What does Liverpool's Club World Cup victory mean for the rest of their season?
Questions over human rights, questions over effectively throwing the League Cup, mid-season disruption to fly 3,000-miles during the busiest month of the season… none of that mattered as the Liverpool players celebrated in the dressing room after being crowned, officially, the best club team in the world.
In fact, you could hear them singing away during Flamengo manager’s Jorge Jesus’ lengthy post-match press conference. ‘Campione, campione… Ole, ole, ole’
While Jesus was not lost for words - his press conference taking as long as the extra-time Liverpool could have done without - Jurgen Klopp struggled to find the words after his side overcome the challenges to pick up their third piece of silverware in the last six months.
Liverpool have now done the continental treble of the Champions League, European Super Cup, and Club World Cup - the first English side to do so. “I am so proud of these boys,” said Klopp.
“I struggle to find the words to express my respect for the boys, it was incredible.”
The respect, though, works both ways. This is a squad of players who are hugely enjoying their time under Klopp and eager for more silverware to show for their impressive work and dedication under the German’s intense style.
“It’s like an addiction, you win one medal and you want to win another. You want to win more,” said Adam Lallana.
“Winning this only adds to our positivity,” said Joe Gomez post-match at the Khalifa International Stadium. “We come away from here as champions of the world. Why can’t we use that as a positive?”
Liverpool will indeed return from Qatar as world champions, still 10 points clear at the top of the Premier League, and now with a game in hand over title rivals Manchester City and Leicester City. Things could not have gone much better for the Reds.
Before heading to the Persian Gulf, Klopp rightly pointed out that had Liverpool not been playing in the Club World Cup, they would have effectively had the same amount of games back home, with a League Cup tie vs. Aston Villa and a Premier League game vs. West Ham.
That West Ham game needs to be rescheduled for the second half of the season, but in terms of fixture congestion at this time of the season, the trip to Qatar made little difference. And with four days between the Club World Cup final and the Reds’ next game - away to Leicester on Boxing Day - there should be little disruption.
Indeed, it could be argued that the Qatar trip can actually help Liverpool, with Klopp and his squad using it as a warm weather training camp. “We only have time for training,” said Klopp in Doha. Plus, of course, the added positivity and belief that Gomez rightly points to in winning another trophy.
Of course, the injury to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – although hopefully not a serious one – is a blow, and Liverpool could have done without extra time against Flamengo.
But, as Gomez said: “It’s another trophy and that’s what we’re here for.”
Now, attention turns to the trophy that Liverpool really crave.
Liverpool return to Merseyside on Sunday evening, but there will be little chance for a rest or to celebrate Christmas in the coming days. Players will be given one day off, but then it’s all focus on the Boxing Day trip to Leicester.
Liverpool’s festive fixture schedule has been somewhat kind, with good (relatively speaking) time between games, but there are a few potential banana skins. Leicester certainly won’t be easy. Wolves at Anfield three days later will be tough, but they host Man City less than 48 hours earlier. Sheffield United are then the visitors to Anfield on January 2 and they’ll be eyeing an upset.
Get those three games out the way, though, and Klopp can breathe a sigh of relief for some breathing space. There’s a Merseyside derby in the FA Cup, but that should provide new signing Takumi Minamino with a debut and a chance to rest a few key players.
It could be a game for 16-year-old Harvey Elliott - who was Liverpool’s best player in a League Cup quarter-final on Tuesday, then collected his medal as officially part of the best club team in the world on Saturday - to get another appearance and an opportunity to become the club’s youngest ever goalscorer.
Thereafter, with games against Tottenham and Manchester United, Klopp will be hoping that injuries to Fabinho, Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren have been recovered from and the squad given some fresh legs.
The manager insists he won’t enter the transfer market for another centre-back, with both Matip and Lovren due back in January, but a versatile defender who can operate at full-back and centre-back – should one become available – would be welcomed.
There’s a feeling that Liverpool are on the verge of something special, and a period of dominance. A feeling that is underlined by Klopp’s recent committal of a new longer contract that would see him remain in charge for longer than either of his two previous posts.
The next step on that journey has to be with Jordan Henderson performing his now customary ‘Hendo shuffle’ as he lifts the Premier League trophy, restoring Liverpool as the Kings of England for the first time in 30 years.
While you're here, why not take advantage of our brilliant subscribers' offer? Get the game's greatest stories and best journalism direct to your door for only £9.50 every quarter – just £2.90 an issue. Cheers!