Do Liverpool Miss the “Glory Days” under Rafa Benitez?

NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 29: Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez reacts during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Leicester City at St. James Park on September 29, 2018 in Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

May 25 2019 will mark 14 years since the greatest moment in Liverpool’s modern history, the epic comeback against Milan in Istanbul to win the Champions League. Jurgen Klopp took the Reds to the final in 2018 and it remains to be seen if he can go one further this season but it can’t be denied that this Liverpool team is the best equipped to win trophies since the heyday of Rafa Benitez.

Brendan Rodgers nearly delivered the Premier League but it was one season of brilliance amid a few generally disappointing years. Klopp’s Liverpool has gradually improved every year, to the point that, thanks to Tottenham standing still over the summer, they are widely considered the nearest challengers to Manchester City. If Klopp could win the title or the Champions League then he’d go down as one of Liverpool’s greatest ever managers.

Whether or not Benitez is in that category is a matter of opinion – though either way he remains hugely popular at Anfield, largely for non-football reasons. But the comparison between the German and the Spaniard got thinking – of the two teams that won and reached the final of the Champions League, Benitez’s in 2005 and Klopp’s in 2018, who would make the cut in a combined XI?

In goal it was a question of Jerzy Dudek or Loris Karius, though Alisson might in time surpass them both – Klopp will certainly hope so in the case of the latter. The defence was a question of proven achievement, in the case of Sami Hyypia and Jamie Carragher, or potential future success from Joe Gomez and Virgil Van Dijk. It was similar in the full-back positions, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson against Steve Finnan and John Arne Riise.

Further up-field and the players largely pick themselves. Who could argue with Dietmar Hamman, Xabi Alonso and Steven Gerrard? Or Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane? Who could stop them? And will Liverpool celebrate the ivory anniversary of Istanbul by lifting silverware in Madrid?

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