How Barcelona shaped Liverpool's success
- A look into events involving Barcelona that defined Liverpool's transformation into a title-winning team.
- Liverpool won their first Champions League title in 14 years last season and this season delivered their maiden Premier League title with a whopping seven games to spare.
Liverpool were crowned Premier League champions with a record seven games remaining as 10-man Manchester City were downed by Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, thereby ending the Anfield club's long 30-year wait for a league title.
What the Merseyside club has achieved in the last two years has been nothing short of extraordinary, having won the Champions League for an English-record sixth time, last season.
At the end of the storm, there is a golden sky as they say, but what has made this success possible for Liverpool? What has changed in the last three years and how has FC Barcelona in particular enabled a path to success for Liverpool ? Let us take a look at the events as they unfolded.
How FC Barcelona paved the path to success for Liverpool
The Philippe Coutinho transfer
Back in 2017/18 season, Liverpool returned to the Champions League for the first time in three years and seemed to get better with every season in the competition. Jurgen Klopp, having joined Liverpool in 2015, was en route to creating a system that would dominate football in the coming years and at the centre of his playing philosophy was Philippe Coutinho.
Meanwhile, in Spain, Barcelona were left startled as Paris St. Germain triggered an enormous € 222 m release clause for Neymar, a player touted as their future in a transfer that would change the world of football forever. Having been handed a massive setback, the Catalan giants had to find 'replacements'.
Now they had the choice to wait and be smart about it, letting the opportunities present themselves or let their desperation dictate their future moves. They clearly chose the latter by securing the transfer of French prodigy, Ousmane Dembele, for a massive € 105 m, a player who could never justify that enormous price tag.
Such was the stature of Neymar at Barcelona and the abnormality of his transfer that a single signing would never fill the void he left behind. Barcelona now set their sights on Liverpool's Phillipe Coutinho.
They had a few bids rejected as the summer window closed, leaving the Liverpool playmaker unsettled and pushing away for a transfer, hopeful that Barcelona would return. The Brazilian then went on to have one of his best-ever spell of form for Liverpool, recording 12 goals and nine assists in 20 appearances.
Having done enough for the imminent return of Barcelona in the transfer market, Coutinho was largely unsettled as the next window approached. The Liverpool manager was made to cover up with false injuries as the club tried in vain to convince one of their best players to stay.
Nothing worked. The Reds rejected the next few bids for Countinho but Barcelona remained as adamant as ever before Liverpool eventually succumbed. But this situation also presented Liverpool with an opportunity to gain a financial muscle that would prove key in fixing all the problems with their squad at the time. Liverpool negotiated an outrageous transfer fee for Coutinho and handed Barcelona another player who would never be able to justify the price tag attached with him.
The funds acquired from Countinho's transfer enabled Liverpool to address more immediate problems in their defence where they went on to sign the Dutch defender, Virgil van Dijk from Southampton for a massive € 82m. The Dutchman would prove to be a player who was the missing piece in Liverpool's puzzle.
Van Dijk made an instant impact as Liverpool finished runners-up in the Champions League and also qualified for the next season of the competition. Something special was building up and Liverpool knew it.
In the summer window, Liverpool fixed the alarming problem of a competent goalkeeper by signing the Brazilian keeper, Alisson from A.S. Roma, again a big-money signing that was enabled by the funds provided by FC Barcelona.
Jurgen Klopp adjusted his system so that the absence of Coutinho was never felt. Each new Liverpool signing worked wonders, especially Mohamed Salah who returned to Premier League and hit the ground running, as if he never left it in the first place.
Klopp now had a team that could challenge for every title they played for, as Liverpool's transformation was complete, thanks to Barcelona's successful pursuit of Coutinho.
Liverpool's stunning 2018-19 UEFA Champions League Semifinal comeback against Barcelona
As the 2018/19 season started, Liverpool, as expected, were straight to business, making a brilliant start to their Champions League campaign. Emerging as a force to be reckoned with but having been away from a triumph in the competition for years, Liverpool still needed that final push, the belief that they could do it.
In the Premier League, Manchester City having had a record-breaking 100-point season, were not going to give up their domestic dominance on a canter. The Ciyzens exposed the minor chinks in Liverpool's armour in the most crucial moments. In one of the most enticing Premier League title races of all time, Manchester City came out on top by just a single point as they kept Liverpool waiting for their first title in the competition.
On the European front, FC Barcelona were expected to provide a stern test of Liverpool's title credentials as the two former Champions League winners clashed in the semifinal stage. Living up to their pre-match expectations in the first leg, the Catalan giants dominated the English club for a 3-0 win at Camp Nou in the first leg, with Lionel Messi bagging a brace. With Liverpool not managing to conjure an away goal and having lost key players in Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah before the second leg, the semifinal tie looked all but done and dusted.
But the Spanish club's dismal away form came back to haunt them as Liverpool completed the most improbable of comebacks to leave Barcelona shellshocked. An extremely spineless performance from the Catalan club meant that Liverpool rediscovered that final push and the belief they were lacking to win titles.
Liverpool won the tie 4-0 on the night and 4-3 on aggregate to reach the final. Against a potentially weaker Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool cruised to a 2-0 victory to win their first Champions League title in 14 years.
Coming to the current season, Liverpool entered the Premier League as prime challengers to Manchester City, and they duly delivered on that front. A side full of belief and character, as we have seen, went on to dominate English Football unlike any other, thereby ending their long wait for a maiden Premier League title.
Liverpool look set to be one of the best sides in Europe in the coming years, and Barcelona would surely be thinking about the things they could have done differently as they find themselves in the position they are in today.Published 30 Jun 2020, 04:04 IST