“We’ve got the best midfield in the world, Xabi Alonso, Momo Sissoko, Gerrard and Mascherano.”
Turn the clock back to 2007. The aforementioned “best midfield in the world” were walking off the pitch in Athens after Liverpool’s second Champions League final in two years.
A 2-1 defeat at the hands of AC Milan, who they’d beaten so memorably two years prior, was disappointing.
The team Rafa constructed
Rafa Benitez had built a team that was capable of beating anyone in the world. In fact, over the next two years Liverpool, would be ranked number one in Europe.
Three years later, Liverpool would fail to qualify for the Champions League, a trend that continued as they only managed to join Europe’s elite twice until 2017.
Fast forward to the present day and Liverpool Football Club are in a very different position, ranked 34th in Europe behind teams such as Anderlecht, Galatasaray and Olympiacos.
About to embark on our first Champions League knock out match for nine years, Jürgen Klopp is now building his own special team of exciting talent.
We have a front three who, on their day, are as good as any attack in Europe. Just imagine if we had the likes of Alonso, Gerrard and Mascherano behind them.
It’s a thought that provokes excitement, but also distorts the fact that we as a club have been in a bad way since the days of the ’’best midfield in the world.’’
The midfield break up
The dismantling of the dream midfield began with Momo Sissoko leaving for Juventus in 2008. Xabi Alonso departed the following season for Real Madrid.
Mascherano lasted one more year before moving to Barcelona in 2010. It was clear that the club was on the decline.
This left Steven Gerrard alongside Christian Poulsen, Raul Meireles, Alberto Aquilani and Jonjo Shelvey. Hardly the standard of the ‘’best midfield in the world’.
The dark days of Roy Hodgson
Roy Hodgson’s safe style of football was as uninspiring as his appointment as Benitez’s replacement. He left the club in January 2011 – just under three months after John Henry’s Fenway Sports Group purchased the club.
In came Kenny Dalglish as manager, and the next season and a half saw Liverpool reach the finals of both the League Cup and FA Cup in 2012.
However, a League Cup victory was not enough to save Dalglish from being removed as manager, but it was clear the club was still moving forward.
The arrival of Rodgers
Brendan Rodgers came in as a fresh faced young manager, with new ideas of how football should be played. He brought his Tika-Taka style that he used at Swansea and had success with.
Rodgers did manage to develop and push the club forward; however, no trophies and only a second place finish in the league in 2014 meant that FSG sacked him.
Rodgers did manage to bring Champions League football back to Anfield, however they were unable to navigate out of a group that consisted of Real Madrid, Basel and Ludogorets.
This was the moment that Liverpool took another significant step forward, as Jürgen Klopp was appointed the new manager in October 2015.
Immediately the atmosphere in and around the club was lifted. There was a buzz again around Liverpool Football Club.
Klopp navigated Liverpool to two finals in his first season, losing the League Cup final to Manchester City on penalties and suffering defeat at the hands of Sevilla in the Europa League final.
Final heartbreak, but look at the big picture
The defeats, as hard to take as they were, offered promise and excitement again for Liverpool fans. The following season Klopp guided the Reds to a fourth placed finish, playing possibly the best football in the league.
It led many pundits to gush over the attacking displays of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Philippe Coutinho.
Liverpool were again in the Champions League, all be it the qualifying stages. This time, however, they would not whimper out of the competition at the group stages.
Liverpool won their group impressively, which included two eye catching 7-0 victories over both Spartak Moscow and Maribor. Liverpool were back to where they wanted to be.
Now the stage is set for Liverpool to once again enter the knockout stages of the Champions League with FC Porto awaiting them.
Our ‘’best midfield in the world’’ has long gone, but it is now time for another group of players to stand up and write themselves amongst Liverpool folklore.