It’s almost here, the Champions League Final is one day away, and the attention of the football world has now firmly been drawn to Kyiv. The NSK Olimpiyskiy Stadium will host two of Europe’s most storied sides as Real Madrid and Liverpool prepare to face off for the continent’s ultimate prize.
Real Madrid are seasoned in this competition, even more so under the tutelage of Zinedine Zidane, with the Frenchman yet to be eliminated in his two-and-a-half seasons in charge.
Contrast that with Liverpool, who are making their first appearance at this stage of the competition in eleven years. One would have to go back an extra two years to find the last time that the Merseysiders lifted the trophy.
Tensions are rising in both camps as the annual day of football draws nearer. Liverpool supporters could be aided in their stress by taking words from their own manager to heart.
When speaking with journalist Guillem Balague this past week, Jurgen Klopp claimed the difference between this final and the one his side lost two years ago is that anything that happens on Saturday “is a bonus”.
When they faced Sevilla in the Europa League final in 2016, many fans were more concerned with Champions League qualification than with the trophy itself, meaning that there was something very tangible for the club to lose that night.
Fast forward two years ahead, and qualification for Europe’s elite competition is already secured irrespective of Saturday’s result. The German and his side have all to gain and nothing to lose.
So now, what does Liverpool’s presence in the 2017/2018 Champions League Final mean, regardless of the outcome of the football match?
The most statistical, and perhaps the most boring product of Liverpool’s run to Kyiv is the numerous eyes that have been drawn to the football club. The further the team progressed in this year’s competition, the more outsiders began to take notice of the side.
They started the competition as the high-scoring team that would likely make it out of their group due to the mediocrity of the others in it. Then they became the weakest side that Porto could have been drawn against. After romping the Portuguese champions, they became the fun English team that was going to be comfortably dealt with by the best English team.
The praise attributed to Liverpool increased after each progression, but there was always a reason being stated as to why they would fail at the next hurdle. Here we are one day away from the final, and this continues to be the case.
Despite what flaws critics can point out in the team’s play, they can’t argue with the fact that The Reds have found the back of the net 40 times in the competition this season (more than any team has ever achieved).
They can’t dispute the fact that they possess the highest scoring trio in a single Champions league season, and that James Milner was able to break the competition’s assist record as well.
These facts draw narratives, and narratives draw attention. And when you have players like Nabil Fekir watching this type of football being played, why wouldn’t they want to join?
Liverpool supporters have known how great of a project Jurgen Klopp has been building, and this run has allowed the whole world to see it too.
And with no less than 350 million people expected to be viewing this match, there is still plenty more to be shown.
Sign of Things to Come
Simply put, Liverpool Football Club belongs on this stage. This last decade has been a sad detour away from the greatness that always surrounds this club.
Many people haven’t quite grasped the fact that Jurgen Klopp has guided Liverpool to back-to-back Champions League qualifications (a feat not managed since 2009). In addition to reaching the Champions League Final (a feat not managed since 2007).
The significance lies in the fact that these are very clear signs that the club has returned to the level it was at in its golden years of this century. But that is undoubtedly not where this current team wants to stop.
All the signs are pointing towards the impression that this side will continue to ascend. The last Champions League finalist to dissipate into obscurity was Inter Milan, after they lifted the crown in 2010.
However, with Jurgen Klopp highly unlikely to subsequently leave the club in a similar fashion to Jose Mourinho, there is no reason to think that this Scouse train will be stopping anytime soon.
More Stories to Pass On
Yes, this is definitely the type of thing one says after losing a final, but football has always been about the journey hasn’t it?
People still talk about Liverpool’s jaw dropping 4-3 win over Borussia Dortmund on route to the Europa League final in 2016. The fact that they eventually didn’t win the competition has almost become meaningless. Just two years later and who’s in a better place, Liverpool or Sevilla?
That isn’t to say that victory is worthless, every Liverpool supporter wants the big eared trophy on Saturday more than anything else. But one can sometimes forget that most of a fan’s joy comes from the ride rather than the result.
Victory on Saturday will no doubt make these stories all the more sweeter. But Real Madrid can’t take away what Salah did to his former club at Anfield. No result this weekend can stop those 5000 fans from telling their kids how they sang ‘Allez Allez Allez’ with their heroes in Rome.
And perhaps more than anything, this is what will be remembered of this historic season.
But hell Liverpool, please win the bloody trophy.