On Saturday, Liverpool will play their second Champions League final in a row when they take on Premier League rivals Tottenham Hotspur in Madrid.
It’s a chance for the Reds to banish the memories of last season’s 3-1 defeat to Real Madrid. That clash in Kiev was their first final in the competition for over a decade, since Athens hosted a repeat of the glorious 2005 final between the Anfield club and Milan in 2007.
On that occasion, the Serie A giants claimed revenge with a 2-1 victory – but what happened to the Liverpool side that came close to more European silverware that day?
Coach: Rafa Benitez
The man credited with inspiring the comeback in Istanbul was powerless to do it again against an all-star Milan team featuring Paolo Maldini, Kaka, Clarence Seedorf, Andrea Pirlo and Pippo Inzaghi. This time, however, his team was only 1-0 down at the break via a deflected Inzaghi goal on the stroke of half-time.
But Rafa wasn’t able to repeat his tactical magic this time, and his substitution of Javier Mascherano for Peter Crouch to help find an equaliser worked against him: Milan doubled their lead in the 82nd minute.
Benitez left Liverpool in 2010 by “mutual consent” and succeeded Jose Mourinho at Inter Milan. Success with the Nerazzurri wasn’t forthcoming, though, and by November 2012 he was an unpopular appointment at Chelsea – where he went on to win the Europa League.
After further loveless spells at Napoli and Real Madrid, Benitez finally found a more welcoming home on Tyneside with Newcastle in 2016, leading them back to the Premier League at the first time of asking before consolidating their place in the top flight.
Goalkeeper: Pepe Reina
Reina is hailed by many Reds as the best goalkeeper Liverpool have ever had in the Premier League era, but the Spaniard could do little to stop the first goal in Athens; a Pirlo free-kick which deflected in off Inzaghi’s arm. He was then cruelly rounded by the Italian striker for the late second goal.
During his time at Anfield, Reina won three consecutive Premier League Golden Glove awards between 2006 and 2008, Liverpool’s player-of-the-year award in 2009/10, plus an FA and League Cup apiece. He was also part of the Spain squads that won two European Championships and the 2010 World Cup, but played only one match across the three tournaments.
After unceremoniously leaving Liverpool for good in 2014, Reina acted as stand-in to Manuel Neuer at Bayern Munich for a season, before returning to former loan club Napoli. After three seasons of regular football, he agreed to become a No.2 once more by joining Milan on a free transfer in 2018, where he has warmed the bench as a back-up for Gianluigi Donnarumma.
Right-back: Steve Finnan
Often unfairly remembered by non-Liverpool fans as a weak point in this Reds side, Finnan was actually a consistently solid defender. After being subbed off with an injury in the 2005 final, the Irishman was also replaced in 2007 – this time in the 88th minute, by Alvaro Arbeloa.
Finnan went to on play for Liverpool until 2008, before an ill-fated year in Spain with Espanyol, and finally finished his career in 2010 with Portsmouth.
The ex-Ireland defender is now running a property development company: the aptly-named Finnan Developments, in London.
Centre-back: Daniel Agger
The man who eventually went on to replace Liverpool legend Sami Hyypia, Agger was appreciated at Anfield for his no-nonsense defending and habit of scoring a screamer or two.
It was his flick-on from a corner that found Dirk Kuyt, who scored what turned out to be Liverpool’s consolation goal on the night. The Danish centre-half went on to play for Liverpool until 2014, before returning to his first club Brondby.
Trained tattoo artist Agger retired in 2016 at the relatively young age of 31, and has undertaken various ventures in his retirement – including investment in his younger brother’s sewage company (KloAgger), a charity (The Agger Foundation) and tattoo culture community (Tattoodo).
Centre-back: Jamie Carragher
An Everton fan, but a Liverpool legend. By this point, Carra was still one of the first names on the Reds teamsheet, and had just come to the end of his first season in partnership with Agger.
Carragher spent his entire career at Liverpool, spanning 737 appearances, and retired in 2013 with winners' medals from the Champions League (2005), FA Cup (2001, 2006), League Cup (2001, 2003, 2012) and UEFA Cup (2001).
The former England international moved into punditry and formed an unlikely, formidable partnership with former rival Gary Neville on Sky Sports – although he was suspended after spitting at a car following Manchester United’s 2-1 win over Liverpool in March 2018.
Left-back: John Arne Riise
The Norwegian with a sledgehammer left foot became a cult hero at Liverpool thanks to his frightening ability to punish footballs – and by extension, poor goalkeepers. Riise was a classic modern full-back: constantly looking to get forward, but not always the most reliable defensively. As a result, he was often played on the wing.
He left Liverpool in 2008 and went on to play for Roma, Fulham and APOEL, as well as two clubs in the Indian Super League and a short return to the club where he began his career, Aalesund.
Riise subsequently became a football agent and CEO of Global Finest Athletes, before joining Maltese outfit Birkirkara FC as sports director in January 2019.
Central midfield: Xabi Alonso
Alonso epitomised the cool, calm and collected Spanish midfielders of his generation. After scoring in the 2005 final – his first season at Anfield – he played alongside Javier Mascherano in Athens, but gave away the close-range free-kick from which Milan scored their opener.
Despite signing a five-year contract in June 2007, Alonso left Liverpool for Real Madrid in 2009 after a breakdown in relationship with Rafa Benitez, who was desperate to sign Gareth Barry from Aston Villa.
A Liga title in 2011/12 preceded a Champions League success in 2013/14, when Madrid landed La Decima against local rivals Atletico (although Alonso was suspended for the final itself). The midfielder wasn’t around to see them try to defend it, however, as he joined Bayern Munich that summer.
There, the Bavarians were beaten Champions League semi-finalists in each of his three seasons. After retiring at the end of 2016/17, Alonso took his coaching badges before returning to the Bernabeu to coach Madrid's Under-14s in August 2018.
Central midfield: Javier Mascherano
Mascherano was the hard-hitting midfielder who allowed Alonso and Steven Gerrard more freedom in their play. Most people agree that his substitution for Peter Crouch late in the game gave Kaka the space to set up Milan’s winning goal on the night.
The Argentine left Anfield in 2010 to join Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona. It was here where he enjoyed most of his success – including two Champions League titles – and later converted into a ball-playing centre-half. Mascherano won everything available to him at Barça, and dedicated his first lifting of Ol’ Big Ears to Liverpool fans after 2011’s 3-1 win over Manchester United at Wembley.
Mascherano joined Chinese side Hebei China Fortune in January 2018 but that didn’t stop him travelling to the World Cup with Argentina last summer, where he became his country’s most-capped player when he pulled on the blue and white shirt for the 144th time in their opening game against Iceland.
The 34-year-old played every minute of a forgettable campaign for Argentina in Russia – they were eliminated in the last 16 by eventual champions France – and announced his retirement from international football after the tournament. He is now in his second season in China.
Attacking midfield: Steven Gerrard
The homegrown hero couldn’t repeat his Istanbul act from 2007, and missed a glorious one-on-one chance to equalise just after the hour mark in Athens.
Gerrard was never able to win the Champions League again in another decade at Liverpool post-2005, and famously never managed to win the Premier League either as the Reds fell agonisingly short in 2013/14 after that slip.
The midfielder left for LA Galaxy in 2015, then retired a year later to combine BT Sport punditry with his role as Liverpool under-18s manager. In May 2018, Gerrard stepped into management for the first time when he landed the Rangers job. He enjoyed an encouraging first season, leading the Gers back to the Europa League group stage and second place in the Scottish Premiership – albeit nine points behind winners Celtic.
Left wing: Boudewijn Zenden
Zenden, or “Bolo” as he was commonly known, spent six years of his career in England across three different clubs from 2001 to 2007 – then returned for another two-year stint with Sunderland in 2009.
The Dutch winger only scored twice for Liverpool in his two injury-ravaged years on Merseyside, but featured heavily in their Champions League campaign of 2006/07. The final turned out to be Zenden’s last game for the club, and he left on a free transfer to Marseille before retiring at Sunderland in 2011.
Now 41, the Dutchman has since moved into coaching, and hooked up with former manager Benitez as the Spaniard’s assistant at Chelsea. He then became assistant manager to Dennis Haar at Jong PSV in the Dutch second division, and now works as a coach with PSV's first team.
Right wing: Jermaine Pennant
The only English player to play in a Champions League final, but never for his country. Pennant’s career has been full of strange twists and turns.
After scoring a hat-trick on his league debut for Arsenal – having previously been English football’s most expensive trainee at £2m – Pennant’s career never really took off as expected. He struggled to hold down a starting place at many of the clubs he played for, though his time at Liverpool was probably his most successful – 81 appearances in total, and he was very much a first-team regular in his first season of 2006/07.
It wasn’t to last, though: by January 2009 he was out on loan to Portsmouth, then gone altogether for a year in La Liga with Zaragoza. There were two good years at Stoke, but then his career petered into relative insignificance with short-term spells at Wolves (loan), Pune City, Wigan, Tampine Rovers and, most recently, Billericay Town, where he left after just four months.
Striker: Dirk Kuyt
Strong Anfield favourite Kuyt was Liverpool’s late goalscorer in Athens, latching on to Agger’s flick in the 89th minute – but he might not have made the game at all after Peter Crouch almost ploughed into him with a go-kart (opens in new tab).
The industrious forward, famous for his six-yard-box hat-trick against Manchester United in 2011, left Liverpool for Fenerbache in 2012 and remained in Turkey for three seasons before rejoining old side Feyenoord. Fittingly, he netted a treble on his final appearance for them in May 2017, aged 36, to extend his all-time scoring record at De Kuip.
Despite announcing his retirement in 2017, Kuyt returned to help out his fourth-tier first club Quick Boys before being appointed coach of Feyenoord's Under-19 side last summer.
BIG INTERVIEW Kuyt on THAT go-kart incident and more (opens in new tab)
One of Australia’s finest footballing exports, Kewell replaced Bolo Zenden in the 59th minute of this game but couldn’t really affect it.
The midfielder’s Liverpool career in general was a case of what could have been, with injuries ultimately hampering his progress at Anfield. The story that emerged in the years following Kewell’s departure was that Liverpool dropped their interest in a young Cristiano Ronaldo to sign him – a decision which the Australian maintains was the right one.
After five years at Liverpool he joined Galatasaray, and later turned out for Melbourne Victory, Al-Gharafa and Melbourne Heart before moving into coaching.
A stint in charge of Watford’s under-21s was unsuccessful, but he led Crawley Town to 14th in League Two last season before departing for divisional rivals Notts County at the start of the 2018/19 campaign. It proved to be a disastrous move: Kewell was sacked after 14 games in charge after recording just three wins to leave the club in 22nd place.
When all is said and done, Crouch may never get the credit he deserves for his footballing ability. The 2007 final was one of 134 appearances for Liverpool from 2005 to 2008, when he was thrown on as a 78th-minute substitute as the Reds chased an equaliser.
The 6ft 7in striker scored 42 times in his three seasons at Anfield, and was their top scorer in 2006/07 across all competitions with 18 goals.
He appeared at two World Cups for England, and after leaving Liverpool in 2008 played for Portsmouth, Spurs and Stoke, before returning to the Premier League with Burnley in January on a deal until the end of the season. Now a Twitter star with his own podcast and even a ‘Crouchfest’ music festival lined up, his post-playing career promises to be equally entertaining.
The man who replaced Steve Finnan on the night, and would ultimately make the right-back position at Anfield his own in the years after 2007.
He returned to former club Real Madrid in 2009 – twice winning the Champions League, in 2014 and 2016 – and retired in 2017 after an instantly forgettable season with West Ham.
Currently working in the Spanish media and as a Real Madrid ambassador, he was left delighted by the Reds’ miraculous comeback against Barcelona in the semi-final second leg, writing on Twitter: “What a night!!! UNBELIEVABLE! Hope to see you in Madrid winning the Champions League!”
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