A “lesson in efficiency”, is how Hugo Lloris described Liverpool’s win over Tottenham in Madrid, and while the Frenchman cannot be sure if he will play in another Champions League final, he maintains Spurs are learning all the time.
Much as defeat on Saturday night was a bitter pill for Spurs to swallow, they can take some comfort from their remarkable journey to the biggest game in club football, one in which they were statistically superior but lost out to a Liverpool side with more experience, more nous, and better game management.
Goals from Mohammed Salah and Divock Origi bookended a strange game that started dramatically, with a penalty after 25 seconds, trudged along painfully for the rest of the first half, before Spurs took command for the second period until Origi’s late strike confirmed Liverpool’s status as European champions.
Statisticians might point to Tottenham’s superior possession (65%), shots on target (eight to Liverpool’s three, two of which were goals), and chances created.
But it was Jordan Henderson who lifted the cup, not Lloris, and it was Liverpool’s players beaming at their winner’s medals late into the Madrid night.
“It was a lesson in efficiency,” said Lloris. “It showed you can play the best football that you can but it doesn’t mean you will win.
"Maybe we had too much focus on the way to play rather than to win the game. We said beforehand that it doesn’t matter how you play, whether it is good or bad, a final is a final and it is all about small details.
But those small details were not that important in the end. Liverpool managed the game much better than us. That’s football. They have a great manager and players, and probably used the experience of last season.
Certainly there was plenty of talk afterwards from Liverpool’s players about their nightmare in Kiev last season, when Real Madrid beat them 3-1.
They are already being tipped to retain the trophy in Istanbul next year, but Lloris knows it is unrealistic to expect Tottenham to make it to the final again.
“I don’t think Tottenham is the type of club to challenge for the Champions League each season, we have to be honest about that.
"But one thing is for sure, we are ambitious and are trying to reduce the gap against the best clubs in Europe, step by step.”
Indeed, Mauricio Pochettino’s team have been on upward trajectory since their abysmal showing three years ago, when they failed to qualify from what looked to be a winnable group.
Last season they did the opposite, winning a group containing Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund before going out to Juventus in the knock-out phase.
This year’s run to the final saw them beat or draw with Barcelona, Manchester City, Ajax and Inter Milan, showing how much they now understand what playing in European football at the highest level is all about.
“In the past three years we have shown a lot of improvement and development in the right direction in this competition, and with the new stadium, it will bring pressure and confidence for the team, the fans, the club.
"There is a lot to learn from this defeat and the whole campaign, for the future, and now it is up to us to get back to work and come back stronger next season.”
"There’s plenty of things to learn and I have no doubt that the team will be stronger next season."#UCLfinal ⚪️ #COYS pic.twitter.com/Kojd5a1djL— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) June 2, 2019
Klopp rectified the one big negative from last year’s final by signing a world-class goalkeeper to replace the hapless Loris Karius, and Alisson Becker defied Tottenham’s second-half surge with a string of fine saves.
Klopp had already plugged the gaping hole in Liverpool’s back line by signing Virgil Van Dijk 18 months ago, and the big Dutchman was man of the match in Madrid.
The two players cost around €70m each, and have proved well worth the investment.
But can Spurs invest big in the same way to refresh a squad that has not been updated since Lucas Moura signed in January 2018?
Daniel Levy is not known for splashing the cash, and although sources close to the club suggest a summer spending spree is imminent, Pochettino is still unlikely to be able to pay top dollar.
“It is difficult to compare both projects,” said Lloris when asked about Liverpool’s greater financial muscle.
“There is one club who sets out to win every competition in which they play, and that is not the case with Tottenham. We try to stick with the philosophy of the board, manager, and the club.
"We look to improve every season and we have shown improvements year after year, so we now cannot throw everything in the bin after a Champions League final defeat.
It’s been a big step for the club and the only thing we can look to do is come back stronger next season.
What those next steps might be, it is, as Lloris says: “too early to talk about”.
“It is painful to lose the final, so it is difficult to have the right judgement now.
"For us to get to the final was a very big and emotional thing and it is difficult for us to end the season in this way because you never know when you will get the opportunity to win this type of competition again.
“The only thing now is to stay positive. We can be proud of this season, to take the club into the Champions League final is a big step forward for us, and we need to build on that to take the club to where it wants to go.”
Pochettino will be key, of course, and the manager would not be drawn on his future in the post-match discussions.
“It is normal to have speculation around all the best managers. I am sure he has an idea of what he wants and only he can talk about that,” said his captain and the player who is nearest to Pochettino and his close-knit coaching staff.
The signs are that Pochettino will stay, and will add to his squad this summer.
But will Spurs be able to go one better than this defeat in the next few years? Only time will tell.