Jamie Carragher called out the hypocrisy of some neutrals in turning their noses up at the ‘rivalry’ between Liverpool and Manchester City before expressing outrage at some of the incidents that took place during the Cityzens’ meeting with Atletico Madrid.
Some clashes occurred on and off the pitch following a poor challenge on Phil Foden late in the tie at the Wanda Metropolitano, with some fiery scenes spotted post-game.
“When I acclaimed the rivalry between Manchester City and Liverpool as the greatest in terms of quality that English football has ever seen, the counter-arguments followed the same pattern,” the ex-England international wrote for The Telegraph.
“How can it be a ‘proper’ rivalry when there is so much respect between the coaches and players?
“Where are the incidents like Martin Keown getting in Ruud van Nistelrooy’s face, ‘pizzagate’, or Roy Keane picking a fight with Patrick Vieira when the teams line up in the tunnel?
“Those who disagreed were nostalgic for the needle of Manchester United versus Arsenal, arguing that the drama of those fixtures made them more compelling. Even in the aftermath of one of the most thrilling, high class Premier League games in years, there were those suggesting City versus Liverpool is ‘too nice’.
“It is hard to reconcile this response with those who say they were appalled by Atletico’s approach in midweek. Many descriptions label Atletico ‘a disgrace’. What do neutrals want from a football match?
“The game is at its most riveting when there is a collision of style and personality. That can be in the form of Klopp versus Guardiola, where despite the respect they lead two very different teams in varied ways, or Simeone versus the rest of the world, the South American at his best when he and his players are their most belligerent.
“These differences are to be encouraged and cherished, not sneered at. The game would be boring if every coach played the same way.”
Pep Guardiola’s men secured passage through to the next round of the competition with a goalless draw in Madrid, with the Reds set to face Villarreal in their semi-final.
It’s an interesting point raised by our former centre-half and certainly begs the question as to what the modern fan truly wants from a game of football.
A true balance between total sanitisation of the sport and the rough and tumble antics of decades past will be impossible to achieve.
Regardless, a rivalry shouldn’t be dependent on an “acceptable” standard of controversy over the quality of football played on the pitch – at the very least in our eyes!