When the groups of the UEFA Champions League were drawn last September, probably no one expected Tottenham and Liverpool to be the teams that would go on to face off in the final of the competition. Here they are, defying all the odds and adversaries, the two English sides play in what could be a historic final at the Wanda Metropolitano.
Perhaps, even five years ago, no one would have ever seen a final like this coming. Many expected Juventus to step up a gear and reach the pinnacle. But Jurgen Klopp’s journey at Liverpool has come back to where it started it.
Back when the German was appointed as the Reds’ boss, he had inherited a side that was in dire need of improvement after the club had made multiple transfer market errors. Luis Suarez’s sale had yielded a lot of money but it was never used well. He had to build from the bottom again and make Liverpool great again.
His first challenge came in the form of Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham. Spurs were in a period of rebuild of their own and were recovering a lost identity from the turbulent season of 2013-14. The sale of Gareth Bale had handed them money, but like Liverpool, the money was poorly spent. Pochettino had a mediocre side on his hands, because of that.
The tasks were very similar. Both managers had to rebuild and take two great clubs towards the top. They had lost world class players and had to mould players into their high-pressing identity which they always take pride in.
That was when the circle began to take shape. Two managers who embarked on long-term projects at almost the same time now meet at the pinnacle that they dreamt of.
What Liverpool have done is something Spurs have done without as much money. Take nothing away from either of them, they have achieved their goal with their own ways and they deserve credit. The way they are run has gone a long way in bringing them here.
They have moulded their teams into an identity; something that the players and the fans believe in. Over a period of time, players have gained the experience of playing at the Champions League level. During that period, they matured and acquired the know-how of playing different ways. While Liverpool are more reliant on their gegenpressing, but Spurs have had to thank circumstances to be flexible enough to dig out games at will.
While Liverpool seem like a better team than Spurs, being better than the other team doesn’t matter in a Champions League final. It is about being intelligent enough to go all the way and about having the know-how to play games like these. Real Madrid did that for three seasons not because they were the always the better team. But because they knew how to approach games like these.
And in Madrid, it might come to a full circle for Klopp and Pochettino. But it will be a part of the spherical world that they have built at their clubs ever since they took over.