“I felt numb, like I had lost someone in my family. It was as if my whole quarter of a century at this football club poured out of me. I did not even try to stem the silent tears as the events of the afternoon played over and over again in my head.”
Former Liverpool skipper, Steven Gerrard felt distraught after the “slip” — the unfortunate incident that ended up defining the Reds’ exceptional 2013-14 campaign. Brendan Rodgers’ men did everything they could to beat Manchester City to the punch. They played spectacularly, never let their chin drop, and still came up two points short. That campaign broke Liverpool’s heart into millions pieces. Yet, looking back — six years later — one can’t help but call that unfortunate campaign Liverpool 2020’s origin story.
In October 2015, the Merseyside club made their first pivotal and era-defining move by securing the services of former Borussia Dortmund head coach, Jurgen Klopp. The German, who was already an up and comer in the world of football, was Liverpool co-owner John W. Henry’s champion — handpicked to lead the club to Champions League glory. The appointment was confirmed, players were purchased, and Liverpool began their quest to the top.
In his first season in charge, Klopp spent the majority of his time learning about the ways of the club. He wasn’t just interested in results. He wanted the fans to feel the rush of adrenaline, wanted the players to love their craft, and give their all for the crest. Facing heartbreaks in two cup finals — the Europa League and the League Cup — Liverpool huffed and puffed to an eighth-placed finish, drawing curtains to a disappointing debut campaign for Jurgen Klopp.
Next term, Klopp helped his side master the art of ‘Gegenpressing’ — the German’s favourite weapon to dismantle oppositions. The frantic pressing and versatile passing caught the eye of the Kop. The Anfield had its voice back, now it only needed to bring a trophy home. The former Dortmund manager couldn’t manage to deliver a trophy straight away but successfully managed to lead Liverpool back to the Champions League after securing the fourth place in the Premier League.
Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah, and Roberto Firmino had already emerged as one of the most intimidating trios in football. Now, it was time for the Liverpool back-line to take the centre-stage. Banking on the explosiveness of the full-backs — Andrew Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold — and the composure of new-signing Virgil van Dijk, Liverpool booked their place in the 2017-18 Champions League final. They were ultimately bested by a spirited Gareth Bale brace, but the signs were more prominent than ever — Liverpool were, once again, a force to be reckoned with.
Next season, Klopp’s side once again returned to the grandest stage of club football, and this time, came out on top. The final against Tottenham Hotspur wasn’t straightforward by any means, but the Reds never looked like squandering the chance for the second year running. In the Premier League, Liverpool ran holders, Manchester City, ragged, pushing them to the final day of the season. Yes, Klopp had to settle for an excruciating second-placed finish, but the teams knew something exciting was in store for them, next season.
After tasting City’s blood in the final days of the 2018-19 campaign, Liverpool knew they had to bridge the gap this season, end their 30-year league drought. However, even the club’s most ardent supporter probably wouldn’t have expected such a thoroughly-convincing, record-breaking domestic campaign.
Since the start of the season, Liverpool have shown complete command over their nerves — the most decisive virtue of a championship-winning side. It hasn’t always been easy. They have had to fight tooth and nails to get the results they needed. But in the end, they have prevailed, beaten the defending champions to the title, with seven games to spare.
Liverpool fans — local or global — have had to wait 30 long years to see their team lift the coveted English league title. They came agonisingly close a couple of times, but couldn’t find it in themselves to take that final step — the decisive leap that would have written their name in history.
Maybe, they were waiting to do the spectacular, waiting for a messiah to arrive from Germany and shatter records, left and right. Maybe, they wanted the fans to drink it in, to see the Premier League champions in all their glory for seven more matchdays. Maybe, they wanted to receive a guard of honour from Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City before nicking another convincing victory.
The pandemic has dampened the parties, for sure, but the boss isn’t pessimistic about the whole situation; he can’t be. The club and its supporters know all about the light at the end of the tunnel, better than anyone else.
“We’ll all be together soon. There will be a moment for us. For now, tell the world: We are Liverpool, champions of England.”
They know how to beat the odds, know how to come out stronger on the other side. They know the hard part is over. The celebrations, too, shall follow. And they, too, shall be as magnificent as the team in question, the champions of England: Liverpool.