The Reds’ defeat highlighted a gulf in class and showeed just how far the english teams have to go to catch up with Europe’s elite.
A night to remember for the ages, the UEFA Champions League final between Real Madrid and Liverpool in Kyiv proved to be as memorable as it can get. The game was watched in awe by millions of viewers worldwide, who experienced a thunderous Gareth Bale overhead-kick as Los Blancos scripted history.
Let us be clear, under the tutelage of Zinedine Zidane, the Spanish side had many aces under their sleeves. The French manager again decided against starting with Gareth Bale and started with Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo upfront. Although, Ronaldo had a hard time coping against Andrew Robertson, Madrid sailed past Liverpool easily.
Players try to win continental silverware once in their lives. Clubs try to retain it once. Zidane and Madrid, have now won it for three consecutive years. The UCL Final 2018, broke many records- but Real Madrid winning the Champions League for three consecutive years will remain that one record which will be intact for many years to come. So, apart from Madrid’s win, what did Liverpool’s defeat prove?
The evident scenarios…
In the last five years, there has been only one non-Spanish side to win either of Champions League and the UEFA Europa League. Nine times out of ten the Spanish sides have prevailed over others in Europe. With Liverpool’s defeat last night in Kyiv, it was not just a defeat for the Merseysiders, the defeat revealed English football’s inability to produce on the big stage in broad daylight.
Last year, when England won two consecutive age-group FIFA World Cups (U-20, U-17), many had predicted that it will mark the rise of English supremacy in European football. The Europa League was the first failure while the Champions League was the last nail in the coffin for the English fans. The intensity, experience, mentality and strategy- all proved where English football lacks and it is certainly not on the financial side of things.
How come? Liverpool had the costliest defender in the history of football playing for them. Virgil van Dijk not only failed to make an impression last night, the Dutch defender raised many questions over his transfer fee. Was he worth it? Does all that money for only league brilliance suit Liverpool? The future and the fans will answer.
Defence is not what England excel at currently…
Sir Alex Ferguson once said, “Attack wins you games, defence wins you titles.” While Jurgen Klopp grasped the idea, he failed to execute it. Loris Karius was a testament to that against Real Madrid. While the comparatively unknown Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold both put up valiant efforts, the Reds were let down by the German keeper, with basic mistakes to say the least.
What does the defeat mean for English football? Is it that England have stopped producing world-class talents? Or do English teams not have it in them to perform on the continental stage? The fans would disagree. The problem, as pointed out multiple times by many, lies with the fact that the English refused to adapt to a technically superior approach and all the Pep Guardiolas, Jose Mourinhos, Antonio Contes and Arsene Wengers of the world have failed to change that.
Karius had a night to forget against Real Madrid
The last time English football changed for good was post-2004 after Wenger’s Invincibles season with Arsenal. The Sunday Leagues, the Boxing Day fixtures, the traditional long balls have not helped English teams in broader terms and managers such as Sir Alex Ferguson and Wenger noticed that and changed their respective sides for good.
While Spain have brought some of the best footballing minds i.e. Guardiola, Zidane and Unai Emery into limelight, England have failed to produce tacticians of such quality and the ones that could have been the bright spark, have either already lost their way (Garry Monk) or fear losing their way in the future (Sean Dyche).
But, Liverpool didn’t play with an English strategy…
But, it was not traditional English gameplay that forced Liverpool to a deficit against Real Madrid. It was a German in Klopp on the touchline and Gegenpressing that was being played on the field. So, why are the English clubs and style of football are being victimized, you might ask. To answer the question, you have to look deeper.
The Liverpool team that lost against Madrid, was functioning properly until Mohamed Salah went off. What followed was a wonder goal from Bale and the Reds drowned into anarchy. Sounds familiar in regard to the subject of English teams and English the approach to the game?
Liverpool were playing in the Champions League final. Against a behemoth such as Real Madrid who had won the previous two editions. The Spanish had the mentality which the Merseysiders lost a decade ago. The holier than thou trio of Salah- Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino could not change that.
The English have produced enough bullies, as was evident from Dejan Lovren’s challenge on Dani Carvajal, but they have never produced a warrior like Sergio Ramos and that fact cost them dearly in a battle of strength against Real Madrid.
So, we come back to square one. What does this defeat mean for English football? Well, everything. The hope of the return of English supremacy was a fluke. Real Madrid proved that. Atletico Madrid proved that in the Europa League. The Premier League may be filled with all the top managers in the world, but as a cohesive footballing entity, England has not improved and Liverpool being the runners-up certainly will not change that in the near future.