Two weeks have now passed since that magical night in Madrid, and yet I still can’t get enough. Looking back it all scarcely feels even believable. It wasn’t just about winning this one match, it was the culmination of 3-4 years of growth for the current team and an even longer journey for the club in general. The emotional rollercoaster had taken us on a wild ride which thankfully had a very happy ending.
I can’t even begin to consider what the summer would have been like had Spurs won, the thought alone is terrifying…
Overall though, now that I have had a bit more time to reflect there is an overwhelming sense of relief for what was achieved. I have been convincing myself for the last few years that trophies are not the be all and end all and instead it is the process and direction of a club that truly matters. I have clearly been kidding myself all along as absolutely nothing beats the sensation of glory, especially a title with as much clout and prestige as the Champions League.
Another season without a trophy would have been a bitter pill to swallow for this squad after all they have achieved. As good as they are, it would have taken phenomenal mental strength to bounce back from another crushing blow. Just ask many of sports nearly men over the years from Jimmy White, the 1990’s Buffalo Bills or even Goran Ivanisevic (although he did finally got his title years later) how hard it can be to get over that last hurdle. To think how close we were to that happening just shows how football isn’t always fair but thankfully the football Gods were smiling on us this time around.
After all despite it truthfully being a poor game for a neutral spectator to watch, the professional manner of victory was reminiscent of earlier in the season when Liverpool were winning close games without ever seemingly getting out of 2nd gear. It was a far cry from the heavy metal football we had so become accustomed to. Deep down though, it was evident that this was the way successful teams sometimes had to play. At times it is necessary to be functional rather than entertaining.
I actually wrote in detail about this evolution earlier in the season (https://theanfieldtalk.com/heavy-metal-football-evolving). This demonstrates that this style of play was no accident. It is always satisfying for teams to see their tactical adaptability pay off in such big moments.
The Champions League final in Istanbul remains one of my greatest nights of all time. Incredibly though, that night in Istanbul is now already 14 years ago. You do sometimes start to wonder over the years if a similar night will ever come along again. It really was a long period of time between victories and so much has happened since 2005 already. To illustrate this point for example 14 years prior to Istanbul the Premier League didn’t even exist, Terminator 2: Judgement Day was the big film of the year, and Nirvana released their iconic album Nevermind. Thankfully, we can now rest soundly knowing it was well worth the wait.
A whole new generation of players are now immortalized in Liverpool folklore. You only have to think back to the 2005 squad and how well regarded they still are to the supporters, and I don’t think it is unfair to say that the current group has the potential to achieve much more in their Anfield life than most of the 2005 squad. Istanbul made unlikely heroes out of players who didn’t necessarily even have the greatest Liverpool careers such as Djimi Traore, Vladimir Smicer, Djibril Cisse and even Jerzy Dudek. This current squad is packed to the brim of players already on the legendary track even prior to this victory. It truly is a special group.
I was torn between who I felt best for after the victory and after much deliberating I ended up being unable to pick between the gaffer and the skipper. For Jurgen Klopp, not only has he transformed the culture and form of the club but he also finally got that losing finals monkey off his back. He was a borderline legend for me even before the match and there is no doubt now he is firmly stamped in LFC history.
Jordan Henderson on the other hand has been through a torrid time both on and off the pitch over his lengthy spell now at the club. He has battled injuries, form, playing out of position, rival supporters and even our own supporters. His passion for the club though never wavered. In Madrid, he became just the 5th Liverpool captain to ever lift the European Cup and what a moment that was.
It remains an incredibly exciting time to be a fan of Liverpool Football Club. We need to fully appreciate the moment and not take it for granted but it is hard not to be curious to see what this team can do next but for now I am just going to enjoy the moment to the fullest. What a relief!