When I found out a few days ago that it had been eight years since Liverpool knocked Real Madrid out of the champions league after cruising to a 5-0 aggregate win, I got a bit of a shock. It’s a bit sad really, from a Liverpool fans point of view to think it has been this long since we last properly challenged in the champions league, having being knocked out in the group stages in both the 09/10 season and 14/15 season, which simply isn’t good enough for a club like Liverpool. I don’t think any Liverpool fan could have predicted back then how little success we would have in the following eight years.
At the time we were definitely one of the best sides in Europe. We had the likes of Gerrard, Alonso, Torres, Mascherano, and Carragher, even some of the lesser players back then were a lot better than most of our players in the following years. But for me the most important thing was the manager, Rafael Benitez. When it came to big European games he knew how to get a result even if the odds were against us. He pretty much put Liverpool back on the map in European football, after winning the champions league in his first season. After that season all Liverpool fans had become accustomed to big European nights again, something that is quite rare nowadays.
Despite there being massive differences to the Liverpool team now and the Liverpool team eight years ago, there are also a few scary similarities. In the 2008/09 season, despite doing the double over Manchester United, Liverpool still finished second, just four points behind United. And after being top of the table at Christmas, dropping points against the smaller teams is what ultimately cost Liverpool. Eight years later and the exact same things are happening. The current Liverpool team have been slated all season for being up for the big games but then having a mentality problem against the smaller teams, but any Liverpool fan would tell you that this isn’t really anything new, and that we have always struggled against weaker opposition for some unknown reason. So in that sense, not a lot has changed in eight years.
The reality is, in the last eight years Liverpool have won one trophy, the league cup in the 2011/12 season. The cup is often called a Micky mouse cup, but any Liverpool fan would tell you how happy they were with winning it, simply because it had been so long since anything good had happened at Liverpool, and for me this was the biggest change in the last eight years. As fans we went from expecting big trophies and challenging on all fronts, to being happy with a league cup, and almost accepting mediocrity, something that should never happen at a club of this size. By 2011 Benitez had been sacked and Alonso, Mascherano, and Torres had all left, which left Liverpool looking a totally different team than the one that could beat the likes of Real Madrid easily. Roy Hodgsons short stint certainly didn’t help either. In my opinion that has to be seen as one of our lowest points ever as a club.
When Kenny Dalglish came back he certainly did lift morale, won a cup, and got us to another cup final, but ultimately wasn’t good enough. Brendan Rodgers was the next man to be in charge, and to be fair I was a fan of him. After two seasons we were back in the champions league and we had almost won the league in 2013/14 after a remarkable season, but just as you think we are back on track, Luis Suarez leaves for Barcelona, and we have a miserable season, seeing us get knocked out in the group stage of the champions league and finishing sixth in the league. The following season Rodgers was sacked in October and replaced with the man who is in charge now, Jürgen Klopp. The main goal for him has to be get Liverpool back to the way they were challenging eight years. Last season we saw a bit of that, beating the likes of Manchester United and Dortmund in the Europa league, but unfortunately losing in the final to Sevilla. Winning that would have meant champions league football would have been back at Anfield, but it wasn’t to be. On Klopps arrival he said he wanted Liverpool fans to change from doubters to believers, despite losing two cup finals and no real success under Klopp yet, there certainly has been massive improvement and a big change in the mind-set of Liverpool fans. The race for top four hasn’t exactly been straightforward for Liverpool this season but we are in a decent position going into the last ten games of the season, and I think with Klopp in charge it isn’t long before we see Liverpool challenging on all fronts like they were eight years ago.