Liverpool face Real Madrid in Kiev tomorrow night in the biggest game in club football: The Champions League final. But, regardless of the result, it should be a campaign remembered as a huge success.
Let’s put this into context. The Champions League is a tournament the Reds had to qualify for last August (in what seems a lifetime ago against Hoffenheim). It’s a tournament they have featured in just twice over the past eight years. Achieving fourth place in the Premier League cements their spot in the competition next year. And the boys are now just a meagre 90-minutes away from regaining the trophy every single player and team in Europe wants most.
Quite remarkable, really.
And since qualifying in August, it’s been quite the ride. The Reds are the highest scorers in the competition. James Milner has the most assists. Roberto Firmino (10), Mo Salah (10) and Sadio Mane (9) are second, third and fourth on the top scorer list (behind Ronaldo). And the Reds have tallied a number of impressive performances to reach the final (beating City, twice, beating Porto 5–0, beating Roma 5–2, beating Spartak Moscow 7–0).
Given the way Klopp’s swashbuckling Reds have marauded through the competition, despite a number of setbacks (injuries to key members of the squad, Coutinho’s high-profile departure, and the absence of assistant coach Zjelko Buvac), it would be truly devastating to not lift a sixth European Cup.
However, on reflection, this season will be viewed with a sense of great hope, pride and achievement. Amongst others, a global superstar has been born in Mo Salah, young players have been well and truly blooded in the fieriest of circumstances, Henderson has evolved into a much-needed leader, Van Dijk has played a pivotal part in addressing the defensive issues, and the attack has proved to be one of the deadliest in the world.
The future bodes well.
Fingers crossed Jurgy Klopp can bring home the bacon. Madrid might have the more trophies, but this is a special club that never knows when it is beaten.