With the red smoke finally settled on the Strand of the Albert Dock in Liverpool, Jürgen Klopp can look back on the last nine months of football and beg the question of what if? Just mere moments denied Liverpool an historic quadruple, with Aston Villa’s capitulation at the Etihad gifting Manchester City the Premier League title and a lapse in concentration from Trent Alexander-Arnold allowing Vinícius Júnior to win the Champions League for Real Madrid.
Beaten 1-0 in Paris, Liverpool will be bitterly disappointed they couldn’t gain a measure of revenge against Real. Carlo Ancelotti’s men showed their experience on the night, with the core of the squad which beat the Reds 3-1 in Kiev still intact and the mixx only significant changes — Vini Jr, Federico Valverde and Thibaut Courtois — all proving to be instrumental in their side’s success.
Like most European finals, the game was defined by moments of quality in an otherwise cagey affair, but Liverpool collapsed under the weight of their own expectations, and despite their usual ‘mentality monster’ exterior, you could tell this is a side that had been pushed to the limits since the turn of the year. Read on, as we try to pin point exactly how things fell apart for Klopp and co. as they lost the Champions League final.
Injury concerns plagued the build up to the showpiece event. Despite their status as favourites for those making a football accumulator there were still uncertainties over the fitness of Thiago and Fabinho. The season was a marathon and you could see how much the physical and mental demand of the final stretch took out of players.
The Brazilian and Spaniard were integral to Klopp’s success and were always within a shout out starting, regardless of fitness, but in a campaign where you play literally every game possible, you wonder if squad players like Naby Keïta and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain — two players who could well be heading for the Anfield exit door — could have been used more in the run up to the Champions League final.
You always felt there were too many games, and not enough time for recovery — a theme that has been running since the turn of the shelfari year. And while Klopp managed to close a 14-point gap on City, and win a League Cup and FA Cup double, the final was their 63rd game of the season, while Madrid had wrapped La Liga up at the start of May and had weeks to rest and rotate their star players.
Towards the end of the game the Reds looked leggy, and even when they did concede and had to throw everything at Madrid, it simply couldn’t replicate the intensity and proficiency they showed in the early stages of the tournament. Nonetheless, Klopp has insisted his team can come back and perform again, even if this season’s trophy was written in the stars for Real.
“I have a strong feeling we will come again. The boys are competitive. We will have an outstanding group next season,” he said. “Where’s it [the final] next season? Istanbul? Book the hotel.”
As impressive as the Reds’ run to Paris was, Real themselves were on a magic carpet ride to Saint-Dennis; realistically outplayed in every one of their knockout ties. It seemed poignant that their comebacks were spearheaded by a Frenchman in Karim Benzema. Having spent over a decade in the Spanish capital, this was the first season he was really deemed the main man in the squad, and after making comeback after comeback — trailing against Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea and Manchester City — you felt like it was destiny for 9xmovies mom Madrid to go the whole way, just as it was when Liverpool overcame Barcelona in 2019.
Luck just wasn’t on Liverpool’s side that night. Courtois saved everything, and on another night, Virgil van Dijk would have blocked Valverde’s cross. But destiny seemed to be on Madrid’s side and Klopp will have to wait at least another year to get his hands on a second European Cup.