The weekend saw Mirror journalist John Richardson claim an exclusive, alleging that Salah’s representatives would demand £500,000-a-week wages in any new deal.
Salah is already Liverpool‘s highest earner on terms worth around £200,000 per week, and any extension will see the club break their salary record.
But the suggestion that the 29-year-old is seeking to more than double his existing wage seemed dubious – not least due to the source, who had previously seen claims of a move for Jack Butland shot down in 2020.
Fortunately, the Liverpool Echo‘s Ian Doyle has insisted that “the amount Salah is asking for is not in the region of the £500,000-a-week that was being suggested.”
Doyle adds that Liverpool are “continuing to press ahead with talks,” with the club “keen to reward” their No. 11, who has scored 127 goals in 206 games since joining from AS Roma in 2017.
Salah’s contract is described as a “priority” following extensions for Trent Alexander-Arnold, Fabinho, Alisson, Virgil van Dijk, Andy Robertson, Jordan Henderson, Harvey Elliott, Nat Phillips, Caoimhin Kelleher and Adrian.
That comes as no surprise given his importance, and it seems likely his wages will rise above the £300,000-a-week mark if he commits his future beyond 2023.
If he were to push for wages of £500,000 per week, there are few clubs who would be able and willing to pay that, regardless of his status as one of the best strikers in the world.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from Doyle’s report is simply reiterating the point that tabloids can rarely – if ever – be trusted when it comes to transfer exclusives.
The 18-year-old certainly didn’t look out of place in the 1-1 draw with Chelsea, and his progress was rewarded with a first call-up to the England U21s squad for September.
However, it transpires that Elliott suffered an injury at Anfield and has been forced to pull out of international duty before Tuesday’s clash with Kosovo.
It is unclear whether Elliott will be ruled out of Sunday’s meeting with Leeds at Elland Road, but there is a strong chance given he was not deemed fit even for a substitutes’ role for England.
Liverpool‘s No. 67 joins Roberto Firmino, Takumi Minamino, James Milner and Neco Williams on the injury list, while there is no guarantee Naby Keita will be permitted to leave Guinea in time for the journey up the M62.
Under a week from the transfer deadline, which saw no further signings at Anfield beyond centre-back Ibrahima Konate and 16-year-old Bobby Clark, the depth of Jurgen Klopp‘s squad is already under question.
Trent Alexander-Arnold‘s surprise stint in England’s midfield lasted only 45 minutes, with Jude Bellingham the star in the middle of the park against Andorra.
In the buildup to England’s second World Cup qualifier of the September break, much of the talk was on Alexander-Arnold’s proposed switch into midfield.
With Gareth Southgate seemingly oblivious to the world-class right-back at his disposal, the 22-year-old was left to take up duties in a three-man unit as Reece James instead started in his natural position.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, it was a quiet first half for Alexander-Arnold at Wembley, bar a handful of smart passes and clever runs into the box, with the manager then swapping him and James at the break.
It was a game that saw Jesse Lingard score first, before Harry Kane’s second-half penalty, a long-ranger from Lingard and a header from Bukayo Saka sealed the win.
Man like Bukayo ?
— ITV Football (@itvfootball) September 5, 2021
Quick thinking from a corner saw Alexander-Arnold play a big part in England’s fourth goal, flexing his creative muscle after returning to right-back.
Jordan Henderson captained England in the No. 6 role, with his incisive passing play giving the Three Lions a platform to build on in front of two more rudimental centre-backs in Tyrone Mings and Conor Coady.
Starting alongside Henderson and Alexander-Arnold in the engine room was Bellingham, and it was the 18-year-old Dortmund midfielder who most caught the eye.
— ITV Football (@itvfootball) September 5, 2021
Despite his young years, Bellingham is a player whose physicality and technical quality allow him to dominate the midfield battle, with his intelligence and quick feet making light work of lowly Andorra.
Liverpool have been credited with an interest in the teenager in the past – and scouts will undoubtedy be keeping an eye on his progress at Jurgen Klopp‘s former club – with fans enamoured by a youngster who idolised Steven Gerrard growing up.
And as England coasted to a comfortable 4-0 victory, Reds supporters took to Twitter to express their desire to see him make the move to Anfield:
I want Liverpool to sign Jude Bellingham next summer.
He is a very, very good at association football.
— Henry Jackson (@HenryJackson87) September 5, 2021
If Jude Bellingham isn’t a Liverpool player next season I’ll be fuming.
— – (@AnfieldRd96) September 5, 2021
Trent and Bellingham in midfield: pic.twitter.com/Hf3IWD9PtY
— Eden (@theKloppEnd_) September 5, 2021
— ? ??????? ???? ? (@james79rigby) September 5, 2021
Secure the bag LFC #Bellingham ?
— Grizz Khan (@GrizzKhan) September 5, 2021
maybe klopp can get a 20% off discount on bellingham from dortmund for his past connection to the club ?? pic.twitter.com/tIlAmJ3sWg
— cat ???? (@lfccxt) September 5, 2021
Dortmund will drive a hard bargain for their No. 22 – who joined from Birmingham for an initial £25 million in 2020 – as shown with the sale of Jadon Sancho to Man United this summer.
But with three of Liverpool‘s senior midfielders over 30 – Henderson, Thiago and James Milner – and two others into the final two years of their contract – Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – a major acquisition may be required.
It would clearly be a better option than transitioning Alexander-Arnold from right-back, with his talents wasted in a congested midfield.
There was silverware in the international break for Liverpool‘s Melkamu Frauendorf, who featured in Germany’s triumph at the Vaclav Jezek Memorial U18s tournament.
Frauendorf, who previously captained Germany’s under-16s, has moved up an age group and was part of Guido Streichsbier’s squad to travel to the Czech Republic this month.
The 17-year-old was the only overseas-based player called up, with the majority of his young team-mates arriving from clubs like Bayern Munich, Dortmund and Hoffenheim, which is a testament to his quality.
And though he was not a first-choice starter, Frauendorf played an important role as Germany won all three of their games at the tournament.
First, he came off the bench in a 2-0 victory over Slovakia, playing the final 31 minutes, before starting in the 3-1 win over Austria and clocking 79 minutes only to be substituted after picking up a yellow card.
He remained a spectator throughout their final game against the hosts, with Germany going 2-1 down only to seal a 3-2 comeback win after Yusuf Kabadayi’s panenka penalty and Justin Diehl’s 81st-minute strike.
And after full-time Frauendorf joined the celebrations to mark a successful international break, continuing a strong start to the season.
Frauendorf is in his second campaign with Liverpool, and signed his first professional contract with the club in July, going on to score once and assist twice in two games for Marc Bridge-Wilkinson’s under-18s so far this term.
The versatile midfielder could make the step up to the under-23s later in the season, with high hopes for him on Merseyside following his move from Hoffenheim in 2020.
Daniel Sturridge insists he is “feeling sharper and sharper” after he scored in a behind-closed-doors friendly on Sunday, as his trial with Spanish club RCD Mallorca continues.
Sturridge has been without a club since his release from Trabzonspor in March 2020, having been charged with breaching betting rules by the English FA – which led to a three-month ban.
The striker had signed a three-year deal with the Turkish side upon his release from Liverpool, and the COVID-19 pandemic has further hindered his chances of finding new employment in the 18 months since.
But he has continued to work on his fitness and trained individually while living in the United States, which led to links with a move to a franchise in MLS.
In July, however, he was offered a trial by LaLiga outfit RCD Mallorca, moving to Spain and working with Luis Garcia Plaza’s side throughout the summer.
Mallorca have begun the campaign in strong form, with two wins and a draw from their first three league games seeing them sit sixth in the table during the international break.
Champing at the bit ?? pic.twitter.com/iaQ6Y3mqXH
But so far they have only scored three goals, with those above them – Atletico Madrid (five), Barcelona (seven), Valencia (five), Sevilla (five) and Real Madrid (eight) – all netting more as Mallorca struggle to find a reliable centre-forward.
Ahead of the return of LaLiga and a trip to Athletic Club on September 11, Mallorca played a behind-closed-doors friendly on Sunday that saw Sturridge find the back of the net.
Taking to Twitter after the game, the 32-year-old said he “can’t wait to play a proper game” and “show the world” his quality again:
No better feeling than scoring goals. Even in behind closed doors games like I played today, when I scored it felt amazing. Feeling sharper and sharper as the days go by. Can’t wait to play a proper game whenever the day comes and show the world my talents. God is good ??
“No better feeling than scoring goals. Even in behind closed doors games like I played today, when I scored it felt amazing,” Sturridge wrote.
“Feeling sharper and sharper as the days go by. Can’t wait to play a proper game whenever the day comes and show the world my talents. God is good.”
Mallorca brought in a new striker on the final day of the transfer window, with Matthew Hoppe making the €3.5 million move from Hoffenheim, but there is still a clear desire to add to their attacking ranks.
Whether than brings a permanent contract for Sturridge remains to be seen, though there have been muted suggestions among Liverpool fans that he should be brought back to Anfield in a free transfer.
Harvey Elliott, Caoimhin Kelleher and Adrian are among those to have also agreed new contracts, with Liverpool tying down the core of their squad during a transfer window that brought only one signing in Ibrahima Konate.
Five other players have only two years left on their existing terms, with Salah now a priority for the club’s hierarchy, as arguably the Reds’ most important player.
Salah is already Liverpool‘s highest earner at over £200,000 a week, and is likely to be given a major pay rise if he commits his long-term future to the club.
But the Mirror‘s John Richardson has claimed an exclusive as he alleges that the No. 11 “wants a staggering £500,000 a week to extend his stay.”
“If agreed it would be the biggest ever financial package for a player in Liverpool’s proud history,” Richardson adds, “although so far there have been no signs that Salah will get his own way.”
Given the nature of Richardson’s ‘exclusive’, which was then reproduced on the back page of the Daily Star‘s Sunday edition, it is a dubious claim.
While it can certainly be argued that Salah is deserving of a wage in line with the world’s best players, neither he nor his agent would expect Liverpool to pay close to £500,000 a week.
And having not pushed for a move away this summer, it appears doubtful that he is even looking for a salary close to that.
It has been mooted that Salah would sign an extension worth around £300,000 a week with further incentives, which is more realistic, putting him among the Premier League‘s top earners.
Kevin De Bruyne is believed to be the highest-paid player in the English top flight, with the Man City midfielder agreeing a new four-year contract worth £385,000 a week back in May.
Last month, The Athletic‘s James Pearce described talks between the two parties as “productive,” with there being “no sense of concern” from those within the club as they seek to tie Salah down until 2025.
Van Dijk has started the campaign in excellent form, picking up where he left off after nine months out with an ACL injury.
The 30-year-old has played the full 90 minutes in each of Liverpool‘s three Premier League games so far, and after missing out on Euro 2020 to focus on his recovery, earned a return to the Netherlands squad this month.
Arguably the best centre-back in world football, it came as no surprise that Louis van Gaal drafted him straight back into his starting lineup for last week’s 1-1 draw with Norway.
But three days later, he was afforded a break as Van Gaal made three changes to his side to take on Montenegro in another World Cup qualifier on Saturday.
Matthijs de Ligt took Van Dijk’s place at the back in a routine 4-0 victory that saw another goal from Gini Wijnaldum along with a brace for Memphis Depay and a first senior international strike for Cody Gakpo.
Though Van Dijk is likely to return for the clash with Turkey on Tuesday, Liverpool‘s medical staff will be boosted by his careful management during a busy international break.
The same cannot be said of Andy Robertson, though, with the left-back making his third consecutive start after injury in Scotland’s 1-0 victory over Moldova.
It brought Robertson’s 50th cap, becoming only the 33rd player in his country’s history to reach the landmark, and after a stint as right wing-back in the previous game against Denmark, he was back in his natural left-sided role.
He played 74 minutes in a 1-0 win, though Steve Clarke noted that he was “struggling a little bit” in the second half, substituting him as “a consequence of the fact he has been out injured.”
Diogo Jota was reduced to a bench role for a rotated Portugal as they beat Qatar 3-1 in a friendly in Hungary, looking dangerous when he came on for the final 31 minutes.
And Caoimhin Kelleher was unused throughout the Republic of Ireland’s disappointing 1-1 draw with Azerbaijan, as he finds himself behind the 19-year-old Gavin Bazunu in the pecking order.
Man City‘s Bazunu is currently on loan at Portsmouth, with his run of regular games making him a more reliable option for Stephen Kenny – which could be food for thought for Kelleher.
It was the 16-year-old’s linkup with Rico Lewis that gave England their biggest threat in a game that saw Reds duo Lee Jonas and Iwan Roberts also start, the latter up front for Wales.
Young full-back Luke Chambers came off the bench, too, with Lewis cancelling out Luke Harris’ opener at Spytty Park in Newport.
Jamie Carragher was not willing to let his no-nonsense standards slip in a charity game for Soccer Aid on Saturday, with a series of strong challenges catching the eye.
It was an eventful game for Carragher, part of the England side managed by Sven-Goran Eriksson at the Etihad on Saturday evening against a World XI.
Soccer Aid, which is in support of UNICEF, is an annual event that sees ex-pros and celebrities play 90 minutes for charity, with Liverpool‘s old No. 23 having now appeared three times.
The latest iteration saw Carragher line up alongside Gary Neville in defence, in a side that included the likes of Wayne Rooney, Joe Cole, David James, Paul Scholes and Shaun Wright-Phillips.
Unfortunately for England, it was a stiff 3-0 defeat, and Carragher was flagged for a number of nasty collisions with Love Island’s Kem Cetinay and singer Tom Grennan:
— Greg Wingham (@GregFS92) September 4, 2021
The Carragher of old shone through despite it being a charity game, and Liverpool fans and others alike were quick to point out his ‘head’s gone’ moments:
Can someone tell Carragher it’s a charity match? Relax. ? #SoccerAid
— Rebekka (@rebekkarnold) September 4, 2021
Carragher's head has completely gone here! #socceraid2021
— Henry Jackson (@HenryJackson87) September 4, 2021
Yo Jamie Carragher is on the ropes ? #SoccerAid
— Mo Gilligan (@MoTheComedian) September 4, 2021
Carragher has no chill even in the charity games?
— Manny (@Manny_Official) September 4, 2021
I love how carragher treats charity games like they are the FA cup final. ????#SoccerAid
— Stonez ? (@Stonezoffical) September 4, 2021
— Jay ?????? (@ScouseSocialism) September 4, 2021
Cetinay scored twice and comedian Lee Mack netted the third on an evening that saw over £13 million raised for UNICEF, with a tinge of embarrassment for the ex-England internationals despite the event being for charity:
I’ve just watched an England team consisting of Rooney, Scholes, Neville, Carragher and Joe Cole, managed by Sven-Göran Eriksson lose 3-0 due to goals from Kem from Love Island and Lee Mack and honestly that sounds about right. #SoccerAid #SoccerAid2021
— Özey (@nowayozey) September 4, 2021
— kevws (@kevwgs) September 4, 2021
It wasn’t all doom and gloom for Carragher, though, who somehow beat the fastest man in the world, Usain Bolt, in a footrace to a loose ball:
Jamie Carragher beats Usain Bolt in a race ?? pic.twitter.com/QZiBH2WzAj
— ? ? (@6Thiagoat) September 4, 2021
Carragher beats Bolt to the ball? Well what did you expect of course he did
— Mikey ??????? YNWA (@mikeylamb1) September 4, 2021
Right how's Jamie Carragher faster than Usain Bolt then??
— Jackpot (@Jackpoopp) September 4, 2021
While Carragher may not have made many new friends on Saturday, the popularity of Soccer Aid cannot be overlooked – particularly as it may have broken Man City‘s attendance record at the Etihad…
Andy Robertson has joined Sir Kenny Dalglish on Scotland’s Roll of Honour, having been handed his 50th cap for his country with another start against Moldova.
Robertson is one of Scotland’s best and most important players under Steve Clarke, wearing the captain’s armband and leading the side out at Euro 2020.
That was the first major tournament for which Scotland have qualified since the World Cup in 1998, with the Liverpool left-back fronting a golden generation of talent north of the border.
Since his debut as a 19-year-old in 2014, Robertson has developed into a world-class talent and a leader on and off the pitch, and is the first name on the teamsheet for Clarke.
Saturday night saw him given his 50th cap, joining the country’s International Roll of Honour list as its 33rd member.
Dalglish, with 102 caps, is the all-time leading appearance-maker for Scotland, with two other former Liverpool players on the list in Gary McAllister (57) and Graeme Souness (54).
Robertson will almost certainly break into the top 10 before his retirement, with it realistic that he surpasses the likes of Ally McCoist (61), David Weir (69) and Tom Boyd (72).
Those at Liverpool are of the belief that their No. 26 can stay at the top level for at least another five years, and if that is the case there is a chance he could even leapfrog Dalglish at the top.
It continues a trend of Scottish talent shining at Anfield, including the likes of Ron Yeats, Alan Hansen, Steve Nicol and Alex Raisbeck – along with managers Souness, Dalglish and Bill Shankly.
Wilson finally left the Reds in July after 16 years with the club, swapping Anfield for Craven Cottage having spent each of the previous three seasons out on loan.
His time with Derby, Bournemouth and Cardiff saw his reputation enhanced, with the Wales international’s creativity and eye for goal convincing Fulham to sanction a big-money deal.
While it was £3 million lower than Liverpool had hoped, the £12 million package agreed with the Cottagers was a major one in the landscape of the Championship.
No other signing in the English second tier broke the eight-figure mark, while The Athletic‘s Philip Buckingham notes that “approximately £40 million was spent on transfer fees across the entire Championship.”
That means Wilson’s fee is worth over a quarter of the total spend across 24 clubs, with Fulham’s outlay on Wilson and Brazilian striker Rodrigo Muniz (around £8 million) covering 50 percent of the division-wide spending.
It shows the power of parachute payments for clubs relegated from the Premier League, and also Fulham’s faith in Wilson as a game-changing signing.
“Eight of the Championship’s 24 clubs did not commit to a single transfer fee this summer, with 126 players signing across the second tier either as free agents or on loan,” Buckingham adds.
“Only 37 deals are thought to have required an outlay to another club.”
It is a remarkable shift for a league that is widely considered one of the most competitive despite not being top flight, with the impact of the pandemic and loss in revenue laid clear.
Wilson has begun life at Fulham in strong form, scoring twice and assisting once in three games, having also sat out of two Championship fixtures due to a red card suspension.
Only Stoke’s Nick Powell has had a hand in as many goals from three outings, with 13 others directly contributing to more but having made at least one more appearance.
Three of those are Fulham players – Bobby Decordova-Reid, Fabio Carvalho and Aleksandar Mitrovic – with Marco Silva’s side sitting top of the table with 13 points from five games so far.
Their status as outliers in the transfer market across the second tier could certainly be seen as a gamble, but it could pay off big time if Wilson is playing Premier League football with the Cottagers next season.
Nabil Fekir has described his much-publicised failed move to Liverpool in 2018 as a “dark moment,” blaming his former agent for the breakdown in his switch from Lyon.
Fekir was the Reds’ primary target throughout the summer transfer window three years ago, with the Frenchman earmarked as the player to replace Philippe Coutinho.
A deal worth £52.8 million was agreed with Lyon, and medical staff travelled to Clairefontaine to oversee a medical with the player while he was on international duty.
The transfer ultimately broke down with club sources citing an issue with Fekir’s knee, though in the years since it has been suggested that interference during talks over the player’s contract led Liverpool to pull out.
And in an interview with the Times this week, Fekir has reflected on the situation as a “dark moment,” insisting his “knee was fine” and “it was the agent responsible for the deal not going through.”
“I met the coach, Jurgen Klopp, and it went well.
“After meeting him, I wanted to join Liverpool even more. He’s a good person.
“It was really difficult to deal with as I really wanted to go to Liverpool. It was a moment that was not easy for me.”
Fekir ultimately left Lyon for Real Betis in 2019, with 12 goals and 13 assists coming from 74 appearances for the Spanish club since his £26.7 million move.
That Betis were able to pay half the price Liverpool had negotiated with Lyon came due to Fekir entering the final year of his contract, but even then, the Reds were not interested in reigniting their pursuit.
“I was sad about Liverpool but I’m OK now,” he continued.
“Betis are a family club. I was very welcomed here, and my family too. They put everything in place to make sure players feel comfortable.
“Betis are a club with a lot of history, fantastic fans.
“They play good football, play from the back, technical football, the football I love.”
If the quartet had travelled to red-listed Egypt, Brazil and Chile, they would then have been required to isolate for 10 days upon their return to the UK, according to government guidelines.
However, with Gabon in the country’s amber list for travel, Salah has now linked up with his national team for a game that kicks off in Franceville on Sunday night.
A statement from the Egyptian FA has confirmed the forward’s arrival to training ahead of the World Cup qualifier, in a big boost to Hossam El Badry’s side as they can now rely on their captain’s involvement.
It will be disappointing for Liverpool, of course, with fans hoping that Salah would miss both qualifiers and therefore be well rested ahead of a busy month.
The Reds play Leeds, AC Milan, Crystal Palace, Norwich, Brentford and Porto in the space of 17 days, and with Takumi Minamino joining Firmino on the injury list this week, Jurgen Klopp is short on attacking options.
He is likely to return to Merseyside from Gabon at the start of next week, with plenty of time still to prepare for the trip to Elland Road on September 12.
Ojo was expected to depart Anfield on a permanent basis over the summer, with clubs in Greece, Belgium and Germany interested and a £5 million valuation set.
But that price tag seems to have proved prohibitive, and with no money in the Championship, the 24-year-old was left to head out on the seventh loan of his career on deadline day.
He joined Gary Rowett’s Millwall, and after a campaign in and out of the side with Cardiff last time out, Ojo has accepted that he must “really kick on” this season.
“I’ve played quite a few games already, but this season I think it’s time for me really kick on now and show what I can really do, step up and be the difference,” he told millwallfc.co.uk.
“A lot of players and managers have said that about me in the past and I feel like it’s time to really step into that light, be difference and help Millwall in the best way that I can.”
On his move, he added: “It was crazy for me, it was my first deadline-day moment.
“But at the end of the day, the most important thing is to play football and that’s obviously why I decided to come here.
“I’m really excited for the upcoming season and hopefully it will be a good challenge.”
In assessing his hopes for the season ahead, Ojo looked as far as next summer, with the hope that his time at the Den would put him in a “strong position” to “move on.”
“Just to try and be the difference as much as I can, try to help my team-mates and show everyone what I can really do on a consistent level,” he said of his aims for 2021/22.
“I feel like that would put me in a strong position hopefully next season to go back to Liverpool and sort of move on from there.”
While Ojo’s words could be misinterpreted as a desire to “move on” from Liverpool, the reality is that he will be required to in order to find a permanent home as a first-team player.
And wis time at Millwall could – as with recent stints with Rangers and Cardiff – give him a platform to prove he is worthy of a long-term starting role at a Championship club.
Minamino was an unused substitute throughout Thursday’s 1-0 defeat to Oman, with Hajime Moriyasu likely saving him for the World Cup qualifier against China next week.
But the 26-year-old has not made the trip to Doha and will instead return to Merseyside to be assessed by Liverpool‘s medical staff.
The Japanese FA confirmed in a statement on Saturday that Minamino “has been withdrawn from the team due to an injury,” though the nature and severity of the issue is as yet unclear.
It is not the first time the forward has left the Japan squad early this year, having pulled out of duty over the summer to focus on pre-season commitments with Liverpool.
However, it would appear that, this time, Minamino will require time on the sidelines, which comes on the back of a hamstring injury to Firmino in the 1-1 draw with Chelsea last time out.
Firmino is not expected to miss a long period, but will likely miss the upcoming clashes with Leeds and AC Milan, with Diogo Jota due to start in his place.
Having both Firmino and Minamino unavailable reduces Jurgen Klopp‘s options significantly – particularly given the decision not to sign another striker before Tuesday’s transfer deadline.
Minamino is, ostensibly, Liverpool‘s primary backup option beyond the regular four starters in attack in Firmino, Jota, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, with Divock Origi and Harvey Elliott the only other natural forwards in the squad.
Author Les Jackson centres his writing around the pillars of family, friends and football and offers a reflection of the happier times with a personal recollection of the Miracle that was Istanbul.
We booked a flight plus a night’s accommodation with one of the myriad of companies offering such packages, which would see us leaving Liverpool’s John Lennon airport early on the morning of the match and staying in a hotel a few minutes from Taksim Square after the game, returning home the following day. It was far from cheap, but it meant I could work the two days before the game, an important consideration given my self-employed status. From the start of match week, tales and footage of Liverpool supporters in Istanbul, particularly around Taksim Square, which had been identified as an official congregating area for Reds fans, flooded our numerous fan forums and told of days and nights of non-stop joyous revelry. Wednesday couldn’t come soon enough for me and Tom.
In fact, Tom couldn’t sleep the night before the game (I managed forty winks), and we set off at some ungodly early hour. Peter Kenyon, Chelsea’s CEO and former CEO of Manchester United -– more than enough black marks there for him to be held forever in low esteem by any self-respecting Liverpool fan –- owned a Cheshire mansion about five minutes’ drive from us and on our route to the airport. I must belatedly apologise to any residents of the sleepy Somerford and Brereton Heath area on the A54 who may have been awakened by my childishly joyous and exaggerated use of the car horn as we sped past his home in the darkness. Pointlessly as well as he was already in Istanbul as a guest of UEFA. But in my defence, at 46 years of age, I was feeling like a kid at Christmas again.
Left at home behind us were San, Dan & Liv. They were all invited to watch the game at the Glovers’, along with the Nash’s, the Kemballs’ and the Byrnes (and maybe one or two others). Liv, 12 years old at the time, happily grabbed the opportunity, and it was a surprise to no one when San politely declined it. Dan, being the dutiful son he has always been, opted to watch the game with his mum. And that’s where they stayed until the final whistle.
In the fifteen-plus years since, the tale of the ‘Miracle of Istanbul’ has been recounted countless times, millions of words written covering the occasion, the build-up and the outcome. Istanbul, the great historic metropolis which straddles two continents; Taksim Square before and after the game; gridlocked traffic on the way to the Ataturk Stadium; a sea of yellow taxis and free buses; the biblical traipse across a barren landscape to a stadium seemingly built in the middle of nowhere; Milan fans outnumbered four or five to one. It’s all been brilliantly captured elsewhere, so I won’t attempt to force my inferior version upon you. But the story of the game itself surely deserves one more retelling.
We got in the ground about 45 minutes before kick-off, the organisation outside the stadium best described as chaotic. Not so much a queue as a crowd of fans with very few stadium officials, one of whom took my ticket, tore off the stub, then returned the ticket to me. The crowd shifted before I managed to proceed and when I eventually showed my ticket again to the same official, he appeared aghast that my ticket had no stub.
Having come this far and got this close, I was in no mood to be denied entry and told him so in as many words. Whether he understood what I’d said, or simply took stock of my demeanour was unclear but, brooking no further argument, a few seconds later I was in the ground with Tom. The atmosphere was bubbling nicely, the Milan fans impressively choreographed at the opposite end of the stadium, the Liverpool fans impressively off-the-cuff.
When I say the opposite end of the stadium, I refer to their proximity to me and Tom. The length of the stadium away. It soon became apparent that apart from that end of the stadium, the rest of it was populated almost entirely with Liverpool fans. As the teams took to the field to a cacophony of tribal rivalry, the uniqueness and enormity of the occasion really hit home, the feeling of utter privilege at simply being there almost tangible. Twenty years after our last such final, Liverpool were back at European football’s top table.
That feeling lasted for as long as it took Milan to take the lead, less than a minute into the ninety. The captains shook hands, the game kicked off and Milan scored. In echoes of the start of the second half of the 1990 FA Cup semi-final against Crystal Palace, Liverpool had kicked off and immediately ceded possession. Seconds later, Milan’s left-back and captain Paolo Maldini, hardly noted for his goal-scoring prowess, powered home Andrea Pirlo’s precise cross from a free-kick. We still had 89 minutes to respond of course, but Milan’s strong pre-game favourite tag was already looking well deserved. By half-time, it looked like a no-brainer.
Two further goals from striker Hernan Crespo, a world-class striker on loan from Liverpool’s semi-final victims Chelsea, in the six minutes before the break, appeared to have made a difficult task nigh on impossible. In truth, as well as Milan had played, sitting off Liverpool and hitting us on the break each time we courteously returned the ball to them, Liverpool showed all the signs of suffering from stage fright. We’d had plenty of possession but little cutting edge and no midfield shield to speak of for our vulnerable defence either.
As the whistle blew for half-time, a minute after Crespo’s second goal, jubilation poured from the Milan fans behind the goal defended, poorly, by Liverpool. Our end of the ground could best be described as deflated. Tom was almost inconsolable, his phone pinging incessantly with messages from the UK. Given where we lived, hardly any of his mates were Liverpool fans so I can only imagine that most of the texts he was receiving at this juncture would be far from supportive, indeed mocking in nature. I spent the first few minutes of the break trying to persuade him to put this down to experience, that we’d be back. I didn’t believe a word of what I was telling him mind you, and I’m pretty sure neither did he.
“What a shit day” was his only response.
As the start of the second half neared a few wags started singing “we’re gonna win 4-3”, a prospect so outrageously unlikely that most of us genuinely laughed. It was followed by a rendition of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ which started as a murmur, almost mournfully, but was soon picked up by others in our support, the sound building until it became a crescendo of defiance. Personally, I was hoping for an improved showing in the second half, but not much more. Let’s at least save some face.
Almost from the kick-off, Liverpool’s keeper Jerzy Dudek was forced to make a fine save from Milan’s other world-class striker Andrei Shevchenko – himself destined for Chelsea 12 months down the line – tipping the ball round the post from a well-struck free kick and, just for a moment, with Milan seemingly picking up where they’d left off at half-time, an embarrassing repeat of the first half, maybe a record-breaking cup final scoreline defeat, seemed an all too real possibility. Tom’s ‘shit’ day was in danger of becoming all our worst nightmares. Less than 15 minutes later, it was promising to be our finest hour.
Spanish journalist Guillem Balague has written a book about this, Rafa’s first season, called ‘A Season on The Brink’. I highly recommend it. Between pages 142 and 143, an insert of glossy colour photographs is included, all related to the Champions League final, the first one of which is a full page shot of the scoreboard behind a section of our fans. Look closely, and you may spot me and Tom towards the bottom right-hand corner of the picture. On the other hand, you won’t have to look too hard to find the most important pieces of information it presents. Fifty-one minutes and fifty-six seconds of the scheduled 90 minutes have been played, and AC Milan still lead Liverpool 3-0. There must be about 200-300 fans in the picture, each face telling its own similar story, and it’s not a happy one.
About two minutes after that snap was taken, captain and talisman Steven Gerrard craned and twisted to score with a well-directed header from a John Arne Riise cross. Probably no more than a consolation, but at least my hope of a face-saving second half performance was alive and well. A modicum of pride might yet be restored. Certainly, a few of those faces in the crowd had a bit more of a smile on them.
Two minutes further on and I was blurting out “Back in it”, after Vladimir Smicer, a first-half substitute for the injured Harry Kewell, had taken a short sideways pass from Didi Hamann, a half-time substitute for the injured Steve Finnan, and found the bottom left-hand corner of the net from outside the penalty area (though at the time I was convinced Luis Garcia had scored the goal). Face-saving was dropping down the agenda now. With more than half-an-hour to get an equaliser and, who knows, even win it, we had grander aspirations.
Less than five minutes later, that agenda was in the bin. The Spanish referee, who had waived away our claims for a penalty in the first half, seconds before Milan’s second goal, pointed to the spot after Milan’s Gennaro Gattuso fouled Gerrard as he was running through on goal. With Gerrard about to shoot, the Italian clipped his heels and could consider himself fortunate not to be sent off.
Xabi Alonso stepped up to take the first penalty of his professional career, but was thwarted by a fine save from the Brazilian giant Dida in Milan’s goal. As the ball spilled back out, a fan behind me needlessly pointed out that he’d “missed it”, superfluous information that might have triggered an unprintable response from me given my immediate sense of deflation, a sense that a spell had been broken, if Xabi hadn’t followed up a split second later by slamming the rebound into the roof of the net.
Three-quarters of the ground exploded into a frenzy of joyous disbelief.
Back home, as I would find out later, San’s own joy was tempered (though only slightly I’m sure) by her annoyance at Milan Baros half-strangling Alonso in wild celebration. Unbelievably, we were level, all thoughts of hitherto certain acute embarrassment extinguished. Magic spell still in force, optimism reignited. Whatever happened now, we’d still be able to hold our heads up. Not that that was uppermost in my thoughts at the time. Or those of any Liverpool fan I’d have thought. Now we wanted to go on and win it. A couple of minutes later Dida saved a dipping long-range effort from Riise, and the spell was broken at last.
I don’t recall another attempt on target from Liverpool, certainly not one worthy of the name. From having nothing to lose at the start of the second half such was our dire position, now everything was on the line. That sense was everywhere, on the pitch as well as in the stands. It was however accompanied with a new doggedness, a sense of determination and resolve to go the distance. Milan reasserted their dominance but were kept at bay by a resolute defensive performance, with scouser Jamie Carragher excelling throughout, ably assisted by fellow centre back Sammy Hyypia and joined by Gerrard, switching from his marauding attacking midfield brief at the start of the second half to put in a sterling stint at right-back when needed in extra time.
And it was much needed. Once extra time had started, it was clear Liverpool were pretty much spent as an attacking force. The fans did what we could, keeping the noise levels up, willing the team on, our raw support all we had to offer. With three minutes of the 120 left, for once Gerrard was unable to prevent a deep cross from Serginho, one of the Milan substitutes. It was a superb cross which dissected the Liverpool centre backs and found Shevchenko moving onto it, unmarked just outside the six-yard box with only Dudek to beat. Behind the goal, as the cross arced onto the Ukrainian’s forehead, the previous 117 minutes of the game flashed before my eyes.
We’d played our part in one of the great European finals, saved our reputation, restored our pride. Hands would be shaken, hugs shared, and a fully deserved lap of honour trudged by our gallant losers and acknowledged by fans of both sides. The journey home would probably be a lot less onerous than it was looking like at half time. But ultimately trophy-less. Pride at our comeback from a hopeless position notwithstanding, the sense of impending loss – for that surely was imminent – was difficult to bear.
Shevchenko nodded downwards, the ball pitching just in front of Jerzy and giving him a chance to save which, though still difficult, he probably shouldn’t have had. He managed to parry the ball but only straight back to Shevchenko, who surely couldn’t miss the rebound. Miraculously, and it did feel like a miracle from my vantage point, a split second after the ball left the striker’s foot, Dudek’s hand reflexively reached up from his prone position and deflected it over the bar.
In that moment, as those with Milan tendencies held heads in hands as one, and the rest of us eventually exhaled our shared relief, I told myself we’d won it. I never voiced that opinion, not even a whisper to Tom standing next to me, but if ever a sign was given that was surely it. A few minutes later the referee’s whistle signalled the end of extra time. Penalties it was.
A quirk of the game was that all six goals had been scored in the same goal, directly in front of the Milan fans, as far away from where me and Tom stood as it was possible to be. So naturally, the penalties would be taken at that same end.
My conviction that Shevchenko’s miss was a sure sign our name was on the trophy did little to calm my nerves as we prepared for the penalty shoot-out, however. What did help was Milan, going first, missing their first two spot-kicks taken by Serginho and Pirlo, and Liverpool scoring both theirs, through Hamann and Cissé.
2-0 and looking good.
Milan’s third penalty, struck home by former Newcastle player Jon Dahl Tomasson, was their first success of the night, and was immediately followed by Liverpool’s first failure, Riise the culprit, victim of another fine penalty save by Dida. The nerves were back, and I screamed my frustration at the Norwegian, much to Tom’s amusement.
2-1. Still promising but the irony of Milan possibly staging their own penalty shoot-out comeback was not lost on me. The nerves cranked up another level.
The Brazilian Kaka was up next for Milan and netted with aplomb to level the scores, though they’d taken one more penalty than us. The noise level had hardly abated since the shoot-out started, and when Smicer then converted his, the sense of anticipation soared off the scales.
3-2. With both teams having taken four of their five penalties, the moment of truth was potentially seconds away. Shevchenko now needed to score to keep Milan in it.
I doubt there were many in the crowd of 72,000 who expected that the Ballon d’Or winner, Milan legend and widely regarded world superstar, who had scored the deciding penalty in Milan’s shoot-out victory over Juventus to lift the same trophy two years earlier, would do anything other than score from the spot, thereby ensuring that Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard would need to convert his penalty, his team’s fifth, to complete a remarkable turnaround.
Maybe one or two Milan fans, shaken by their reverse in fortunes during the game and now considering the consequences of ultimate failure when they returned home, would have watched him place the ball on the spot with some little dread. I certainly had no doubt he would score. Even as he scuffed his effort directly down the middle, I envisioned Dudek diving to one side and the ball nestling in the net.
It didn’t happen. Jerzy stood his ground and saved the admittedly dismal effort.
All over. Liverpool 3-2 winners on penalties and Champions of Europe for the fifth time after one of the most remarkable finals ever.
Pandemonium ensued. On the pitch, the Liverpool players celebrated, many of them seemingly in a daze. In the stands, Liverpool fans laughed and cried, sang and danced and acclaimed their heroes. Me and Tom hugged each other, and anyone else within hugging distance. The Milan fans silently left. There wasn’t much else for them to do. I know there were fireworks at the end as we collected the Cup because I’ve seen them on the recordings since. I don’t recall them at all at the stadium.
Back home, San and Dan celebrated in the street as the Glover household emptied to meet them halfway.
As we left the ground, now well into the morning after the day the game had kicked off, the quietness was eerie. It had been a very long and tiring day, especially for those of us who’d travelled on the day of the game, and the game was as emotionally draining as any I’d experienced. A surreal end to a surreal journey. In a good way.
I’ve watched the game many times since, the emotion of the occasion receding slightly as time passes, but always there just below the surface.
Me and Tom and Istanbul. I’ll always have that.
This is an extract from ‘A Life Well Red: A memoir edged in black – a true story of family, friends & football, of joy and tragedy‘ – available to buy now
Liverpool are still over another week away from the next game! An eternity at this early stage of the season. Still, we have the infamous 2022 rebuild to look forward to…No Origi interest from Turkey
Yesterday’s rumours suggested Divock Origi might be off in the next week, with Turkish sides keen to sign him as their transfer window goes on longer.
But today’s reports say that’s absolutely not the case and he’s staying this season. Origi hasn’t started since January, hasn’t played since Leipzig and hasn’t looked interested since about 2020, but with no bids from Turkey or anywhere else, he’ll be a part of Jurgen Klopp‘s squad once more.
He’s yet to feature this season, perhaps on the off-chance that he was set to move, but we can probably expect him to feature in the coming weeks as the matches resume thick and fast.
Origi is fifth-choice at best right now for the three attacking roles, and it’s up to him to at least displace Taki Minamimo for a spot on the larger bench this term.Squad plans and transfer talk
Latest Premier League chat
You’re not allowed to pick someone beginning with M…
So, if Milner leaves next season, who gets Number 7 do you think? Would love to see Jota get it. Or Harvey?
— Jay ?????? (@ScouseSocialism) September 3, 2021
Tonight? Ghana vs Ethiopia for African World Cup qualifiers. Spain vs Russia for U21 Euro qualifiers. St. Pat’s vs Longford if you want some domestic action with a Liverpool player – Jaros is the No1 on loan in Ireland for St. Pat’s!
The centre-back was thrust out of anonymity and into the spotlight last season as he answered the call following an injury crisis like no other.
With Liverpool‘s senior contingent back up and running, Williams would shift down the pecking order and in order to continue his development, a loan move was the sensible decision.
Swansea was the destination after he penned a new contract at Anfield to 2026, and now Williams is keen to show all he has learned on the Championship stage while embracing the new challenge and lessons coming his way.
“I was keen to come here, it was one of the places I wanted to come to because of the football they play,” Williams told Swansea’s official website.
“I believe it will stand me in good stead for next season.
“Obviously last season was important for me. No one could have been prepared for last season, especially me, with all the injuries suffered by centre-backs.
“The last five games of last season were described as five finals so I knew if I could do something good there, I would have put myself in good stead.
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I hope I can take what I learned and show that here. I have played against some good players, and every game comes with a different challenge, so I hope that shows in my time here.
“I am looking for regular football and I hope I can find that here at Swansea.”
He joins Rhian Brewster as the latest Red to make a temporary move to south Wales, and while goals may not be as free-flowing from the defender, Williams is not short on motivation to prove himself.
“If I get anywhere near as many goals as Rhian did that would be a miracle,” the defender added with a laugh.
“But I hope I can make the same impact because he did brilliantly when he came here.
“Then it was seeing the calibre of players I would hopefully one day play alongside, that’s been a big motivation for me to try and get to that level.”
The 20-year-old will hope to feature for Swansea on their return from the international break, with Hull the visitors.
Jamie Carragher believes Liverpool’s forward line could struggle if they pick up injuries and was disappointed not to see the Reds recruit any attackers in the transfer window.
Jurgen Klopp brought in just one summer signing in the form of centre-back Ibrahima Konate for a reported £36 million, compared to their title rivals who all splashed out around £100 million to strengthen their squads.
Xherdan Shaqiri sealed a permanent move to Lyon while 2020-21 ever-present midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum exited Anfield to sign for Paris St Germain, and the prospect of Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah going to the African Nations Cup in January could spell danger.
Carragher told the PA news agency: “I’m disappointed Liverpool haven’t got an attacker in, I must say.
“I do think Liverpool are short in the attack and they will have to keep everybody fit, which is nigh on impossible really. I do think they will struggle but they’re very robust, Liverpool’s front three.
“Mane and maybe Salah away for the Africa Cup of Nations at some stage, I’m not sure how many games they’ll miss but I do think that was something to miss for Liverpool.”
Amidst the question marks surrounding their transfer window, the 2019-20 Premier League champions have made a bright start to life this season having won their opening two games against Norwich and Burnley and shared the spoils in a 1-1 draw against fellow title contenders Chelsea at Anfield last week.
Despite not spending much, Liverpool have seen a number of players come back from injury with Virgil Van Dijk making his return alongside fellow centre-back Joe Gomez and midfielder Jordan Henderson, who missed large parts of last campaign.
Asked whether the Merseyside club may have similar misfortune in attacking positions as they did in defence last season, the 43-year-old said: “They’ve got (Divock) Origi there and (Takumi) Minamino but I basically wanted someone who was better than them to come in to the club.
“You know whether it’s the owners, if it’s something to do with the pandemic, finances are tight and you know with no one going out we couldn’t bring anyone in.
“(Diogo) Jota is there as well and he was a big miss for Liverpool last season, he missed about four months with a knee injury.
Carragher, who had plenty of battles with Manchester City during his playing days, will be back at the Etihad Stadium in the Soccer Aid for UNICEF celebrity charity match on Saturday and will be on a team which includes fellow Sky pundit Gary Neville, Paul Scholes, Wayne Rooney and Jamie Redknapp amongst others.
The former England and Liverpool defender said: “It’s going to be good to get the boots back on, it’s a great game that brings lots of different people together.
“I may even tackle Gary Neville, and he’s on my team! Someone’s got to get him at some stage so I’ll let the Rest of the World try and if someone hasn’t got him, I’ll make it my duty for the day.”
Klopp was not wrong when he said “Neville has an opinion on absolutely everything” and the manager is the subject of his musings once more following a quiet transfer window.
It’s no secret that fans had hoped to see greater investment in the squad, but it did not eventuate and Liverpool will push on with what they have in their pursuit of silverware.
Liverpool are unbeaten in their last 13 games in the league and have started this season as strong as one could hope, but there is seemingly something “missing”, something that will not see Liverpool finish above Man United so says Neville.
“Not bad. There’s no massive spirit issue, or the manager falling out with players. Nothing like that. But there is something just missing.
“I remember going three years ago and thinking ‘[United] are in trouble’. Two years ago thinking, ‘we are in serious trouble’.
“[Jurgen Klopp’s] not got that money [to improve the side]. He’s having to deal with a team who are a good team, but look like the team that needed a boost.
“There are no massive problems at Liverpool. I’m not saying it is broken. Not by any stretch of the imagination.
“But I don’t think they have got the momentum with them at this moment. They are just plateauing. I’m not sure Liverpool can get to first. I don’t think they will get above [United] this year.”
For many, it’s just a case of stirring the pot and trying to unsettle the mood around Liverpool:
Gary Neville: "Klopp doesn't seem himself at the moment. In interviews he [was] just a joy. He is a little bit narked by something. Something is bugging him."
Is it me or does it feel like Neville's constantly trying to disrupt the mood around Liverpool? He's a massive snide.
— Henry Jackson (@HenryJackson87) September 2, 2021
Gary Neville started out as a very good pundit. If Liverpool had stayed in their lane (in his mind) then he would have stayed that way. Our success has rattled him and he's constantly talking about us, trying to cause division and upheaval.
— Mattias (@MafisenLFC) September 2, 2021
Gary Neville chatting wham about Liverpool. Loving Utd again now isn’t he after him crying over the super cup and how much he was let down. Up the skint reds ???
— Grant Evans (@GrantEvans1992) September 2, 2021
Whenever Neville says something about Liverpool the opposite happens.
— DilzLFC 19times (@DilzLFC) September 2, 2021
Gary Neville talks about Liverpool more than he does his own club. It’s weird.
— NB (@bard4lfc) September 2, 2021
Ok, now I feel lot better about Liverpool. If Neville says we are bad we're heading in the right direction.
This is the guy who said United will win the league before Liverpool, in 2019 of all years,?.
— Red Maverick (@powerhouseSG) September 2, 2021
I admire Gary Neville trying to create problems at Liverpool that aren’t there https://t.co/FSpOQNCAiQ
— Nathan (@_Nathanshapland) September 2, 2021
Unlike some of our fans, Gary Neville is genuinely worried about Liverpool this season. That’s why he’s out here gobbing off about us again. He doesn’t want to face the humiliation of seeing United spend over £100m and still finish behind us.
— Floyd (@TheFNundy) September 3, 2021
Neville can allow Liverpool to consume his thoughts but it’s a little premature to be casting shadows over a team who have helped set the standards in the league over the last few seasons.
For the first time in their shared history, Liverpool and AC Milan will meet outside of a European final, with Anfield playing host to a game where “revenge” is on the mind.
With 13 European Cups between them, AC Milan and Liverpool are two of the most successful clubs in the competition’s history, with one trophy apiece in final meetings.
And they will meet for the first time since the 2007 final on September 15, with Anfield playing host to the first game of the Champions League group stage this season.
But it is the events of Istanbul that have not have been forgotten in a hurry for either club, with the famous comeback on May 25, 2005 having forever been etched into Liverpool folklore.
There’s a different feeling for those on the Italian side of the encounter, including Hernan Crespo who scored a double at the Ataturk Stadium that many thought spelled game over for the Reds.
And having not been part of the 2007 Champions League-winning side, with just one season spent at the club, he has urged Milan to get “revenge” for that night in Istanbul that is still very much an “open wound.”
“I had scored a brace in the first half, I have never forgotten that night and even though Milan already beat Liverpool in the 2007 final, I’m asking Pioli’s men to beat them at Anfield, get the revenge for me and show who Milan are.”
It will be a night where fans make their return for a European clash, with the last time coming in March 2020 in the final pre-pandemic game against Atletico Madrid.
It will make for a raucous full house at Anfield in what is an important game to take three points from, with games against Atletico Madrid and Porto to follow.
This will be the first time Milan have appeared in the Champions League since the 2013/14 season, making it a much-anticipated clash.
But Jurgen Klopp‘s side will look to ensure it is memorable for all the wrong reasons and in turn deny Crespo the revenge he longs for.