For the first time since 2008, two English teams will contest the final of Europe’s most elite club competition, ensuring the coveted Champions League trophy will finally leave Spain after a period of five years on the Iberian Peninsula.
Four wins for Real Madrid, punctuated by Barcelona’s victory in 2015, saw the Spanish sides seize a stranglehold on the competition that left Bayern Munich as the last team outside La Liga to lift the trophy when they beat Borussia Dortmund in 2013 at Wembley Stadium.
The man on the wrong end of a 2-1 defeat that night was a certain Jurgen Klopp, who had steered his side to a maiden Champions League final only to be heartbroken by Arjen Robben’s 89th minute winner for Die Roten.
A second Champions League final defeat followed five years later as Klopp’s Liverpool came up short against Real Madrid, losing 3-1 in Kiev after a game remembered in equal measure for Gareth Bale’s brilliance and Loris Karius’ incompetence.
Such immediate second chances are rare in football, particularly in the toughest tournament on earth, but Liverpool earned exactly that after another glittering European campaign this season, booking their place against Tottenham Hotspur in what will be Klopp’s third attempt at the trophy.
Since his appointment in 2015, Klopp has transformed the Reds into one of the most impressive outfits in European football, making significant improvements year-on-year.
His debut season saw Liverpool finish 8th, losing the League Cup on penalties to Man City before being pipped 3-1 by Sevilla in the Europa League final.
A fourth-place finish in 2017 was matched in 2018 but Liverpool’s real success came in the Champions League as they tore through the competition only to fall at the last hurdle once again in another 3-1 defeat, this time to Real Madrid.
This season, despite leading the Premier League for most of the campaign, Liverpool had to settle for second as a remarkable Man City side romped towards back-to-back championships.
As cruel as it may seem to measure Klopp’s success purely in terms of silverware, the history books do the German few favours; four runners-up medals in four years is not the legacy he will want to leave on Merseyside.
On June 1, in the illustrious surroundings of Atletico Madrid’s newly-erected Wanda Metropolitano Stadium, the 51-year-old will have the chance to change the narrative with a win over Tottenham in a final the bookies believe Liverpool are favourites for.
Spurs manager Pochettino is among those who can empathise with Klopp’s plight having faced similar criticism for his inability to bring a trophy back to north London since taking over in 2014.
The 47-year-old has made no secret of his ambition to continue challenging for top honours and has occasionally hinted at his frustration with the rigidity of the club’s financial structure.
"If we want to win the title, we need to operate in a different way," he told reporters in January.
"At the moment we operate in the same way that we operate five years ago when I arrived.
"And of course maybe we can win some title but it's going to be a tough job to do it, because in that situation every club in the last five years was improving a lot.
"The other day I saw a stat, in the last ten years in England and Europe, how the teams were spending money and I think we were on the bottom. Yes, in Europe, England and Europe.”
It is true that Tottenham have not been able to match the financial clout of their rivals: their net spend since Pochettino took charge is roughly a tenth of Manchester City over the same length of time.
More recently however the Argentine has taken a more measured stance on the club’s expenditures and achievements.
In March, he confessed: "To be in the top four, to play Champions League, that was a dream five years ago.
“To arrive to the new stadium in very good condition – I think that is more than winning a title, more than winning a Carabao Cup. We are talking about bigger things than winning a trophy.
"Of course we’d like to win a trophy – the FA Cup, the Carabao Cup, the Premier League, the Champions League, of course. But the responsibility of the club is massive.
“You need to be sure you survive and you are, in the next few years, paying the salaries of the players, the manager, the groundsman, and pay back the banks and everything. And that is very tough work for the club."
Pochettino will not carry the same pressure of four previous failures into the Champions League final on June 1; only once has the former Southampton manager been made to settle for a runner-up medal, losing out to Chelsea in the League Cup final in 2015.
By this logic it could be argued then that Liverpool, with the tension of four fruitless years continuing to mount, need this victory more than their Premier League rivals.
But Klopp too has downplayed the importance of landing trophies, hailing moments like Liverpool’s impossible comeback against Barcelona as “worth more than silverware”.
“We all have to make the best of the circumstances that we have,” he said.
“That’s what we try. If that leads to silverware then wonderful, but we cannot do more. If people judge me on not winning something in the past or winning something in the future, I cannot change that.
“All I can do is my best and I am 100% sure I do my best. It’s not perfect, because it’s me, but I cannot do more.”
Will his best finally be enough? Or will Tottenham’s impossible journey end with the ultimate prize?
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