopp beamed. “It feels like the first final. I love this competition. The sounds, everything, the nights.”

It can be unforgettable but that is still a point that should be remembered in all of this.

Liverpool obviously have the grandest ambition in football, as they go for an unprecedented quadruple, and much of the talk is naturally about the achievements of playing in every possible game in a season, but the simple feat of just reaching a European Cup final should not be forgotten.

Liverpool players applaud the travelling supporters in Spain

This is what people dream about. This is what the game is all about. It has become the biggest annual sporting event in the world, as Uefa attempt to furnish it with more modern trappings and make it “like the Super Bowl”, but its true glory comes from the pure gravitas of seven decades of the greatest football.

This is what Klopp recognised, and made sure to remind his players.

You are following the most special lineage in the sport, treading on the same stage as Alfredo Di Stefano, Eusebio, Johan Cruyff, Marco van Basten, Lionel Messi and so many of the greatest names.

But then look at this Liverpool team, and the legacy they are making. It is remarkable to think that, in that first final in 2018, Sadio Mane seemed more of a support act. He is now a modern great, to go with Virgil van Dijk, Trent Alexander-Arnold and – of course – Salah, as they prepare for their third experience of such an occasion.

This is what Klopp has fostered.

Fabinho’s goal snapped Villarreal’s momentum after momentarily levelling in the tie

He has now taken an English team to more finals than any manager other than Paisley and Sir Alex Ferguson. Many will also point that the Manchester United great’s four finals came across two decades, whereas Klopp’s have been inside half a decade.

That does reflect something else, though, that is perhaps less worthy of celebration. It again emphasises how economically stratified European football has become. There has never been such a concentration of wealth in one country as there is with England now, not even at Serie A’s peak.

The wealth was more evenly spread, meaning there were always more contenders from around the continent.

Now, we are at the point where one of Spain’s wealthiest clubs – for that is what Villarreal are – are considered real underdogs. It may yet mean we have a fourth all-English final, and the third in four years.

That is no concern for Klopp or Liverpool, though. They have both chosen so well. The German finds himself at one of England’s great clubs, at this hugely propitious time.

Now that Klopp has signed a new contract, we are probably going to be talking about more records broken. Liverpool are already aiming to match AC Milan’s seven Champions League titles, to take them joint second in the pantheon behind Madrid’s 13.

They do still have to go and play, and try to win, this game. Just being involved, it should not be forgotten, is a special feat all of its own.

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