Another trip to Wembley, another chance for this Liverpool team to prove it belongs among the very best in Anfield history.
The quadruple dream may have faded somewhat in the past week, but that’s OK. Hopes of a treble are still very much alive and kicking.
With the Carabao Cup in the bag, Jurgen Klopp’s side can secure the FA Cup with victory over Chelsea on Saturday. All the while, the prospect of another Champions League win, the club’s seventh in total, looms large. Real Madrid await, in Paris’ Stade de France on May 28.
No wonder Reds fans are smiling. “Imagine being us,” reads one of the newer banners on the Kop, and you know what they mean. What a time it is to support English football’s most successful club.
In the space of four years, Klopp has led them to unimaginable heights. Three Champions League finals, a first league title since 1990, the UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup, domestic cup success and record after bewildering record, as they have gone toe-to-toe, and pretty much point-for-point, with Manchester City.
Anfield has witnessed some wonderful football teams down the years, and while comparing across eras is difficult, and probably unwise, it is surely fair now to ask where this Liverpool side ranks among the best in the Reds’ glittering, 130-year history.
To help do that, GOAL enlisted the help of three men who know exactly what they’re talking about.
Jamie Carragher is second on Liverpool’s all-time appearance list, having played 737 times for the club between 1997 and 2013, winning nine major trophies along the way.
Phil Thompson is the Kirkby lad who went on to make 477 appearances for his boyhood club, captaining the club to victory in the 1981 European Cup final and picking up no fewer than 15 major honours. He later returned to Liverpool for a successful spell as assistant manager to Gerard Houllier, their team winning a treble of their own in 2001.
And Jim Beglin was part of the first-ever Reds side to win a league and FA Cup double in 1986, a left-back of class and distinction whose career was unfortunately cut short through injury.
Here’s what they had to say…
Is Jurgen Klopp's team among the best in Liverpool history?
Carragher: “I think we’ve got to be careful, because of what the other teams before them have achieved. I do think this team is as good as those, but it hasn’t quite got the trophies to show for it. That isn’t necessarily down to themselves, because they’re up against a phenomenal team against Manchester City.
“Their numbers say that they’re one of the best Liverpool teams, if not the best, in the club’s history. In terms of points, games won, goals scored, records set, they’re almost out on their own.
“Adding another European Cup, and maybe if they can nick another league title in the next year or two, I think you could make the argument that this is the greatest Liverpool team ever. Right now, I think you have to hold back out of respect for what teams of the past have done.”
Thompson: “One thing that I can say about this team is that they are so good to watch. The flair, the intensity, the commitment, it’s all of the highest, highest level. It’s so impressive, the way they do things. I just love watching them, and I think most people do.
“Where do they sit? I’d like to think that they’d win more trophies. True greatness comes with longevity, with staying at the top and collecting trophies. That’s been a burden for so many Liverpool teams and managers down the years, but this team has accepted all that and gone on. If it carries on, it belongs among the best.”
Beglin: “I think it is. You have to give them that respect. There will always be Liverpool fans who say no, because the trophies won in the 70s and 80s will always be a level above, but I don’t agree with that.
“To me, the standards that have been set by this team are very similar to the great sides of the past. And the playing style, it’s an exhilarating watch. This team just thinks about the next goal, the next win. We did that. We were programmed that way.
“I think you have to put this team right up there with the best teams. They’ve already won the big prizes, and they keep on breaking boundaries. You have to give them the utmost respect, and put them right up there.”
Which is the best Liverpool team of all time?
Carragher: “If I think of a four-year period between, say, 1981-84, then that team won three league titles in a row, two European Cups, four league cups. That’s huge.
“In the mid-late 70s, there were three European trophies in three seasons (1976, 77 and 78), as well as two league titles. Massive honours.
“I can remember the late 80s team of John Barnes and Peter Beardsley. And at that time, with the way football was played in the old First Division, it felt like watching Brazil. Barnes sprinkled some stardust on the club, and took them to another level in terms of how they played. That team should have won the double [in 1987-88], and lost only two league games in a 42-game season.
“That’s the only team I’d put up there with this one, in terms of style.”
Thompson: “When people ask me, I always say 78-79. We conceded 16 goals in 42 league games that year. Four goals conceded at Anfield all season, can you imagine?
“People ask me how it would compare against this modern side. And I say ‘we’d probably get a draw….but then again we’re all over 60 now!’
“It dawned on me recently why that was such a great team. It was because we were all aged between 24 and 28. We were in our prime, and to have so many players at that stage of their careers was a massive plus for the side.
“The confidence that ran through that team was sensational. But even back then, as good as we were, the idea of a treble or a quadruple was never spoken of. That’s where this modern Liverpool team has got the edge. They’ve gone further than any English team in that quest. That takes some doing.”
Beglin: “I was lucky to play in a great side, a double-winning side, but people will always hold 78-79 up as one of the great sides, and rightly so. That record is staggering.
“I have no doubt that the likes of Joe Fagan or Kenny Dalglish or Ronnie Moran would have enjoyed working with this team and these players, though. And no doubt that the players of the 70s and 80s would have loved working with Jurgen Klopp!”
Would any current Liverpool players be in an all-time best XI?
Carragher: “One hundred per cent. I’d probably have three of the current team in the greatest XI now. [Virgil] Van Dijk and [Mohamed] Salah are in it, for me. I think by the end of his career, you’d look at Trent [Alexander-Arnold] as well with the role he has and the impact he’s had. Alisson will have a great shout of really pushing Ray Clemence too.
“Andy Roberts would have a shout, and while I don’t think I’d ever take John Barnes out of my greatest XI, Sadio Mane is probably the closest we’ve ever had to him. That probably tells me everything you need to know.”
Thompson: “I would think so. Particularly Van Dijk. You look at him, and he could span any generation. I just think ‘wow, imagine him and Alan Hansen together?!’
“Then you look at the numbers of Salah. Roger Hunt was my hero, and I was lucky enough to play with Ian Rush. Those two posted scary statistics, and Salah is up there with them. If he was to stay, he would end up as one of the top five goalscorers in the club’s history.
“Then there’s the likes of Mane, Trent, Alisson. They’re all fantastic players who will have big shouts, but there’s some competition, isn’t there?!”
Beglin: “Without a shadow of a doubt. For me, it’s always been kind of easy to work your way through a greatest XI, from Ray Clemence in goal to Ian Rush up front.
"But now, you look at the likes of Alisson. He’s a contender, if he keeps doing what he’s doing over the next three or four seasons, he’s right up there. I’ve already said I think Robertson is the best left-back the club has ever had, and you can’t ignore Van Dijk or Salah.
“All these guys need, maybe, is a season or two more. You look at Alexander-Arnold, 23 and running games from right-back. I’d be amazed if he doesn’t end up as one of the greats, if he isn’t there already. Then there’s someone like Jordan Henderson, who may not be the most spectacular individual, but underpins everything this team is about."
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