A first European final in nine years awaits Jurgen Klopp’s Reds. Whereas Liverpool were last in Athens back in 2007, they will now descend into Basel full of hope and expectations. Not only is a European trophy on the line, Champions League group stage qualification will prove the icing on the cake should the Reds prevail.
So let’s look back at the Reds’ team which started that night in Greece, and compare them with the line-up likely to start the Europa League final.
Pepe Reina vs Simon Mignolet
The two goalkeepers actually crossed path back in the summer of 2013, via former manager Brendan Rodgers’ transfer dealings, with Mignolet signed from Sunderland while Reina went out on loan to Napoli. It was a strange decision, considering how the Kop’s favourite Spaniard was ideal for Rodgers’ preferred style of play, while Mignolet was and still isn’t exactly convincing with the ball at his feet. Both Reina and Mignolet are excellent shot-stoppers, but since the Spaniard managed to improve his command of the area during his time at the club, he should still be regarded as superior to his inconsistent replacement.
Steve Finnan vs Nathaniel Clyne
finnan: the model of consistency clyne can replicate for years to come
It’s hard to pick between the two. In just his first season at the club, Clyne has already shown the level of consistency Mr Consistency himself would have been proud of. Both full-backs are defensive-minded, but are capable of going forward and overlapping from deep. Yet Finnan’s four consistent years at Anfield till then just helps him to edge out the man who is likely to take that title off him in a couple of years’ time.
Jamie Carragher vs Dejan Lovren
A few months under Klopp has seen the previously-maligned Lovren flourish in central defence, similar to how Rafa Benitez’s arrival paved the way for the versatile Carragher to seal his permanent spot as the club’s no.1 centre-back. Lovren was brought in by Rodgers to replace Carragher, albeit a year after the latter retired, but has only recently started showing some indication that he may be able to fill such huge boots. Though Lovren has improved leap and bounds in recent months, Carragher’s already-legendary status at the club in 2007 makes him the better pick at right centre-half.
Daniel Agger vs Kolo Toure
agger and co. could not stop milan’s revenge mission
The Danish defender saw his Anfield career cut short when he returned to Brondby two summers ago, while Toure’s Liverpool career looks likely to be coming to an end this summer too. Toure is only here after Mamadou Sakho was hit with a suspension by FIFA. Agger was such an elegant defender with so much potential to fulfil at that time, as compared to Toure’s contribution and massive influence despite his age. Agger’s skill on the ball just sees him pip Toure in this list.
John Arne Riise vs Alberto Moreno
In a way, Moreno seems to be version two of Liverpool’s own Norwegian hammer. Both are offensive full-backs and love to overlap with every given opportunity. Riise gained cult status with his thunderbolts from direct free kicks, while Moreno is still finding his feet at the club, with only a couple of left-footed Riise-esque belters of his own. With that said, Riise’s longtime service to the club and greater experience puts him ahead of the sometimes ill-disciplined Moreno.
Javier Mascherano vs Emre Can
unlike can’s compatriot two years prior, mascherano could not contain kaka’s brilliance
The two midfielders take up similar roles in the team, but slightly differ in their styles of play. Both are usually the deepest midfielder in their respective Liverpool teams, both are there to break up the opposition’s play before reaching the Reds’ backline. However, whereas Mascherano is known more for his short passes and no-frills play, Can is much more dynamic and seeks to start attacks on his own, whether by switching the play or in storming forward with the ball. The German international has potential to be as good a defensive midfielder as Mascherano, while even developing a more effective and creative offensive game. At the moment, the experience Mascherano already had in 2007 just counts in favour of him, though there’s no doubt Can will be there or thereabouts in no time.
Xabi Alonso vs James Milner
Similar to the Mascherano-Can comparison, Alonso and Milner are different types of midfield players. The current FC Bayern midfielder dictates play from deep, with an impressive range of passing to boot. Milner, on the other hand, presses hard and is allowed to roam around the pitch. The Englishman usually finds himself on the wings during attacks, where he can deliver accurate crosses into the box. Alonso prefers to hold his position in front of the back four. The class of the Spaniard is of no doubt, even back in 2007, and he just offers more creative-wise than the industrious England international.
Jermaine Pennant vs Adam Lallana
lallana is slowly becoming a kop favourite
Both Englishmen were plucked from mid-table clubs, yet for very different fees. Whereas the current Tampines Rovers playmaker cost the Reds an initial £6.7 million, Lallana was bought for £25 million. Pennant’s first season at the club coincided with that European final in Athens, while Lallana is enjoying a European final in his second year at the club. The former Arsenal prodigy didn’t enjoy much success at the club, with his solitary goal in the 2006-07 campaign epitomising that, while Lallana already has six this season in all competitions. Despite being Liverpool’s star man in that Champions League final, Pennant loses out to Lallana.
Steven Gerrard vs Roberto Firmino
Whoever had to go up with Gerrard was always bound to come second best. In 2007, Gerrard was a year away from hitting his prime goalscoring form, but was already the main clog in Benitez’s Liverpool spine. It’s only been Firmino’s first season for Liverpool and in English football, so there should be much more to come from the skilful yet industrious Brazilian. Gerrard inspired his side to a second Champions League final in three years, so it’s quite obvious that he would be ahead of a largely hit-and-miss Firmino.
Boudeweijn Zenden vs Philippe Coutinho
the reds’ european run has seen some glittering performances from our brazilian magician
A curious free transfer from Middlesborough, Zenden’s greatest contribution in his short two year spell with the club was his role in the semi final win over Chelsea en route to that 2007 final. Zenden’s versatility made him a useful utility player for Benitez, but there can surely be no comparison with the Reds’ current creative mastermind. Coutinho, a bargain buy by Rodgers, is such a creative influence, cutting in from the left and weaving his magic alongside his fellow Brazilian. The fact Coutinho’s so young just shows what a great player he could be.
Dirk Kuyt vs Daniel Sturridge
Kuyt was in his first year at Liverpool, when he was still regarded as a centre-forward. His durability and tenacity eventually made him a Kop favourite. The Dutchman did manage a respectable 14 goals across all competitions in 2007, and played a key part in the run to the final. Yet in coming up against the Reds’ current goalscoring machine (when fit, mind you), there can be no doubt that Sturridge is the better striker. As the fourth fastest Liverpool player to hit 50 goals, the England international is a deadly finisher – but could use some of Kuyt’s almost flawless injury record.
Can Liverpool’s Class of 2016 do the club proud and make up for the failure of the 2007 team? How well would this combined team do in the Premier League, or in today’s European competition?