Why Liverpool will not be the best team in Europe if they win Champions League
Make no mistake, Liverpool versus Real Madrid is a dream Champions League final – but neither club can claim to be the best in Europe if they win it.
Best team in Europe? Liverpool are currently 19 points behind Premier League champions Manchester City, while in La Liga Real Madrid are a distant third, 15 points in Barcelona’s slipstream.
One of them will win the Champions League, yet neither Liverpool nor Real will be the actual champions of their own country, by a distance, this season.
But it goes without saying that I hope Liverpool lift the European Cup for a sixth time.
And if he charts a path to triumph in Kiev, in my book that would elevate manager Jurgen Klopp to the ranks of English football’s genius elite.
I love Liverpool’s front three, I love Klopp’s passion, I love the phenomenal din of big European nights at Anfield.
Don’t be fooled by people who tell you Liverpool will be favourites in the final when two famous clubs and their huge fanbases converge on the Ukrainian capital.
Just because Real scraped past Juventus last month, and they were clinging on for dear life against Bayern Munich in the semi-finals, it doesn’t mean they are there for the taking.
You don’t reach four of the last five finals, and win all four, if you can’t defend.
And you don’t beat the French champions, Italian champions and German champions in consecutive knockout ties if you aren’t streetwise or cynical where necessary.
Liverpool, on the other hand, have had an easier ride through the competition: Sevilla, Spartak Moscow and Maribor in the group, then Porto, City and Roma in the knockout stage.
Of course, it was a huge feather in Klopp’s cap to beat City 5-1 on aggregate when Pep Guardiola’s men have run away with the title.
But Liverpool have enjoyed moments of good fortune, notably Leroy Sane’s disallowed goal and Raheem Sterling’s penalty shout in the quarter-final.
Then, in Rome, Edin Dzeko was wrongly pulled up for offside after he was brought down in the box by Loris Karius on Wednesday night, and Trent Alexander-Arnold got away with blatant handball when the tie was still alive.
Don’t get me wrong: Over the two legs, Liverpool deserved to go through because they were absolutely sensational for 75 minutes at Anfield and Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane eere unplayable.
But to beat Real Madrid, I do feel they will have to lead from the front and capitalise on their high-pressing style from the first whistle.
Over their last four games, Liverpool have scored nine times in the first 75 minutes and conceded only twice; in the last 15 minutes of those games, however, they have scored none and conceded six.
But if Liverpool fly the flag and win their sixth European Cup, Klopp will be a genius – up there on a pedestal with the greats.
My definition of ‘genius’ means a manager who has achieved exceptional success beyond all expectations.
Sir Alex Ferguson won the Treble. He’s a genius. So is Arsene Wenger, the man who put together the Invincibles.
Claudio Ranieri’s a genius for leading Leicester’s 5,000-1 long shots to the title.
Jose Mourinho has never won the Champions League with an English club, but he’s done it with Porto and Inter Milan. He’s a genius in my eyes.
And the same applies to Rafa Benitez, who guided Liverpool to their last Champions League triumph.
Pep Guardiola? To win La Liga and the European Cup with Barcelona was not unexpected, nor was winning the title with Bayern or City, the richest clubs in their leagues.
But Pep will be a genius if City take seven points from their last three games and become the first ti break the 100-point barrier in a 38-game Premier League season – not to mention the century of goals they have already scored.
A hundred points and 100 goals, playing sublime football? That’s genius.
You could argue that leading Burnley into Europe through their league position, 12 months after they flirted with relegation, is pretty exceptional, too.
No wonder Sean Dyche has had a pub named after him in the town. Taking Burnley into Europe is an incredible achievement.
But like Real Madrid and Liverpool, it doesn’t make them the best team in Europe, either.
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