Thanks to Panos Kostopoulos for this superb guest piece! Check him out on Twitter, here
One of the greatest boxers in history of the sport, Muhammad Ali, once famously said: “Champions aren’t made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them-a desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have the skill, and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill.”
Liverpool possess players with great talent.
They are blessed with skilful individuals in each line of the field, brilliant young prospects coming from the academies and a manager who has proved himself over the years as one of the most intelligent coaches in the continent.
To be honest, this is the only way to compete and stay among the top 6 in each of the five best leagues in Europe.
Undergoing the era of a (modern) football, chock-full of TV rights money, marketing alliances, sponsorship deals etc., spotting a team, which lack skill and talent, is rather uncommon.
By taking a closer look to the top-5 European leagues, however, an undoubted drought of champions might be well noticed.
During the last decade, domestic trophies are being recycled between a certain number of clubs, including Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Juventus, Chelsea, Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain, with the likes of Leicester and Atletico Madrid just being the exception that proves the rule.
The main common characteristic of these football giants, apart from the excessive amount of euros they spend every summer, is a concrete core of players with a heart of a champion.
Apart from trophies being recycled between them, same happens with players, managers, sporting directors and many other pieces of the puzzle missing here and there.
Take Chelsea’s backbone for example:
Thibaut Courtois, brought back from Atletico Madrid after their 2013-14 LaLiga trophy.
David Luiz, back-to-back champion with Paris Saint-Germain.
N’Golo Kante, probably the most decisive cog of Ranieri’s Leicester miracle machine that lifted the Premier League trophy.
Diego Costa, signed from the Rojiblancos after leading them to a domestic silverware and a Champions League final.
Adding the three-time Serie A winner Antonio Conte in the mix and although the London team is considered as one of Europe’s big-spenders, their scouters and sporting directors singled out and acquired players with the very same instinct as the one Ali mentioned in his words.
Going through Liverpool’s squad and picking out those who have enjoyed more than 1,500 minutes of football this season, considered as the main core of the team, the sum of championships that can be counted among them is rather discouraging.
Nine domestic championships, between 15 members of the squad, which is quite understandable taking in consideration that the Reds have the second youngest squad in the league after the Spurs.
Be that as it may, only three of these titles have been a reward of a top-flight league; James Milner’s couple of championships with Manchester City and Emre Can’s trophy with Bayern Munich back in 2013 when he was 19 years old and featured in four Bundesliga games.
Comparing these numbers with those of the aforementioned elite clubs, the outcome is further devastating.
Liverpool’s history deservedly ranks the club among the organisations planted in the top drawer and they should start behaving as such.
There is no need of copying foreign academy models or acquiring overpriced players by paying surplus value; there is no need of following an imported model at all.
Whatever that club has achieved over the years, was accomplished in their own Liverpool way.
Major steps have been taken towards the right direction and only a few are needed to pattern that unique recipe which leads to the championship.
The organisation consists of skillful academy products, talented foreign players, some of the finest members of the England national team and a bright manager.
What the club needs is a backbone of champions and while Klopp may well create that spark out of his current squad, as he did during his tenure in Dortmund, Liverpool’s aim isn’t winning a single championship, but establishing a dynasty.
As Althea Gibson, the first black athlete to win a Grand Slam tennis title back in 1956, once noted:
“In sports, you simply aren’t considered a real champion until you have defended your title successfully.
“Winning it once can be a fluke; winning it twice proves you are the best.”
Champion teams are made of real champions and Liverpool might be able, during the upcoming transfer season, to bring themselves closer to their target than ever, by employing just a small number of such players.