Liverpool are now well and truly the dominant force in Europe, after their 2-0 over Tottenham Hotspur in the Champions League final. Last weekend’s triumph completed a staggering season for Liverpool, wherein they become the most prolific season for a team that finished runners-up in the English Premier League, finishing just a solitary point behind Manchester City in the title race. The Champions League win comes after Liverpool finished runners-up last year, losing to Real Madrid in the final.
Back-to-back finals and vanquishing the trophy this year underlines Liverpool’s current dominance on the continent. And with six European Cup titles, the club is now third on the all-time list behind Real Madrid (13) and AC Milan (7), having broken its tie with both Bayern Munich (5) and Barcelona (5).
When it comes to English clubs, Liverpool are far ahead of the chasing pack. Their six European Cup wins are more than the rest of the Big Six combined. Manchester United are second on the list with three European Cup trophies, with Chelsea having won one. None of Manchester City, Arsenal or Tottenham have won the tournament – the former, yet to make the final.
The Champions League, which is the ultimate piece of silverware in all of club football, is the first trophy Jurgen Klopp has won as Liverpool manager. This comes after finishing agonisingly close in the Champions League final last year, in the Premier League title race this year, and the Europa League final in 2016. In fact, Klopp had lost the two previous Champions League finals he had contested – one with Liverpool and one with Borussia Dortmund – before finally winning the trophy this year.
Liverpool were put in a challenging Group C which featured Paris Saint Germaine and Napoli. They finished second, edging out their Italian rivals on goal difference. Their Group C win over PSG was followed by two legged wins over Bayern Munich, Porto and Barcelona, which means that Liverpool won their contests against the reigning French, German, Portuguese and Spanish champions in their successful Champions League campaign.
The triumph, however, was headlined by their staggering comeback against Barcelona in the semifinals, when they overturned a 3-0 defeat in the second leg at Anfield. That feat was made all the more astonishing that they overcame the overwhelming favourites with two of their all-conquering attacking trio – Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah – out injured.
In their absence it was Divock Origi who stepped up as the front-man in the semifinal return leg at Anfield, and then went on to put the final to bed against Spurs with a late second goal.
It is Klopp’s ability to get the best out of his players that Origi’s Champions League winning contributions epitomise. He’s transformed Firmino, Salah and Sadio Mane into an attacking trio that can match any rival in Europe and overcome any defence.
He has also created the best backline in England which is led supremely by strong Ballon D’Or contender Virgil van Dijk along with two of the finest full-backs on the continent – Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson. Alisson Becker’s signing undid the demons from last year’s howlers, as the final piece of Klopp’s jigsaw, which has seen the return of Liverpool to the summit of European football.
It is, however, the summit of English football that the club have been hankering after for the past three decades. The failure to win the Premier League – especially this year, given how close they were to the finish line – shouldn’t take anything away from the Champions League crown, which in many ways is arguably more competitive than even the World Cup, and is the indisputable Holy Grail of club football.
Even so, it’s evident that Klopp and his side would go full-throttle to win Liverpool’s first league title in thirty years next season. With the Champions League win, they have reaffirmed that they have no parallel in English football when it comes to the European front. Now Liverpool want to return to their ‘perch’ whence Sir Alex had ‘knocked them off’ with Manchester United.
The domestic challenge today, however, comes from United’s neighbours with Manchester City having initiated their own era in the Premier League. City became the first side to successfully defend their Premier League title – at Liverpool’s expense – since Manchester United did so a decade ago in 2008/09.
While Pep Guardiola’s City is putting forth a strong claim to being the best Premier League side of all time, Klopp’s Liverpool are, without a shadow of a doubt, a better team than many Premier League winners, without, of course, the title to show for it.
That will be Liverpool’s ambition next year – to maintain the European success, while finally winning the Premier League, which is likely to be another two-horse race.