Just as Klopp was gaining a reputation for glorious failure, he has decimated it

The age of Spain, bookended by two Liverpool triumphs. After the miracle of Istanbul in 2005, Barcelona and Real Madrid won the European Cup in eight of the next 13 seasons.

Just as Klopp was gaining a reputation for glorious failure, he has decimated it

The age of Spain, bookended by two Liverpool triumphs. After the miracle of Istanbul in 2005, Barcelona and Real Madrid won the European Cup in eight of the next 13 seasons.

The comparative financial might of the Premier League always made for a likely response; the only question was which club would stand tall to break Real Madrid’s stranglehold.

Not Manchester United, not Chelsea, not Tottenham, not Arsenal and not Manchester City, but Liverpool. This grand old club is creating a new legacy.

There is a pleasing irony in Liverpool’s two Champions League victories since the tournament’s reconstruction. A thrilling, unthinkable comeback achieved under that great pragmatist Rafael Benitez.

A grinding, gutsy victory under the great effervescent personality of modern management. Jurgen Klopp prides himself on rampaging, high-wire football, but perhaps that reputation deserves to be consigned to the past.

Get yourself a manager who can do both.

It is easy to get swept up in the emotion of Liverpool, and Klopp has been only too keen to whip up that fervour and use it to his advantage.

It does not matter if rival supporters and neutrals believe the intensity and passion of their support to be hyperbole worthy of derision.

If you believe it matters more to you than anyone else, motivation takes care of itself.

But this was not an achievement rooted in the mysterious. It was the result of a football club that poured scorn on its underachievement and resolved to be smarter and sensible.

Never again would money be sprayed in the hope of landing upon successful signings, likely to result in two Andy Carrolls for every Luis Suarez.

Never again would Liverpool be guilty of an arrogance that made introspection impossible.

Own your mistakes, revel in addressing them. Every elite club has financial clout, but money can only take you so far.

More than anything, this has been a masterclass of Klopp’s man management. Not just of his players but every Liverpool supporter who so wanted to believe but dared not for fear of just another disappointment.

That desperation creates its own suffocating pressure. Klopp’s bluntness and charismatic persona can invite mockery, but it comes with a purpose.

Just as Klopp was gaining a reputation for glorious failure, he has decimated it.

It was not a classic final; not even a good one. We saw the results of a long, hard season and unhelpfully long break since the end of the Premier League season.

An early goal is a typical indicator of open, expansive matches, and these two clubs have a recent history of such fixtures, but it provoked the opposite in Madrid.

Tottenham were spooked by conceding so early and decided to keep the game tight until an assault in the last 20 minutes. Liverpool were understandably content to sit on their lead.

That Liverpool mindset emphasises the difference from last season to this. Klopp’s team scored 84 league goals in 2017/18 but conceded at a rate of exactly one per game.

Liverpool had already made Virgil van Dijk the most expensive central defender in history in January, and targeted Alisson to complete the defensive set.

Liverpool’s wonderful front three took the headlines last season, but their defence has been the real difference-maker.

Picture: Mike Egerton
Picture: Mike Egerton

It allows them to sit back and soak up pressure without the nagging suspicion that a defensive mistake is just around the hill.

Van Dijk was named man of the match, Alisson could easily have won it and the improvement in Joel Matip proves the restorative power of playing alongside a reliable partner.

The last time Liverpool scored first in a league game and lost was April 2017.

Liverpool’s strength of character was regularly — and fairly — questioned until this season. Flakiness haunted and eventually broke Brendan Rodgers.

Klopp inherited the same flaws but has fixed them. Their Champions League success is proof of their newfound ability to endure heartache but return stronger.

They have followed Milan (1994) and Bayern Munich (2013) as only the third team in history to lose a European Cup final one year and win it the next.

Look too at the individuals within Klopp’s team. Jordan Henderson was harangued for being below the standard required and expected to lose his place in the starting XI.

Divock Origi has returned from the extreme fringes of the first-team squad to become Liverpool’s Champions League hero.

Trent Alexander-Arnold has been forged with the confidence to attack each new stage as if it were a training exercise.

“Did you ever see a team like this, fighting with no fuel in the tank?,” asked Klopp after the final whistle. His wide grin provided the answer.

Now is the time for merely enjoying the majestic present, but it’s impossible not to look forward with excited anticipation about what this Liverpool team and manager could go on to achieve.

Klopp is only halfway through his usual seven-year cycle of club management, and seems as content and comfortable as he ever has before.

There are far more reasons to believe Liverpool can get better than will get worse. They have the spending power, the off-field structure, the inspirational manager and the attractiveness to potential new signings.

There are holes to fill in the squad — back-up options at full-back, another forward, an upgrade on Dejan Lovren — but Klopp can promise any potential signing the chance to be part of something special.

Chelsea are in a state of flux, with the exit of their best player, a transfer ban and another managerial departure all potentially looming.

Arsenal are treading water under the non-leadership of Stan Kroenke.

Manchester United lack the off-field structure to move forward and seem incapable or unwilling to address those issues.

Tottenham may well hope to keep manager and squad together, but fell short despite their extraordinary overachievement in Europe this season.

While their peers flounder and fluster, Liverpool march on and are joined by Manchester City.

English football has a habit of quickly upsetting your expectations, but we might be heading towards a duopoly.

Manchester United and Arsenal dominated as the 1990s became the 2000s.

United and Chelsea dominated as the 2000s became the 2010s.

Will Liverpool and Manchester City dominate as the 2010s become the 2020s?

More in this section


Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox

Execution Time: 0.208 s