OKAY, first things first about Basel.
You pass through passport control at the airport. You arrive at a sign. There are flags and colours. Take the left turn and you will end up in Germany or France – in Freiburg or Mulhouse. Take the right turn and you are in Switzerland, in Basel.
I have learned already that this is a city where the inhabitants are sure of who they are. It’s still a bit disorientating, though. The taxi driver asks if we speak German. None of us do. But he speaks English anyway. And his surname on the dashboard indicates he is Arabic – possibly North African. We crack on.
Symbolically at least, maybe Basel is an appropriate setting for this particular occasion: a place where Liverpool’s team – a team, which also possesses multiple personalities – can figure itself out once and for all. Perhaps the mask of doubt will fall and the true identity will be revealed. Are Liverpool good? Are Liverpool bad? They have reached the Europa League final. Maybe they are currently somewhere in between. Maybe the potential is there but it needs to do better. Maybe the confidence gained from victory will inspire necessary improvement. It might allow young players to grow.
Jürgen Klopp has spent the last few days trying to emphasise the game’s significance at this moment. He does not like answering questions about how it might define the future. Understandable, I guess, because if you forget the moment the future might not happen.
Speaking to the players, without prompt they talk about the defeat to Manchester City in February’s League Cup final. There is a sense it came too soon for Liverpool. Too many were not used to the routine of the day: the procession and the finality of it all. No second chances. No way back if it goes wrong. For the first time under Klopp they performed with fear.
It showed because those with a track record of success (James Milner and Kolo Toure) were Liverpool’s most accomplished players. The rest were awkward, uncomfortable in themselves. Liverpool looked like a team that did not know how to deliver on the grandest stage.
The Europa League, of course, is not the grandest stage but anyone who dismisses this game’s importance is either bias, unromantic or, indeed, has forgotten why they either started playing or watching football in the first place.
Klopp has said the fact a victory would move Liverpool into the Champions League through the back door has not entered his consciousness. That’s good because he’s motivated by the right things and it explains why it seems that Liverpool, once again, have a manager who is in touch the carnal desires of supporters.
He must know – deep down – what qualification for the Champions League really means, though. It means his first campaign in charge of Liverpool will be judged as an undisputed success in spite of an eighth place league finish. No Liverpool manager has been appointed mid-season and been able to deliver a trophy at the end of it. He would create history: a firm platform to build from.
Although the journey has been wonderful, he will be able to point towards silverware – something definite – in the way Brendan Rodgers was never able to when opinions turned against him. It gives him an argument during lean spells, particularly if they happen next season. He might be popular now. But moods can change.
It would reduce the chances of him having to expend energy on fight the same fires that appeared at Borussia Dortmund, who were always no more than six months away from losing at least one if not two of his best players to their domestic rival, Bayern Munich.
Should Liverpool reach the Champions League, it is unimaginable other Premier League clubs will be able to take their best players, as Manchester City did with Raheem Sterling. Instead, the best players would want to come to Liverpool: a club winning trophies, a club in the Champions League; a club managed by someone as intriguing and charismatic as Klopp.
Winning would strengthen Liverpool’s appeal and weaken that of others. For the first time in a decade, Liverpool would perhaps hold an advantage over Manchester United and Chelsea.
Basel is a city at the crossroads of Europe. Liverpool is a club at a crossroads of football.
At crossroad? Not quite. Without a doubt, we’re on the cusp of success. Exciting times with Herr Klopp
I cant remember how many times we’ve arrived at this crossroads in the last 20 or so years.
Left is glory and all that stuff in the future.
Right is a big, fat, ugly square one.
Is it better to be at the show and fail than to not be at the show?
It’s now 4 European finals this century – 16 years. Not a bad record compared to any English club
“Are Liverpool good? Are Liverpool bad? They have reached the Europa League final. Maybe they are currently somewhere in between”
That place “in between” is a place called “Average” and some call it “Mediocre”
All we have to do is ensure the owners know this is a stop not a destination and back Klopp with finance and for the committee to listen and learn.
The comments made by Klopp regarding the quality of Spanish scouting, hopefully signal Klopp has recognised our scouting and transfer business has been largely woeful and Klopp can improve this massively.
If he can,then maybe, we can compete in top tier Europe next season. Where we belong.
If Leicester’s one off winning of the league reinforces FSGs moneyball shit, we are destined to live in a place called “Mediocrity”…Like West Brom and Everton.
Looking forward to Goals from Sturridge, Firminio and Origi later.
I can’t remember a game where the differential between winning and losing has been so great.
A European Trophy AND Champions League qualification, (match day revenues, top talent keen to join)
8th place team with no European interest (possibly losing Coutinho, Sturridge, Lallana?)
I don’t want the game to start, but can’t wait until it does?
7hrs and 20 mins to go
Only 5hrs and 55mins now…
Should Liverpool reach the Champions League, it is unimaginable other Premier League clubs will be able to take their best players”. Let’s break this down. Our best players are unlikely to go to Leicester or Spurs, and I can’t imagine they’d be keen on stagnational. Neither Chelsea nor Man U are in the CL. That leaves Man City. Their big selling points are a truckload more money than us and Pep. Neither of those changes whether we are in CL or not. That is not even getting into the 50M or Sterling question. I understand it might be a recruitment issue but it doesn’t sound like it so far
Moreover, smart players (i.e presumably the types of players we want) will understand that CL qualification is an annual process. If we do not play in Europe next year and Klopp has a week to prepare for every game, do you really expect three teams to finish ahead of us? Toure for Skrtel at Southampton and we are probably 4 points short this year having played our kids for ages. In other words, we will almost certainly have CL football year after next either way.
“He must know – deep down – what qualification for the Champions League really means, though.” I bet he does, and the answer is not nearly as much as you are having it. The future is bright. Whether we win or not tonight. Just enjoy the game.
I’m not so sure you’re right about almost certainly being in the CL the season after next.
Chelsea will be back to top form.
Pep at Man City will have them fired up
Southampton can strengthen due to their CL involvement.
Then there is Spurs
Arsenal came second, almost unnoticed
Not to mention Man Utd (with or without Maureen)
West Ham, Europa league (if Man U win the FA Cup) Olympic Stadium etc
Gonna be a tough climb out of 8th please to get into the top 4
Hope none of our lads playing tonight are reading this blog. We don’t want any more undue pressure loaded onto their shoulders. Go and enjoy the night, like it’s a kick-about the park with your mates. Soak up the occasion
The current reality is that there are only 5 teams in all of Europe who can offer guaranteed Champions League football in September 2017. None of them are in England. If a top player isn’t lined up for a move to Barcelona, Real Madrid, PSG, Bayern Munich, or Juventus, signing for Liverpool this summer comes with as much potential for qualification for the Champions League in 12 months as signing for anyone else.
Can’t agree there mate.
Man City, Chelsea and Man Utd, all under new management are a safer bet for CL football than us.
Not forgetting Leicester City, Premier League champions no less, no reason they can’t continue where they left off
After last nights total humilitiation, were a mediocre group of players were hustled and then taken for a ride, it underlined what many were saying last Christmas….is this the worst side we have seen in red?
Klopp will not attract top players alone, and definitely not when a wage cap is in place
FSG have been here 6 years. Profit comes first
We will never win anything worthwhile whilst owned by FSG.
Thank God the season is over. The worst league finish for 60 years I believe.
We need a complete rebuild .