Liverpool have listened to advice and Benitez struggle proves it
Liverpool legend John Aldridge looks at how Liverpool have kicked on since Madrid and compares it to the struggles that followed Istanbulby John Aldridge
Liverpool have listened to Jurgen Klopp advice and Rafa Benitez struggle proves it
Jurgen Klopp has always said he wanted his Liverpool players to throw off the backpack of history.
And recalling one of the Reds’ greatest triumphs is an opportune time to remind ourselves of how his squad have been hugely successful in forging their own legend.
It was 15 years ago today that Liverpool stepped out at the Ataturk Stadium in Istanbul for their Champions League final against AC Milan.
We all know the story. The way the game unfolded was just magical. Indeed, if you wrote it as the script for Billy’s Boots, then you’d have been laughed at.
But it happened. And you have to put that down to the mentality of the players on the pitch and the sheer belief they had not to give up.
I was at the match working for radio, and having got there early I had a chance to hang about with various people and watch everything unfold.
It was a weird night. Half-time was probably the worst feeling I’d ever had as a Liverpool fan, and in the press area there were a few London-based journalists laughing and giggling at our expense.
I was fuming with them. I felt lower than a snake’s belly. But come full-time, I went looking for them only to discover they’d gone. Can’t think why.
That victory should have been a springboard for the club but they missed an opportunity both on and off the field.
We didn’t capitalise and didn’t pre-plan for the possibility of us winning. We ran out of jerseys to sell! There was just not enough thought and we became a bit of a laughing stock, to be honest.
It didn’t kick on under Rafa Benitez as it should have done, either.
That we got to that second Champions League final was further testament of how Benitez was a very, very good tactically, particularly in Europe.
But it could have been more. Most of our best players were in their prime, but Benitez, for whatever reason, wasn’t able to bring in all the players of the quality he wanted or needed.
Compare that to how Liverpool have done under Klopp since winning the Champions League last year.
We’ve won the UEFA Super Cup, the FIFA Club World Cup, and we are going to win the Premier League.
Klopp, along with the recruitment team, has been clever in bringing in only players who are as good as or perhaps better than those they are replacing. Benitez lost Xabi Alonso and had to replace him with Alberto Aquilani.
There has been a plan, both on the pitch and in the boardroom.
And Klopp has put it in the heads of his players that, yes, Liverpool have a great past. That’s why so many want to play there. But of even greater importance is the future.
The current squad hasn’t so much thrown off the backpack of history as merely emptied it and started filling it with their own silverware.
Give youngsters a chance
Seeing Liverpool return to training last week was a hugely positive sign in their attempts to finally clinch the Premier League title on the field.
It looks as though the top flight could be back in action as early as mid-June.
And the expected swift turnaround of games is likely to give starting opportunities to a number of fringe players.
Naby Keita appears to have shrugged off his persistent injury concerns and I’d like to see what he can do.
But it will be interesting what Klopp does with players who he believes will be on their way after the season finishes.
And if there are games where some regulars aren’t involved, I’d like to see more youngsters given a go.
Liverpool aren’t expected to complete a huge amount of business in the transfer window. So with a likely increasing reliance on youth, the coming weeks could be ideal for the likes of Curtis Jones, Neco Williams and Ki-Jana Hoever.
Again, it’s about looking to the future. And that could well include these boys.