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Liverpool's '10 games from greatness': The football history already being written in their attempt for the quadruple

Jurgen Klopp, Liverpool, quadruple
(Image credit: Getty Images)

When the late Gerard Houllier said that he hoped his Liverpool side were “10 games from greatness” in April 2002, the Frenchman was referring to a potential Premier League and Champions League double. “The vision is to win both,” he said.

A week later, that vision was cut in half after a nightmare Champions League quarter-final second leg against Bayer Leverkusen that saw one of the most infamous substitutions in Liverpool’s history, replacing defensive midfielder Dietmar Hamann with attacking midfielder Vladimir Smicer and conceding three goals in the final half an hour to fall to a 4-3 aggregate defeat.

Having claimed an unprecedented cup treble the previous season, Houllier’s optimism wasn’t entirely misguided, even if it was the Reds’ first season in the Champions League.

But despite winning four of the five remaining league games, the Merseysiders ended the season seven points behind Arsenal - albeit achieving their best points total in the Premier League at the time.

Fast forward 20 years and Liverpool really are now 10 games from greatness – and we’re not talking just from the Reds’ perspective. Jurgen Klopp’s class of 2022 could make English football history, potentially even European football history.

Klopp, though, is not going to make such statements and is instead having to play down the potential for making history by becoming the first team ever to win the quadruple of English league title, European Cup, FA Cup and League Cup.

Asked recently if a quadruple was a realistic target, Klopp said simply: “No, it’s not.” 

“I don’t think anybody has ever won the quadruple, not in England I don’t know in other countries if it happened.“

It hasn’t, not in Europe’s top five leagues anyway.

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Barcelona won a treble of Champions League, La Liga and Copa del Rey in 2014/15, but any quadruple isn’t possible due to the Spanish equivalent of the League Cup ceasing to exist after 1986. It’s a similar story for Bayern Munich who won the Champions League, Bundesliga and DFB-Pokal in 2020, but the German League Cup was abolished in 2007.

Of Europe’s top five leagues, only France now has a second domestic cup competition. PSG had a chance in 2020 but lost the Champions League final to Bayern.

The one side that has been deemed close to achieving the monumental feat in recent years is Manchester City, but they of course have yet to add Europe’s elite prize to their trophy cabinet.

“Even City, with all the quality they have in the last few years, couldn’t win the quadruple,” said Klopp after Liverpool won the League Cup to get the first trophy of the season under their belts. 

“That says pretty much everything,” he added of how hard it is to even contemplate winning all four. “The quadruple, this wonderful story, no team yet in the history of English football ever won the quadruple because it’s really difficult.”

Klopp’s right, of course. According to BBC Sport (opens in new tab), there have been 120 other attempts by 15 different clubs over the past 62 years to win the quadruple.

The club who came the closest, in terms of their pursuit going the furthest into the season, was actually Chelsea under Jose Mourinho in 2006/07 - when they lost the Champions League semi-final to Liverpool on May 1.

No other side has gone into May with a quadruple chance – until now.

Liverpool will make history, of sorts, by virtue of their Champions League semi-final second-leg vs. Villarreal being on May 3, and thus their quadruple hopes cannot be over until at least that date.

A win against the Spaniards and the next date it could end is the FA Cup final on May 14th, or should they drop enough points to be out of the title race before then, which seems highly unlikely given that they’ve won 11 of their last 12 league games, only drawing with City.

Without any doubt, this Liverpool squad, who have experience of winning both the Champions League and Premier League previously, are better placed than anybody in English football history to win the un-winnable quadruple.

Writing history

The German has often spoken about this group of players wanting to write their own chapter in Liverpool’s rather glorious and illustrious history, and the 2021/22 season could yet be the greatest chapter of them all.

“Is it likely we win four trophies? No,” insists Klopp publicly. “Three? No. One more it would be nice.”

But the manager is a man who, away from the public, is extremely driven to make history. He - and this group of staff and players - are aware of records and what has previously been achieved by the greats who went before them in the corridors of Anfield.

“We said at the start of our time here that we wanted to create history and write our own stories and the players have clearly taken that seriously,” said Klopp in 2020 after equalling the top-flight record of 18 league wins in a row, en route to the first league title in 30 years.

Nothing would give Klopp greater satisfaction than creating real long-term, possibly ever-lasting, history of this magnitude.

Liverpool under Klopp have consistently done the unexpected and beaten the odds and you’d be foolish to bet against them doing the unprecedented this season, as difficult as it might be.

Klopp told his players before the 4-0 Champions League semi-final win over Barcelona: “The world outside is saying it is not possible. And let’s be honest, it’s probably impossible. But because it’s you? Because it’s you, we have a chance.” 

And that’s exactly what he’ll be telling them again over the next 10 games.

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Matt Ladson is the co-founder and editor of This Is Anfield, the independent Liverpool news and comment website, and covers all areas of the Reds for FourFourTwo – including transfer analysis, interviews, title wins and European trophies. As well as writing about Liverpool for FourFourTwo he also contributes to other titles including Yahoo and Bleacher Report. He is a lifelong fan of the Reds.