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Man Utd missing out on Jude Bellingham shows how far they’ve fallen – NEIL SQUIRES

Manchester United once only had to click their fingers and the best prospects would drop everything and come running. When the invitation was sent out to George Best in Belfast and David Beckham in London to join the most glamorous club in England, there was only one answer.

Jude Bellingham is about to say ‘no’ though. He is set to join Borussia Dortmund instead.

The Birmingham City prodigy, who turns 17 on Monday, was given the full tour of United’s Carrington training facility by Sir Alex Ferguson no less before lockdown and sold the club hard but Bellingham has evidently decided against it.

United’s allure is clearly not what it once was.

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The Next Big Thing of English football, Bellingham has captained his country at youth level and already played 33 games for Birmingham at first team level. He has become the club’s youngest player and youngest goalscorer.

An energetic midfielder with an eye for goal, he was seen at Old Trafford as a gold-mine investment but instead he has chosen to follow the Jadon Sancho path into German football.

It makes sense for Bellingham to reject United. Bellingham is a smart kid, currently mixing his football with studying for a sociology A level. He can see the bigger picture.

JUST IN: Manchester United tipped to continue transfer search

He is used to Championship football and wants to test himself at the next level up.

While Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has shown with another raw talent, Mason Greenwood, that he is willing to give youth a chance the reality is that Bellingham would have to bide his time at United.

Bruno Fernandes has quickly established himself in midfield since his arrival from Portugal, Fred is finally flowering and Scott McTominay has just signed a new contract. If Paul Pogba chooses to stay in the summer, with Nemanja Matic around as well Bellingham will struggle to get a look in.

Contrast that with the opportunities Sancho has been given – and taken – in the Bundesliga and you can see why Bellingham came up with the answer he did – and his working in the margin.

Having moved from Manchester City at 17, Sancho’s exposure has enabled him to become an England starter; Bellingham’s direction of travel could help him do the same.

There are different paths up the mountain. Phil Foden is showing that waiting in the wings can pay off too if you are willing to be patient and apply yourself to learning from the best. But the difference is that Foden, at Manchester City, is a sponge in one of the best two environments in English football.

He is guided by a genius manager in Pep Guardiola and an old master in David Silva and has the best current midfield player in the league in Kevin De Bruyne to study daily.

United, despite their wealth and reputation, are operating a level down.

The signs are that they are on the rise again and they could yet qualify for the Champions League this season but in their present state the truth is they no longer possess the same capacity to turn a young player’s head.

That time may come again but even if they continue on their current trajectory it will be at least a couple of years before they can look the top two in the eye again.

City will have Guardiola driving them on for another season at least and Liverpool under Klopp aren’t going anywhere.

Meanwhile Bellingham will be growing, maturing and most importantly, playing, in the Bundesliga.

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Get well soon Novak Djokovic. Perhaps, while he is convalescing, the World No 1 might care to tune into Andy Murray in the Battle of the Brits to see how covid-era tennis should be done.

Djokovic’s Adria Tour – or Coronavirus Cup as it turned into – was such a disastrous example of how not to restart sport with its absence of testing, big crowds and post-event parties that he should feel ashamed.

Grigor Dimitrov, Borna Coric and Viktor Troicki all went down with the illness and Djokovic’s own subsequent positive coronavirus test put the tin lid on the cursed event.

The virus does not care about world rankings or Grand Slams won and it has shown it can ruin reputations as well as lives.

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If Neil Warnock’s latest comeback at Middlesbrough goes well enough to earn the old rascal another full season it should attract the attentions of sport’s increasingly busy fly-on-the-wall documentary makers.

The vintage dressing room footage of Warnock in full firebrand mode at his Sheffield United team 15 years ago gives a flavour of what a Netflix or an Amazon Prime might expect.

“You blame everything. Blame me, pitch, ref, system, tactics. You want to have a look at you selves some of you in the mirror,” rages Warnock.

“It doesn’t hurt you. You’re picking a wage up. That’s a load of bollocks. You’re got to die to get three points.”

That’s with the swear words edited out. Five of them in that rant alone.

Xxx

A contract extension for David Luiz at Arsenal? Good to see Mikel Arteta’s sense of humour has survived the lockdown intact.

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What Liverpool’s Premier League title win means for Salah, Mane, Van Dijk

The message is loud and clear, Liverpool believe they’re back on their perch, they do not want to stop there. This feels like the start of something special at Anfield and Jurgen Klopp wants his side to dominate English football.

It won’t be long before the rumour mill starts and the likes of Mohamed Salah are linked with moves away from the club.

A new challenge will be the supposed reason one of Liverpool’s big names wants to quit the club.

After all, this Liverpool side has now won the two biggest prizes in club football in the Champions League and Premier League.

But in truth, their work is far from done.

CONFIRMED: Liverpool crowned Premier League champions after Chelsea beat Man City

Given the unique nature of this season’s campaign, the Liverpool squad have already discussed their plan to do it again next season.

That’s because the coronavirus pandemic prevented the Reds from celebrating glory with their supporters.

Last summer 750,000 Liverpool supporters lined the streets of the city centre for the Champions League parade.

Similar plans had been drawn up before COVID-19 and now fans have been forced to celebrate the triumph from the comfort of their own homes.

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Liverpool are still hungry to share that moment with supporters and will want to remove any asterisk from their name.

Deep down, everybody knows that Liverpool are deserved champions and they have been head and shoulders above the other 19 Premier League teams.

Salah, Sadio Mane and Virgil van Dijk all want to be a part of that no doubt.

It would be a huge surprise if any of Liverpool’s senior players decided to turn their back on the club.

Liverpool are set to continue competing for major trophies and there is a sense they want to continue writing their own history.

Given the uncertainty surrounding the current financial climate, it would prove difficult for any club to table the cash required to take Salah, Mane or Van Dijk off Liverpool’s hands.

Nonetheless, they are not for sale and would only leave if they were prepared to force their way out of the club like Philippe Coutinho.

The Brazilian has set a new example for Klopp that the grass isn’t always greener beyond Liverpool.

He would not surely jump at the chance to return to Anfield to get his career back on track.

Michael Edwards and the board are already looking to invest in several bumper new contracts.

Van Dijk is just one star set to be handed a new deal alongside Alisson and Gini Wijnaldum.

Both Salah and Mane are already tied down to long-term contract but they too could be in line for a pay rise following their efforts this season.

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Liverpool surprise transfer decision praised for winning Reds the Premier League title

Liverpool’s decision not to sign any big-money players last summer has been hailed as one of the reasons for their success this year, after the Reds secured the Premier League title for the first time. Former Manchester United player Phil Neville believes the decision to keep the squad largely the same last summer made players more hungry to succeed this time around.

Liverpool’s last big-money transfer came in the summer of 2018, when they forked out for Alisson Becker, Naby Keita and Fabinho.

Despite winning the Champions League last summer, Jurgen Klopp opted against spending big, and paid only £1.5million for Sepp van den Berg, before buying Takumi Minamino in the recent January window for £7.25m.

Multiple players left on permanent moves, including Danny Ings, Simon Mignolet and Ryan Kent, but Klopp stood firm and kept his squad largely intact.

And Neville believes that was one of the main reasons for Liverpool’s sprint to the title this season, as the players in the squad were hungry having missed out last year.

JUST IN: Liverpool icon Steven Gerrard posts classy message after Reds secure Premier League title

Liverpool finished just one point behind Manchester City last season, having pushed the Citizens to the final game of the campaign.

But their wait for a Premier League title went on, though they went on to secure the title in record time this year.

The Reds are 23 points clear of City, and still have seven games remaining – the most of any team in Premier League history.

Speaking on Match of the Day 2, Neville praised the decision made by Klopp last summer, calling him an “unbelievable manager”.

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The ex-United defender explained that Liverpool will now have their sights set on breaking Manchester City’s points record of 101, which they will do if they win five of their remaining seven games.

“It’s a phenomenal achievement,” Neville said.

“When you look at past title winners, Liverpool are up there with the very best.

“When we look at the goals they scored, the style they played, and they’ve got an unbelievable manager.

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  • The amazing moment Liverpool stars celebrated Premier League title win

“He didn’t add anyone into the squad in the summer, but he knew the squad was hungry.

“I think now with seven games to go, he’ll be telling the players to go and break the record.

“[He’ll be saying] go out and enjoy your football, but break Man City’s record.

“Man City’s team that got 100 points was one of the best, but Liverpool can be even better.”

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Jurgen Klopp’s promise to Liverpool fans is bad news for Premier League rivals

Jurgen Klopp has insisted there is more to come from his Premier League champions.

The Liverpool boss was in tears as he celebrated his side's league triumph, and through his emotion, he made a vow to fans that the title win is the start for “an incredible team”.

"For all the people of Liverpool. It's a really exciting ride from the moment I arrive and it's not over yet, that's the good thing,” he said.

Having secured a 19th top-flight crown, Liverpool can break Manchester City's Premier League points record by claiming 15 points from the remaining 21 – with Pep Guardiola's side up next.

"The team is downstairs, they look like they have good use in their legs so we should try but for now we just enjoy this moment," Klopp said.

"It's the best thing I can imagine and it's more than I ever dreamed of.

"I have incredible admiration for my players. What they did over the last few years is exceptional. I have no words for what they have done.

"My coaching staff too, I could not be more proud or what a lot of people in Liverpool did. It has been a very exciting ride since the first day. And it is not over.”

Liverpool are now one behind Manchester United's record of 20 top-flight crowns, and are now threatening to tip the balance of title wins back in their favour over the next couple of seasons.

City's 2-1 defeat at Chelsea on Thursday night confirmed the Reds' first title win in 30 years – but Klopp's Anfield trophy haul began just over a year ago when his side beat Tottenham to win the Champions League final.

The Reds then added the UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup last year, while going on the rampage in the Premier League, not dropping a point until a 1-1 draw away to Manchester United in October.

Liverpool – Premier League champions




They have won 28 of their 31 league games so this season, with a shock defeat to Watford in February and last Sunday's goalless derby draw with Everton at Goodison Park the only other times they have failed to pick up three points.

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How Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp went from ‘idiot’ to legend in 10 steps

Jurgen Klopp took over Liverpool in 10th place in the Premier League. Through maverick decision-making, masterful motivating and tactical dexterity, he’s made them England’s best.

But it’s been a ride. Three cup final defeats in two-and-a-half years had many questioning his steel when it mattered, and Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City had kept them second-best domestically. Now Liverpool have been crowned champions for the first time in 30 years, and they’re tumbling records along the way.

A squad transformation has played a part, but there is much more behind Klopp’s influence at Anfield. Subtle technical changes, attitude shifts and behind-the-scenes genius have made them unstoppable.

Here, we look at Klopp’s 10 steps to greatness.

1. CELEBRATING A 2-2 DRAW

How they laughed. Klopp was ridiculed. James McClean called him “a bit of an idiot”. A 2-2 draw at home to West Brom didn’t warrant celebration.

But rather than celebrating a point, the new Liverpool manager was making one.

Weeks before, Klopp said he had felt alone during a 2-1 defeat by Crystal Palace. Many fans had left at 82 minutes.

But during the draw with West Brom – Divock Origi scored a 95th-minute leveller – Klopp felt the supporters supported.

‘Shut out the crowd and focus on your game’ is not Klopp. For a start, that’s nigh-on impossible, and he has repeatedly placed importance on the relationship between fan and team. Klopp criticises when panic sets in, his arms flailing in the air to all four sides of Anfield, and will praise when they’re spurred on.

The result is a priceless comeback culture. When Liverpool go a goal down, there’s an expectation they will score next, and it emanates from the crowd.

Since the start of the 2018/19 season, Liverpool have conceded back-to-back goals in a Premier League game only twice. In Klopp’s first season-and-a-half at the club, this happened 19 times.

Jurgen Klopp celebrates against West Bromwich Albion at Anfield on December 13, 2015. (Photo by John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)Source:Getty Images

Klopp and his players salute The Kop after a draw against West Brom. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)Source:Getty Images

“I really wanted from the first day that the people know about their importance,” Klopp said of the West Brom celebrations. “In football, people always say it – that supporters are important – but then you don’t treat them like that. So you have to make sure it’s really a healthy relationship.”

This does come with conditions, however.

“Please don’t sing my name before the game is decided,” he said in September 2016. “I don’t play. It was the same at Arsenal. It is nice but not necessary.”

The fans listened. Klopp’s name is rarely sung at Anfield, and never before the end of a game.

He also said “enough celebrations” ahead of their season opener against Norwich, refusing to parade the Champions League trophy at Anfield before kick-off. At a club famed for their nostalgia, Klopp was making a big stand.

The relationship is so strong that one can control the other, and the benefit is clear. For all the talk of fans being “important”, this bond is a rarity in football today.

Yes, winning helps, but Klopp is certain a large part of that comes from the stands.

2. A $135 MILLION MASTERPIECE

Klopp doesn’t love the January window. But Virgil van Dijk is different.

It cost Liverpool a world-record $135 million for a defender. But it brought so much more.

Under Klopp, Liverpool were conceding 1.2 goals per game before Van Dijk’s arrival. Since, it’s 0.6 per game.

“I can imagine people think: ‘Wow, what a number this is’ but of course for me this is not interesting, we don’t make the prices, the market makes the prices and the first thing all Liverpool supporters should forget is the price,” Klopp said after the signing.

“We only talk about the player and what he can bring. It’s quality, it’s character, it’s mentality and all that stuff. That’s why we are really happy.”

It was Klopp’s first meaningful permanent January signing with Liverpool (remember Marko Grujic?), and quite possibly his best of a very good bunch, but not only for his skill as a centre-half.

His popular pose – arms outstretched, commanding his flanking defenders, a chessmaster spotting moves in advance – could be his statue outside of Anfield in years to come. He’s just that good. $135 million? Bargain.

Virgil van Dijk. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)Source:Getty Images

Alisson. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)Source:Getty Images

3. SAFE HANDS, AT LAST

Prenton Park, July 10, 2018.

Loris Karius spills a simple shot in the warm-up of Liverpool’s pre-season friendly win at Tranmere, and later makes a meal of a free-kick leading to a goal.

Karius’ howlers in Kiev six weeks before, and then on the Wirral, saw Klopp ruthlessly take action. He’d wanted to stick with his man, a signing from Mainz the previous summer, but within nine days of the Tranmere friendly, Liverpool break the transfer record for a goalkeeper at $121 million.

“If I knew Alisson was this good I would have paid double,” said Klopp after his brilliant last-minute save against Napoli saw Liverpool progress to the knockout phase of last season’s Champions League.

Liverpool haven’t looked back, and Alisson’s impact has been immeasurable.

4. COUTINHO’S GREATEST ASSIST

So, a world-record deal for a goalkeeper and defender, but where did the money come from?

The $264 million sale of Philippe Coutinho in January 2018 helped. It was met with some concern, but the deal turned out to be fantastic business for one side only.

Ultimately, it was Klopp’s decision, and it didn’t just fund squad depth, it changed the way Liverpool played.

So often they had played through Coutinho, the brilliant expressway from midfield to goal. But if he was off form, so were Liverpool. His greatest assist for Liverpool was leaving the club, allowing others to flourish.

Klopp changed to the 4-3-3, having swung between 4-1-4-1 and 4-2-3-1. They haven’t looked back.

Jordan Henderson, often part of a deep midfield two before Coutinho’s departure, moved to more of a No 8, changing his game and bringing him a new lease of life.

Who would have thought it? Klopp, quite clearly.

5. WHISPERS TURN TO WINNERS

It’s easy to forget there was a time where things weren’t going well for Klopp.

Winter in the 2016/17 season was tough – they picked up only half available points in the Premier League over a 13-game period which included defeats against Bournemouth, Swansea, Hull and Leicester, a draw at home to Plymouth in the FA Cup, and a League Cup semi-final defeat by Southampton.

Arsenal were favourites to pip them to fourth spot, and Klopp’s first full season in charge was being labelled a transition year, otherwise known as justified underachievement.

Some had expected more, and there were whispers – only whispers – that Klopp’s disastrous final season at Dortmund had splintered his touch.

What followed was a nervy three-month period which had a huge part to play in what Liverpool are today.

Eight wins in their last 11 games, including a twitchy final-day victory over Middlesbrough, gave them Champions League football by just a single point.

Philippe Coutinho celebrates scoring his team’s second goal against Middlesbrough at Anfield in 2017 Picture: Paul Ellis/AFPSource:AFP

Even that win against relegated Boro wasn’t straightforward; with Arsenal leading against Everton, Liverpool had been impotent in the first half, while Dejan Lovren had been lucky not to give away a penalty and see red.

But Gini Wijnaldum’s opener in first-half stoppage time prompted an explosion of relief, and Liverpool went on to win 3-0. It was their season in a microcosm.

“I think we have created a wonderful base for next season,” Klopp said afterwards. Liverpool are still reaping the benefits.

More importantly, Champions League qualification allowed Mohamed Salah, and eventually Virgil van Dijk, to join, and those whispers are long forgotten.

6. EDWARDS DOING THE BUSINESS

For most in the market, one hit and one miss is a decent rate. Liverpool sporting director Michael Edwards is hitting 90 per cent.

For every Loris Karius there’s a Joel Matip, Sadio Mane, Gini Wijnaldum, Mo Salah and Andrew Robertson.

For every Dominic Solanke there’s a Virgil van Dijk, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Fabinho and Alisson.

The list of incomings is staggering, but a closer look at the sales is equally as impressive.

Jordon Ibe. One goal and three assists in 41 league appearances. $27 million to Bournemouth.

Joe Allen. Just one year left on his contract. $23 million to Stoke.

Christian Benteke. Three goals in his final 23 appearances. $49 million to Crystal Palace.

Mamadou Sakho. Demoted to reserves for not respecting club rules. $47 million to Crystal Palace.

Dominic Solanke. One goal in 27 senior appearances. $34 million to Bournemouth.

Danny Ings. Only 25 appearances, playing under 1000 minutes in three years due to injury. $36 million to Southampton.

Danny Ward. Just three senior appearances. $23 million to Leicester.

He also inserted a genius clause with the Coutinho sale, meaning Barcelona would have to pay a $161 million premium for any of Liverpool’s players. The Barca juggernaut haven’t come calling for an Anfield star since.

While Liverpool are doing the business on the pitch, Edwards is doing the business off it.

7. KLOPP’S RIGHT-HAND MAN

Klopp is the leader and motivator. Peter Krawietz does the analysis. But Pep Lijnders is the trainer.

When Zeljko Buvac abruptly quit as Liverpool’s assistant manager before their 2018 Champions League final in Kiev, there was concern that part of Klopp’s clout would go with it.

Liverpool had lost what Klopp called ‘The Brain’, and a 17-year working relationship, but Lijnders has not only stepped in seamlessly, he’s improved the team.

At 36, he keeps a low profile, but having been forced to retire from the game at 17 due to injury, Lijnders has years of experience, and was even wanted by Manchester United.

His level of detail is incredible. Even before the semi-final second leg comeback against Barcelona last season, Lijnders wanted to schedule in a friendly with a side setting up similarly to Ajax or Tottenham between the end of the season and the June 1 final.

Liverpool beat Barca, then chose to play Benfica B behind closed doors, raising the shield around the pitch at the Marbella Football Center to keep out peering eyes. Liverpool won 3-0, scoring an early goal – a ball over the top to find Sadio Mane in space on the left – staggeringly similar to the move that handed them a first-minute penalty against Tottenham in Madrid.

But it’s not just Lijnders. They took Bayern Munich’s nutritionist Mona Nemmer and their fitness coach Andreas Kornmayer, pivotal to the players’ condition in a side where physical demands are enormous. There are no blanket rules; plans are broken by positions, body types and even cultures.

They even brought in a throw-in coach in Thomas Gronnemark. Again, how they laughed, but Liverpool retained possession from throw-ins 68.4 per cent of the time last season. Across Europe, that’s second only to FC Midtjylland (70.2 per cent) and miles above the Premier League average (49.2 per cent).

Big signings have been key, but small gains have helped make Liverpool a powerhouse again.

8. HEAVY METAL BECOMES ORGANISED CHAOS

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)Source:Getty Images

Don’t pigeonhole Klopp to heavy metal football – he hates the phrase now – or even gegenpressing.

Yes, the German used these styles at Anfield, but even in the past 12 months he has varied his approach and triumphed.

Liverpool would dominate bigger teams but came undone against smaller opponents who sat deep in the early days.

A shaky defence routinely held them back, but that has gradually improved year on year; in his first four seasons they conceded 50, 42, 38 and 22 in the Premier League.

As the squad developed, Liverpool’s most impressive performances were punctuated by short siege periods. In the run to the 2018 Champions League final, they scored three in 19 minutes against Manchester City, and three in 13 minutes against Roma.

But with the addition of Fabinho, heavy metal is now organised chaos.

“You cannot win only with offensive football, it’s not possible because you are open and the pitch is too big for that,” Klopp said late in 2018. “You need to be organised and, on the other side, you need to create.”

A Champions League win and 97-point haul last season wasn’t enough for Klopp, so he changed things again.

This season, that high press is being used less and less, but they’re still compact, still fluid and still narrow. The defensive line is noticeably higher – Liverpool want to push up at opposition goal kicks due to new laws allowing ‘keepers to pass inside the box.

They don’t swarm as a front eight, and though the front three’s role hasn’t necessarily changed, the development of the fullbacks has. Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson create the majority of Liverpool’s chances. By the way, that’s an academy midfielder-turned-defender and an £8m signing from relegated Hull.

Tactically, Klopp is proactive, not just reactive. And he certainly isn’t one-dimensional.

9. THE MASTER MAN-MANAGER

“I’ll be their friend, not their best friend.”

There’s nothing strict about Klopp’s Liverpool regime. There is expectation and responsibility, yes, but that comes flanked with trust.

“If a player is full of motivation, concentration, readiness and passion, I am not hard with them,” he said after arriving. “I have open arms.”

Mo Salah and Sadio Mane were allowed to attend the 2017 African Player of the Year awards 24 hours before an FA Cup tie with Everton, and Salah was given permission to jet to New York to celebrate being on a Time cover days before a vital game with Huddersfield last season. He played 90 minutes.

In November, Virgil van Dijk missed a training session to meet the Dutch Royal Family. Eyes off the ball? No. He’s been ever better.

But it’s not all fun, games and awards ceremonies. Klopp can trigger.

“Klopp knows exactly how to get the best out of me — by being critical,” Van Dijk recently said. “When the media are hyping me and being very positive, he will downplay the praise and all that — often with a wink.

“When I was voted UEFA Player of the Year and had to go to the ceremony, Jurgen told all the lads that I was picking up the trophy on behalf of the entire team.

“All the boys in the squad know I can take that sort of stuff very well. I know what he means. At the same time, the boss gives me a lot of respect and responsibility.”

Jurgen Klopp and Virgil van Dijk. (Photo by PHIL NOBLE / POOL / AFP)Source:AFP

10. THE ART OF USING DEFEAT

Defeat is growth for Klopp. The world doesn’t come crashing down.

“A lot of things lead into the mentality,” Klopp said in an interview with Sky Sports in January. “The big defeats lead into the mentality. If you can get a mentality of, let’s say, ‘never give up’, before that you have to give up once or twice to realise that’s how it feels to give up, so don’t do that again. This is the learning process.”

Confused? His players aren’t. Taste defeat and then avoid it. Simple concept, but so difficult to implement.

Klopp has had no trouble: since he arrived, Liverpool have never lost consecutive games. After the heartache of Kiev came the glory of Madrid: only two sides in the modern era had won a European Cup final the year after losing one.

“So we had tough, tough moments. We lost big finals, the biggest finals in world football, which made us ready to win it the next time and we did that pretty much with that group.”

It’s like finishing second with one defeat, a record 97 points, and picking yourself up to get even better the next season. Liverpool’s past disappointments make this undeniable dominance all the more impressive.

This article was originally published by Sky Sports and reproduced with permission

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Liverpool icon Steven Gerrard posts classy message after Reds secure Premier League title

Steven Gerrard hailed the achievements of Jurgen Klopp and his players after Liverpool officially wrapped up the Premier League title. The Reds are English champions for the first time in 30 years following Manchester City’s defeat against Chelsea.

Gerrard came within touching distance of breaking Liverpool’s baron streak during his twilight years at the club, but it wasn’t to be.

The Reds missed out on the title by just two points in Gerrard’s penultimate season at Anfield.

Instead, fans were forced to wait another six years to see the team back on top of English football, long after Gerrard had left to go and manage Rangers.

But after it was confirmed that Liverpool were Premier League champions for the first time on Thursday night, the club icon took to Instagram to praise everyone involved at Anfield.

He wrote: “Congratulations to all @liverpoolfc on winning the premier league.

“Incredible achievement from a fantastic squad of top players.

“Lead by a world class manager and coaching team also a special mention for the backing from FSG.

“And lastly and most importantly the fans who have waited 30 years.

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  • The amazing moment Liverpool stars celebrated Premier League title win

“Let the party begin.”

Liverpool’s title win was secured after Manchester City’s defeat against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

The Citizens went 1-0 down to a Christian Pulisic goal, before Kevin de Bruyne levelled the scoring with a tremendous free-kick.

Fernandinho was then shown a red card with just over ten minutes to play after handling the ball in the area, with Willian stepping up to slot home the penalty.

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  • Liverpool stars filmed celebrating Premier League title win

Liverpool’s first-team squad – as well as the coaching team – watched the game live from an unnamed hotel and errupted with celebrations after the full-time whistle.

Club captain Jordan Henderson, who took the armband after Gerrard left for LA Galaxy, struggled to fight back the tears speaking immediately after the league was wrapped up.

Henderson said: “It’s amazing, I didn’t want to talk about it until this moment, so it’s great to finally get it over the line.

“I’m so happy for all the boys, the fans, the whole club, the city.

“I’m a little bit overwhelmed right now, it’s an amazing feeling. I’m just so proud of what we’ve achieved.

“It was amazing. Having won the Champions League on the pitch that was a lot of emotion, but it was a different experience watching the game.

“The final whistle went and to be with everyone, staff and everyone together, was amazing really. Another moment in our lives that we’ll never forget.

“It feels pretty good. To be honest I’m lost for words really, it hasn’t sunk in.”

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Carragher taunts Neville with picture of him 'celebrating' title glory

‘I am ecstatic to be wrong’: Jamie Carragher admits he thought Liverpool would NEVER win the Premier League as he taunts Gary Neville by sharing a picture of him ‘celebrating’ Anfield title glory 

  • The Anfield legend cast doubt over Klopp’s ambition to win the league
  • Carragher said in 2017 that he had given up hope on winning the league
  • On Thursday night, Carragher was ecstatic to be proved wrong by the Reds
  • Liverpool crowned champions after Manchester City fail to beat Chelsea

Jamie Carragher could not resist a dig at Gary Neville after admitting he never throught Liverpool would win the Premier League.

The Reds claimed their first league title in 30 years after Chelsea beat second-placed Manchester City 2-1 at Stamford Bridge on Thursday night.

Sky Sports pundit Carragher went on social media to celebrate their success.

Jamie Carragher tweeted a picture of Gary Neville holding a bottle of champagne

The Anfield legend hastily tweeted a picture of his pundit pal Neville holding a bottle of champagne mocked up in a Liverpool shirt.

The post was captioned “#19” to celebrate how many league titles the club have – one short of bitter rivals United.  

Carragher admitted he never throught Klopp could win the title.

He wrote in the Telegraph: ‘Jurgen Klopp arrived at Anfield saying he wanted to turn doubters into believers. I was one of those who had given up hope on Liverpool winning the Premier League.

Carragher admitting he never thought Liverpool would win the Premier League

‘It was shortly after my last meaningful title bid in 2009 that I started to lose my faith. The 2010 season was awful. Xabi Alonso had been sold to Real Madrid, Rafa Benitez’s team was unraveling, and the club was braced for another period of reconstruction.

‘Reluctantly, I faced up to the disheartening conclusion a championship victory parade would never happen.    

‘It gives me the greatest pleasure to admit these words now look misjudged. In my defence, aside from the most optimistic fans judging with heart above head, no one took me to task for the remarks at the time.’

Jurgen Klopp was in tears as he spoke on Sky Sports after Liverpool secured the title




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Sports News

Zak Crawley is desperate not to be the odd man out for England

Zak Crawley is desperate not to be the odd man out when England name their line-up for the first Test against the West Indies

  • Crawley made a big impression after being given chance to play in South Africa
  • But Crawley could miss out when England decide on their line-up for first Test
  • Rory Burns may be asked to build on promising partnership with Dom Sibley

Zak Crawley hesitates before thinking of himself as the man in possession of a place at the top of England’s order.

But the 22-year-old is determined to do enough at their Southampton training camp to carry on where he left off in South Africa against West Indies’ formidable pace attack.

Crawley made a big impression on England after being handed an unexpected chance to play in the second Test in Cape Town early this year and almost visibly improved every time he took to the crease during the rest of a 3-1 series win.

Zak Crawley could miss out when England decide on their line-up to face the West Indies

Then he began the aborted tour of Sri Lanka by again lending credence in the warm-up matches to the feeling that England may just have uncovered a classy Kentish gem.

But now Rory Burns, the opener who suffered a freak ankle injury while playing football on the Newlands outfield, is fully fit and Crawley could be the odd man out when England decide on their line-up for the first Test at the Ageas Bowl on July 8.

‘It’s a difficult question,’ said Crawley yesterday when asked if he should be considered the first choice ahead of Burns to build on the promise he showed in partnership with Dom Sibley in South Africa.

‘Rory has done very well and got good runs in the Ashes, so he’s proven himself successful at Test level. Perhaps I haven’t completely done that yet, but the side did have a bit of success when I played. I don’t think I’ve got an answer for you.’

The 22-year-old batsman is determined to carry on where he left off in South Africa

There is a way, of course, for Burns to be restored and Crawley to still play against West Indies in the No 3 slot where he spent much of his early batting life.

But that would need England to take the long view and accept Crawley’s friend and Kent teammate Joe Denly does not represent the best hope of a successful Ashes future.

‘It’s a bit odd to be competing with Joe,’ said Crawley. ‘I get on really well with Joe and wish him every success. Ideally we’d both play together for a long while, but we’ll still be friends whatever happens. We’re both desperate to play, that’s for sure.’

The decision will be taken out of   England’s hands and Burns, Sibley, Crawley and Denly could all play if captain Joe Root misses the first Test because of the imminent arrival of his second child. Otherwise, four into three will not go.

‘The way I see it, they will pick the best three players on form from what they see in the next couple of weeks,’ said Crawley.

‘If I’m in good nick in training camp and the warm-up match I will give myself a good chance. I’ve got to impress with what they see from me.’

England’s 30-man training group was completed yesterday when Jofra Archer joined up after testing negative for Covid-19. Archer had an additional test after reporting to England that a member of his household had been unwell last weekend.




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Soccer

Liverpool stars make Jurgen Klopp request during Premier League celebrations

Liverpool star Andy Robertson has joked they plan to get manager Jurgen Klopp drunk so they have a few days off to celebrate winning the Premier League title.

The players and staff were all together at an undisclosed location to watch Chelsea beat Manchester City and help them win the title for the first time in 30 years.

Liverpool are next in action on July 2 when they face Manchester City at the Etihad.

That leaves them were plenty of days to celebrate and then recover.

And Robertson told Match of the Day: “We’re still trying to convince the boss downstairs to give us a few days off.

“Give him a couple more beers and I think we’ll get two days off.”

Meanwhile Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson had special words of praise for Klopp.

He said: “What you see is what you get, with his press conferences and on the sidelines.

“Obviously he as got more of a personal side with the players, but he has got a balance of having a relationship with the players and being a friend but also being a bit ruthless when he needs to be.

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  • Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson fights back tears after title win

“He is a great leader and a great human being and we all believe in him.

“We have got an amazing group and that is down to the manager and how he has gelled them all together.

“It’s not a coincidence and it’s credit to him and all the staff.”

After back-to-back titles, City have been dethroned by Liverpool and manager Pep Guardiola paid tribute to the new champions.

He told BBC Radio 5 Live: “Well deserved. They [Liverpool] have played an incredible season.

“Two seasons ago we were 100 points and they finished more than 25 points behind.

“Last season they didn’t recover the distance and this season they went the distance.

“We have to learn from this season and improve for the next one.”

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Fighting

Ringside Seat: Andrew Moloney lost his title, will the outcome be different for his brother Jason?

Tuesday’s boxing action kicked off a busy week with a world title changing hands, as Joshua Franco knocked off previously undefeated Andrew Maloney to take his junior bantamweight belt. It was far from the U.S. debut that the Moloney twins were hoping for, but there’s still a chance a redemption when Andrew’s twin brother Jason — ESPN’s No. 8 bantamweight — takes on Leonardo Baez on Thursday.

The week’s action wraps up in Mexico City on Saturday with one of the biggest standouts in boxing the past few years, former WBC junior lightweight world titlist Miguel Berchelt in action.

Thursday

Jason Moloney faces Baez, a late replacement, because Oscar Negrete was pulled from this bout because of a detached retina.

“It’s unfortunate, but that’s boxing, and you have to expect the unexpected,” Moloney (20-1, 17 KOs) said of the circumstances that see him facing a perhaps fresher and stronger foe in the 24-year-old Baez (18-2, 9 KOs), who is on a six-fight winning streak.

“These things happen, and you have to reset your focus and move on. Personally, I think Baez is a tougher fight than Negrete, but I’m completely prepared.”

The bottom line is that like his brother, Jason Moloney got on that plane to America expecting to fight somebody.

“I’m in fantastic condition. It doesn’t matter who’s on the other side of the ring — I’m ready to go,” he said.

In October 2018, Moloney challenged Emmanuel Rodriguez for the IBF bantamweight world title and lost in a close split decision. Despite the result, Moloney showed that he is a world-class fighter.

“It was a very close fight. I actually sat down and watched that again, put it on and had a bit of a look at it,” he said. “It’s a bit frustrating looking back at it. It wasn’t even that long ago, but I feel like I’ve improved so much as a fighter since then. Obviously, I’ve had three good wins [since then], but it’s the improvements that I’ve made in the gym that’s been huge.

“I train all year round, and I’m always striving to get better and better. I think in that fight, had I had a couple of more rounds, I probably would’ve worn him down and stopped him. It wasn’t meant to be.”

Like his brother Andrew, Jason Moloney has a well-rounded offensive attack and a motor that runs deep into fights. He’s eager for another shot at the title, and that includes the juggernaut from Japan, Naoya “The Monster” Inoue, one of the elite fighters in the sport.

“I think some people maybe don’t want to fight him, are intimidated by him, and they place him on a pedestal and think he’s this unbeatable person,” Jason said. “But I’m not afraid of anyone. I’m determined to become a world champion. Obviously, my focus right now is on Leonard Baez.

“But I just want to become world champion, cement my name and create my own legacy in defeating a fighter like Inoue. It would be a massive achievement and something I’ve got in the back of my mind.”

Catching up with: Abraham Nova

As news broke that a bout between Jose Pedraza and Mikkel LesPierre was being canceled last week because LesPierre’s manager tested positive for COVID-19, Nova (18-0, 14 KOs) immediately reached out to the members of his team who would be accompanying him to Las Vegas for his fight against Avery Sparrow (10-1, 3 KOs) in the co-main event.

“I texted my brother, and I told him: ‘Yo, make sure you don’t get too close to anybody. Stay safe because if you end up catching coronavirus, I won’t be able to fight,'” Nova said. “So I’ve got my team on check, and we’re doing all the precautions to stay healthy and stay away from that whole disease.”

Nova’s team includes his head trainer, Hector Bermudez. All three will be tested before entering “The Bubble” at the MGM.

“We’ve got to be aware of everything and be very responsible, be very clean and keep our distance,” said Nova, who is excited about the opportunity to perform on national television. Promoted by Murphys Boxing, Nova recently signed a co-promotional deal with Top Rank and hopes to soon be in the title picture at junior lightweight.

“This is a big opportunity for me to showcase my skills and show the world my talent,” Nova said. “I’m ready for it, and I’m the right fighter to be on TV.”

To get ready for the fight without many places to train, Nova turned his garage and backyard in Albany, New York, into a temporary gym. He has been relatively active compared to other fighters. He recently stopped Pedro Navarrete in four rounds in January, and next he faces a somewhat familiar face in Sparrow, as both were sparring partners of IBF lightweight titlist Teofimo Lopez.

“But we never sparred,” Nova said. “At one point, we were in the same gym together, but we never got in the ring together.”

When asked if he recalled anything about Sparrow, Nova said he didn’t pay attention to him.

“To be honest, no. I don’t remember much at all,” he said. “All I picture in my head was that he had quick movements. But other than that, I don’t really remember nothing.”

Sparrow is a seasoned fighter, one from the hard gym culture of Philadelphia. He has a pretty solid résumé, including a victory over veteran Hank Lundy in March 2019.

“Avery’s not in the business of tune-ups. He just wants to fight,” said Russell Peltz, Sparrow’s promoter. “He knows how to fight.”

This is ultimately a solid matchup: an undefeated prospect in Nova against a wild card. Sparrow is thought of highly enough that Golden Boy offered him the assignment of facing prized prospect Ryan Garcia in September before Sparrow was arrested the morning before the fight on gun charges.

The rest of the card

  • Orlando Gonzalez (14-0, 10 KOs) vs. Luis Porozo (15-2, 8 KOs), eight rounds, lightweight

  • Waldo Cortes Acosta (5-2, 2 KOs) vs. Kingsley Ibeh (3-1, 3 KOs), six rounds, heavyweight

  • Reymond Yanong (10-5-1, 9 KOs) vs. Clay Burns (9-7-2, 4 KOs), six rounds, welterweight

  • Vlad Panin (7-1, 4 KOs) vs. Benjamin Whitaker (13-3, 3 KOs), six rounds, welterweight

Predictions

Jason Moloney vs. Baez: This will be a good, competitive fight, which will be fought on even terms through the first half. But as Moloney said, he’s a bit better all-around, and those slight advantages in various departments will lead him to victory in the final rounds of this contest. Franco will acquit himself well, but Moloney will come out with a hard-fought victory.

Nova vs. Sparrow: Sparrow will prove to be an elusive target early, but eventually Nova and his superior offensive firepower will find a way to take over this fight. Despite some issues with the style of Sparrow, Nova will do enough to win a close decision.

Saturday

On paper, it seems like it should be an easy night at the office for Miguel Berchelt, but he insists that he has good reason to be fully focused against Eleazar Valenzuela.

“I know that by winning on Saturday, my next fight will be against Oscar Valdez,” Berchelt said through an interpreter.

Berchelt-Valdez is a fight that has been mandated by the WBC, and should both come out victorious in their summer bouts, they could meet in the fall. Berchelt hopes that by then, live audiences will be allowed to attend.

“I think that this is such a big fight. People in boxing are waiting for this kind of fight,” Berchelt said. “Oscar and I, we both know this is a big fight for the fans, too. So I prefer for the fight to be in front of the fans because this fight is also for them.”

The other belt-holders at 130 are Jamel Herring (WBO), Joseph Diaz (IBF), Leo Santa Cruz (WBA “super”) and Rene Alvarado (WBA “regular”). Although Berchelt respects his colleagues in the division, he wants to move up to the lightweight division after the fight against Valdez.

“This fight [on Saturday] is at 135, so I want to see how I feel because I know there’s some big names at 135, too, like [Vasiliy] Lomachenko and Teofimo [Lopez]. Those are fighters I want to face,” said Berchelt, who is rated by ESPN as the top junior lightweight in the world.

If he had his choice, would he rather face the winner of Lomachenko-Lopez or a unification bout at 130? Berchelt (37-1, 33 KOs) didn’t hesitate to answer.

“Without a doubt, I’d take the fight with the winner of Lomachenko-Lopez because that’s a big fight. They are big names,” he said. “It would be a great challenge for me, and I would become a champion in another division.”

One way or the other, it looks like Berchelt’s time at 130 is quickly coming to a close.

Predictions

Berchelt-Valenzuela: This is your classic stay-busy fight. With a bigger matchup against Valdez looming, nobody involved with Berchelt is taking any chances. In his most recent fight, Valenzuela (21-13-4, 16 KOs) was stopped in two rounds by Miguel Angel Parra. This fight shouldn’t take much longer — Berchelt by early knockout.

Editor’s note: The following entry was written prior to Tuesday night’s event.

Tuesday

Andrew and Jason Moloney, twin brothers from Australia who have been two of the brightest standouts in the region the past few years, each step into the prime-time limelight. On Tuesday, Andrew Moloney makes his U.S. debut when he puts his WBA “regular” junior bantamweight title on the line against Joshua Franco. On Thursday, bantamweight contender Jason Moloney faces Leonardo Baez. Both Top Rank shows will once again take place inside “The Bubble” at the MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas (ESPN and ESPN Deportes, 8 p.m. ET).

It took the Moloney brothers considerable effort to reach the United States amid travel restrictions in place because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We pulled a massive amount of strings,” said Tony Tolj, the manager of both Maloney brothers. “We had to get an exemption from our government to leave. There was a lot of paperwork there. As soon as we got the all-clear from Top Rank that the shows were back, we did whatever it took to get here.”

The brothers arrived in Las Vegas on May 16, ready to fight. Top Rank signed them to promotional deals in 2019, looking to market their fan-friendly styles in the U.S. Their styles are exactly what fans and promoters are looking for in boxing fights right now.

“I think they’re really good scrappers. They’ve got great personalities. The fact that they’re identical twins is interesting,” said Bob Arum, Top Rank founder and CEO.

To get ready for their week in the spotlight, the brothers altered their training regimen. Each typically brings in other boxers to simulate upcoming opponents, but they had only each other to keep sharp during the quarantine.

According to their team, that approach had both Andrew and Jason in fighting form when they touched down in the U.S.

“We landed on a Saturday, and on that Monday, we went to the Top Rank office, talking about dates and things like that,” Tolj said. “I said, ‘We’re prepared to fight next week.'”

Given their attacking styles, the Andrew Moloney-Joshua Franco fight figures to be an entertaining matchup.

Andrew Moloney (21-0, 14 KOs) is a solid technician who throws sharp combinations and consistently works the body with left hooks. He also has good speed and knows how to move inside the ring.

Beyond the added exposure of his U.S. debut and a televised main event, Andrew is excited for a chance to step onto the stage at one of boxing’s most hallowed venues.

“I’m over the moon. This is a dream come true to have my first world title defense and headline at the MGM. It’s obviously something I’ve dreamed about growing up as a young kid,” said the 29-year-old Andrew Moloney, who won the WBA interim 115-pound title with an eighth-round TKO of Elton Dharry in November. Moloney was elevated to “regular” titlist when the organization made titleholder Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez its “super” champion.

“I’m extremely excited about it, and especially with the current conditions, where it looked like maybe we wouldn’t be fighting for the rest of the year,” Moloney said. “So to get this huge opportunity to get back in the ring so soon, it’s unbelievable.”

Andrew and Jason trained at the Top Rank gym before entering “The Bubble” at the MGM and quickly adjusted to the new environment. In truth, the isolation did little to alter the way they focus on the task at hand with their fights.

“Really, whether there was a pandemic going on or not, we’d be doing exactly what we are at the moment: staying in the house and resting in between training sessions, training twice a day, and getting as much rest and recovery as we can,” Andrew Moloney said. “We wouldn’t change what we’re doing at the moment. We’re here to do a job, and that’s what we’re focused on.”

In Franco (16-1-2, 8 KOs), Moloney is facing a solid foe with a similar attacking style.

“We’ve watched a lot of footage of [Franco],” he said. “I’m a massive boxing fan, and I always keep a close eye on all the guys around my division. So I know who Franco was before we were matched together. Since then, I’ve watched a lot more of his fights, studied him. He’s a good fighter. Technically he’s very good. He’s always got his hands up and puts his combinations together very well.

“But I’m a little better in all aspects, I think. I’m also too hungry. I’ve worked my whole life to get this world title. I’m not going to be giving it up, that’s for sure.”

Moloney has watched the first two weeks of crowd-less shows with great interest and said he’s looking forward to fighting in such an atmosphere.

“It’s definitely going to be different with no crowd there, but that’s something we do two, three times a week in training with sparring,” he said. “There’s never really a lot of people in the gym.”

To him, once the bell rings, it’s just another fight.

Fighter to watch: Joshua Franco

Franco — known as “The Professor” — is a 24-year-old from San Antonio. He’s a smart fighter who can adapt to fighting at a distance or engage inside.

Franco engaged in a memorable trilogy against Oscar Negrete, in which they fought 30 tightly contested rounds that resulted in two split draws and a narrow split-decision victory for Franco. Although Franco gained a lot of experience in those fights, he also learned to respect his opponents.

“With 30 rounds, we had nothing but respect for each other. We fought hard all 10 rounds of each fight,” Franco said. “Now we’re great friends. After the last fight, we gave each other a hug in the locker room, took pictures. I consider him now more of a friend.”

On Jan. 11, Franco faced Jose Burgos, stopping him in the ninth round. Next he faces Andrew Moloney, a fighter who will certainly bring the fight to him.

“It’s a world title fight. Not everyone gets a chance to fight for a world title, so I’ve pushed myself to the limit,” Franco said. “I’m feeling great, probably the best camp I’ve had in my career. I just feel good. I’ve been studying a lot of fights — not my opponents, just boxing in general. I’m still learning, and I feel extra motivation for this fight.

“I know he’s a tough fighter. He’s undefeated. He doesn’t back down. He comes with everything in the fight. I’m looking forward to a great fight with him.”

The rest of the card:

  • Junior bantamweight: Joshua Franco def. Andrew Maloney by unanimous decision (115-112, 114-113, 114-113)

  • Lightweight: Christopher Diaz def. Jason Sanchez by unanimous decision (98-92, 98-92. 97-93)

  • Miguel Contreras def. Roland Vargas by unanimous decision by unanimous decision (58-56, 58-56, 58-56)

  • Helaman Olguin def. Adam Stewart by majority decision (58-56. 58-56, 57-57)

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