This is Liverpool so when they went to Roma with a 5-2 lead that should have been comfortable you had to know they would make us sweat all the way to the final whistle.
Roma won on the night 4-2 but Livepool advances to face Real Madrid in the Champions League final by winning 7-6 on aggergate which is the highest scoring semifinal in Champions League history.
But really does anyone care that this made you sweat, it’s all about moving on and it shouldn’t matter what it took to be playing in the Champions League Final, the biggest game in club football.
When Jurgen Klopp took over there was the optimism that Liverpool was going to be a threat again, but to reach this game so soon says everything that needs to be said about the gaffer.
This is their 2nd Europeon final in 3 years and considering that they didn’t play in Europe last season they have made the final in both Europeon competitions that they have been in.
Since Klopp took over in the fall of 2015 things started changing immediately. In the 2015-2016 Europa League Liverpool made an incredible run to the final by beating Manchester United in the round of 16, Borussia Dortmund in miraculous fashion in the quarterfinals, and Villarreal in the semi’s before losing to Sevilla in the final.
It was an incredible run but that run was the beginning of this. The transformation in the past two seasons has been wild.
Out went Kolo Toure, Mamadou Sakho, Martin Skrtle, Lucas, Joe Allen, Jordan Ibe, Christian Benteke, Daniel Sturridge, Phillipe Coutinho and Divock Origi.
In came Virgil van Dijk, Andrew Robertson, Gini Wijnaldum, Sadio Mane, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Mo Salah, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
This difference in quality between the names that have come in and the names that have gone out is night and day, which has had everything to do with getting to this point.
Before the season not even the most optimistic Liverpool fans thought this was possible. This team still had holes to fill. Klopp’s process was still happening. Hell Virgil van Dijk wasn’t with Liverpool until January and none of this would he impossible without him. That man has been immense every step if the way through this.
Klopp was criticized heavily when Southampton refused to sell van Dijk this summer and Red Bull Leipzig refused to sell Naby Keita who were Liverpool’s big targets this summer more than Mo Salah and if your memory is a little hazy most thought those two were of higher proirties than Salah was, it’s just that no one expected Salah to turn into the player he has been.
But instead of going with a plan B which irratated everyone. (LFC Twitter was a fun place during those dark days during the summer) Klopp showed patience and waited for his man or men.
He was able to get Van Dijk in the winter window, he was able to get Keita away from Leipzig, sure it is for next season but he still got his man and there is no doubt Klopp knows his job isn’t done yet when comes to building this team but he’s been right on every step of the way, even if things aren’t happening as fast as people want, but even though Klopp’s patience has maybe made this build a little slow the results are much quicker than anyone ever thought. Getting to the Champions League final is the pinnacle in this sport, to get here in 2 and a half years is incredible.
This job was always going to be a difficult job, it’s a big club, but it’s also a club that for the past 10 years with the exception of 2014 hasn’t performed or acted like a big club, but Klopp has changed that attitude.
That has been a huge part of this. He had to change the mentality of this club and have it dreaming big again, this was his first step and I think he accomplished that in his first season getting this team to the Europa League final.
The next step was to get his players. The first summer he brought in Mane, Wijnaldum, and Karius.
There was no doubt improvement last season and a top 4 finish but if Liverpool was serious of competing in the Champions League there needed to be more upgrades to the squad.
The summer came with a lot of anticipation as center back, midfield, and left back seemed to be the top priorities.
Mo Salah coming into play wing seemed important, but the Reds already had Mane, Firmino, and Coutinho, but we all learned how difficult last season was when Mane was not available. Either by injury or playing in the African Cup of nation’s.
The attack lost it’s luster and they lacked the pace that Mane brought, but bringing Salah in gave the Reds the threat on both wings and what was named the Fab 4.
No one expected Salah to have the season he had. No one saw 40 goals coming, no one saw the player of the year, and no one saw him leading us to the Champions League final.
Luis Suarez 2013-2014 season is talked about like a godly type season even though it only happened a few years ago so to see Salah top that seems surreal, this whole thing has been surreal.
To go with Salah this past summer they brought in Andrew Robertson from Hull City to play left back after taking a month to get in the lineup reguarly he’s gone on to take the reigns to playing as well as any left back on the planet.
They also added Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to provide depth in midfield and the wing. And added Keita for next season, but the only thing that was needed was the center back.
That center back was the guy we wanted all along it was the big Dutch center back who was playing for Southampton Virgil van Dijk. The seasons poor performances from the defense were soon gone and this team transformed from a very shaky defensive team to a sneaky very good defensive team out of nowhere right before our eyes.
The team was maybe not complete yet but it was getting there and this improved this teams chances.
They’ve already won their group before adding van Dijk but once they got the knockout stage it was always going to be difficult and like I said without van Dijk was never going to be possible.
Klopp had one more tough job to do with the psyche of this team when they sold Coutinho to Barcelona for 10 billion dollars. This definitely set panic forward. All the elation that happened after getting van Dijk was gone now that Coutinho was gone.
Who is going to be the play maker they said, how are we going to break down defenses they said, but one thing about Klopp is when you think he doesn’t have a plan his plan is better than you could have dreamed of.
No doubt that the better defense with van Dijk and Robertson was a big part of improving the team not just defensively but all around.
Nothing against Coutinho the dude is world class but selling him to Barcelona helped the team become more balanced, and better in midfield which had been an inconsistent spot for this team.
Coutinho sometimes left them out numbered at times. Look if given the choice I would still rather have Coutinho but he wanted to go to Barca more than I want Minka Kelly. Klopp knew this and if Phil wasn’t totally committed he was comfortable with selling him. Klopp knew this team could be better without him which is another reason why this guy is so damn good.
This was the final step to this teams transformation he inseted Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in midfield and the balance was better the team was better but no one could envision the journey that was about to take place.
To roll through Porto who is going to win the Portugese League 5-0 in the first leg and then to the first magical night at Anfield the night where they pounded Manchester City the team that has probably been the best team in Europe, then to go to City when everyone was expecting you to blow it to not only beat them outright was just breathtaking.
Then came Roma and the semi’s. Those 60 minutes when Liverpool took a testy first leg to a rout was the best football I’ve seen a team play in years, it was absolutely sublime. The type of stuff you dream that one time your team can do and our team did it, this is our team and they’re incredible.
Klopp deserves so much credit for this but the players still have to get it done and this is a complete team without contributions from so many this isn’t possible.
Mo Salah is the star and deserves all the accolades he’s having the type of season that he’s being mentioned in the same sentence as Messi and Ronaldo and it’s been a decade since that has happened.
van Dijk has transformed a bad defensive team to a pretty good defensive team.
Firmino is always getting credit for being the unsung hero, which he is, but he’s really the cog in this that makes Klopp’s system work.
Mane has been incredible. He has kind of been the forgotten man for perceived struggles earlier in the season. But the reality is he dealt with a knock, a red card, and adjusting to a new role and he’s been huge down the stretch of the season. He’s as good as anyone right now.
The big 3 of Salah, Firmino, and Mane have scored 29 goals which is the highest scoring trio ever in the Champions League. They have 46 goals in Europe this season which is the best. The whole run has been incredible.
But it’s not just those 3 and van Dijk.
Think about Gini Wijnaldum he had to step in for Jordan Henderson as the defensive midfielder in the second leg against City when Henderson was suspended. He had to fill in for Oxlade-Chamberlain when he went down with a season ending injury for most of the first leg against Roma and the entire second leg. He was huge in both legs and even scored the pivitol goal.
James Milner may have been a bit of forgotten man this season, but with Emre Can injured he’s stepped up and been a monster running his face off during this Champions League run. A guy that was mostly looked at as a veteran sub in midfield after filling in at left back last season had become an important part of the machine again and performed at an incredible level.
Jordan Henderson who gets more criticism than President Trump stepped up and has controlled the midfield throughout this run which he’s had to do with Emre Can out with a back injury since March. Can missed the quarter and semis and it’s incredible that this team hasn’t missed a beat without him.
Then you look at the fullbacks Trent Alexander-Arnold and Robertson. Trent was the target of City and put in a man of the match performance and Robertson is always mentioned in the top 2 or 3 performers for the Reds in every single game of this run.
Lastly you have to mention Dejan Lovren and Lloris Karius. Lovren has been the whipping boy for the fans but if you don’t think he hasn’t been huge throughout this run you’re drunk and Karius has finally given the Reds a goalie for the first time in years that didn’t make you freak out every time the ball was played anywhere near the box.
It hasn’t been without adversity. When you lose the likes of Can, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Adam Lallana, and Joel Matip.
This is why it is such a testament to Klopp and all the players I’ve mentioned. These guys all stepped up, they don’t make it here without any of them. Plus the fact that they have some how become a better team without Coutinho is remarkable and says everything about this team and this manager.
This manager is everything since coming to Anfield he’s had the Loop dreaming again, he’s transformed a poor team into a very good one with a calculated transfer strategy, he’s made the team better every step of the way by acquring the perfect players that fit his system, he hasn’t panicked when adversity has come their way, and has set this team up perfectly every step of the way during this run.
Sure today was a mess and a bit nervy, but this is Liverpool and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
This team has put themselves in the position to win their 6th Europeon Cup against 2 time defending Champions Real Madrid. It’s time to dream we can do this, we’ve been dreaming for months now but the dream is still alive, that dream that has us at the top of the football world. Things have come along way since the last time we faced Real Madrid when Brendan Rodgers started the likes of Kolo Toure, Lucas, Joe Allen, Fabio Borini, Lazar Markovic, and Martin Skrtle to name a few, so when you’re on cloud 9 thinking about this it was just 3 seasons ago when we last played Real Madrid and that’s who we put out there. Thank you FSG, thank you Jurgen, and thank you to the players for all this. Now go get number 6 in Kiev. Up the mighty Reds.