Skip to main content

Real Madrid v Liverpool: Another false dawn or does Klopp have Reds set for sustained success?

Rewind back to 2005 and the 'Miracle of Istanbul'.

Rafael Benitez and Liverpool had just completed one of the greatest comebacks in football, emerging from the jaws of defeat to deny a shell-shocked AC Milan and deliver a fifth European Cup.

Led by Benitez and Anfield icon Steven Gerrard, who made it through to another Champions League final against the same opposition two seasons later albeit with a different result, it was meant to be the start of something big domestically.

However, 13 years on and Liverpool – who finished fifth that season – are still searching for that Premier League title the Reds on Merseyside so desperately crave.

Benitez came close to ending Liverpool's league wait – dating back to 1990 – in 2008-09 but his six-year tenure ultimately fizzled out – the Spaniard's reign missing that elusive piece of silverware.

Jurgen Klopp finds himself in a similar situation to the class of 2005 as he prepares for Saturday's showdown with two-time reigning champions Real Madrid and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Benitez's Liverpool finished fifth in 2004-05. Klopp's Reds this season ended fourth ahead of another European showpiece in Kiev.

While Liverpool's Premier League form has been patchy, even with the help of Egyptian sensation and Golden Boot winner Mohamed Salah, they have been phenomenal on the continent.

Up until the second leg of their semi-final against Roma, Liverpool had not lost a game in the Champions League this term – Klopp's "heavy metal" football proving too much to handle for even record-breaking Premier League winners Manchester City domestically and in Europe.

More importantly, Klopp has – with the help of January recruit Virgil van Dijk – seemingly addressed Liverpool's defensive issues, which had been the club's Achilles heel earlier in the season.

Klopp's high-octane style has captured the hearts of Anfield, where supporters are suddenly dreaming of a sixth triumph in Europe's premier competition despite the charismatic German's ongoing calls for patience amid expectations in the city.

The former Borussia Dortmund boss has always thought long term since replacing Brendan Rodgers in 2015, Klopp determined to establish sustained success in England and Europe following flirtations under previous managers.

"We all love beautiful football and trophies. Why? Because we've had them and we're used to them and they define us. The talking stops when you say put your medals or trophies on the table," former Liverpool midfielder, five-time league winner and 1984 European Cup champion Craig Johnston told Omnisport of Klopp.

"To be a true great, he has to win medals. I think he's a great man and a great manager. I think he can do it personally, because he's different to all the rest we've had for a long time."

Klopp will have to banish his demons in major finals, having lost his past five, if he is to simply match Benitez in Europe.

But with, certainly on paper anyway, a better squad compared to what Benitez had at his disposal, this does not appear to be another false dawn. Klopp has Liverpool on the cusp of something memorable domestically, too.