In the end, it just wasn’t meant to be.
Throughout those nine months it felt exactly the opposite; the sensation was that it really was Liverpool’s year.
As the dust settles on a unique league season, the overwhelming sentiment is pride but whether we like it or not that pride is diluted by a degree of sadness.
Our lads. 🔴🔴🔴 pic.twitter.com/ETxQKgvnE8
— RedsBet (@Reds_Bet) May 12, 2019
Liverpool can take oodles of consolation from being the greatest runners-up in history but the absence of a Premier League trophy on that final lap of Anfield at the weekend is a cruelty that would break any normal football team.
Thankfully deflation, frustration and regret won’t be the abiding legacy of this campaign. There is immediate scope for decoration in Madrid when the Reds get the chance to carry off the biggest trophy of all, one that trumps the Premier League for glamour, prestige and world renown.
And, should Liverpool win that sixth European crown the victory will not only extend that continental standing but also shine a soothing light on their domestic travails.
After the season’s 30thvictory over Wolves, a two-nil win built from the endeavour and spirit that’s been on view relentlessly since August, there were trophies galore on show.
The Golden Glove for the best keeper, Golden Boots for the strikers and Player of the Year for the best player in the eyes of their opponents. Alisson Becker, Sadio Mane, Mo Salah and Virgil Van Dijk have all taken their individual bows.
Congratulations to @MoSalah and Sadio Mane, who share the #PL Golden Boot with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang after all finished on 22 goals! 👏 pic.twitter.com/Zd1IetQ0U0
— RedsBet (@Reds_Bet) May 12, 2019
Therein lies the irony. Individual awards to celebrate being an incredible team. Trophies that will be treasured in their own homes while the designated space in the Anfield trophy room remains vacant.
Fair play to Manchester City? They fully deserve their title, even if the league table, reputed for never lying, can tell the occasional fib. They’ve earned their triumph by virtue of not buckling in the face of Liverpool’s relentless pursuit.
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If there is an injustice, it’s among the respective support for the two clubs. Without stooping to low-blows, the yearning was felt ten times keener on Merseyside. Anfield was always packed to the rafters, while the Etihad was regularly shown up by empty seats. City might have powered ahead in terms of their financial muscle, but they must wince at their anaemic celebrations.
Wealth can procure a plethora of great footballers, but in the end money can’t buy you love.
Liverpool move on and not just to Madrid. They can approach next season without the angst of near-misses in 2009 and 2014. Then, there was real pain at wasted opportunity, but this time around it be churlish to point the finger anywhere. Not only is there no point, to do so belittles the achievement in amassing 30 wins, with one just one defeat and that by deed of an 11mm measurement.
Jurgen Klopp, who has marshalled his troops with an underrated pragmatism, must guard against an emotional fall-out that did for Rafa Benitez and Brendan Rodgers but the German has it in his power to still go one better next year.
Manchester City are just as likely to carry the strain of this epic battle into the new season and some of Pep Guardiola’s crew have quite a few more miles on the clock.
Liverpool’s assault – and that is the word – was heroic. They are far more than valiant losers; instead writing their own gallant story into the club’s rich history. Testament to that is the presence in the stands, as supporters, of Kenny Dalglish, Ian Rush, John Barnes, Steven Gerrard et al. The new generation might be from far foreign lands but one day they will be just as welcome on the Kop.
To the victors, the spoils. To Liverpool, just lashings of love and respect.
Well done, lads. Good luck in Madrid, where you can join the immortals.
Hands up if you’re already desperate for #UCL-final day… 🙋♂️🙋♀️ pic.twitter.com/4cj8XU0JYS
— RedsBet (@Reds_Bet) May 14, 2019
It’s not pride, it’s respect.
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