A FOOTBALL MIRACLE'
Xabi Alonso scores Liverpool's third goal in Istanbul
One of Liverpool’s heroes in the 2005 UEFA Champions League final, Xabi Alonso tells Graham Hunter he is thrilled to see his old side back in Istanbul
Xabi Alonso remembers lifting his only UEFA Super Cup. Of course he does. Against CSKA Moskva in Monaco, 2005. A 3-1 win for Liverpool in extra time. “We were the specialists in doing things the hard way!”
But he remembers Istanbul still more. Few cities have come to be identified so, so strongly with a specific European final, via the simple mention of their name, in the way that Istanbul has for Liverpool.
Although the coaching staff and players have all changed, now that Liverpool are back for their first UEFA showpiece in Istanbul since overhauling a 3-0 AC Milan lead to win on penalties 14 years ago, that instant association cannot be ignored.
“It doesn’t matter that this isn’t the Champions League final, the very fact that Liverpool are back playing for a trophy in Istanbul will mean every single one of their supporters and all of us who were there that night will have 2005 on their minds – it was pretty much a football miracle,” admits Alonso, who scored the equalising goal during Liverpool’s spectacular comeback.
Football people tell you that the UEFA Super Cup has a unique importance because you have to win something special just to get there. Alonso, newly appointed as coach of Real Sociedad B, is
Xabi Alonso (right) with Luis Garcia and Fernando Morrientes after winning the 2005 Super Cup
LIVERPOOL'S UEFA SUPER CUP RECORD
Hamburg 1-1 Liverpool, Liverpool 6-0 Hamburg
Liverpool win 7-1 on aggregate
Anderlecht 3-1 Liverpool, Liverpool 2-1 Anderlecht
Anderlecht win 4-3 on aggregate
Juventus 2-0 Liverpool
Liverpool 3-2 Bayern München
Liverpool 3-1 CSKA Moskva (aet)
“Obviously, the vital thing is winning the Champions League the season before. But this is a prestigious trophy and the fact that it’s Liverpool v Chelsea makes it even more so. After the euphoria that naturally goes with being champions of Europe, you have to keep winning – that’s certainly the Liverpool way. Especially against Premier League rivals like Chelsea.
“In my day, this was a special rivalry. We were less consistent than them in the league, but in the cups we were very, very good. Generally, we got the better of Chelsea in knockout competitions: two Champions League semi-finals plus an FA Cup semi-final.
“Now they’ve got Frank [Lampard] back at the club on the bench – someone for whom I’ve got huge respect. You always want great rivals when you’re a player and that’s what Frank was. I faced him at his peak, but now he’s their coach already and it feels to me that some things are meant to be.”
That last expression, like “have to keep winning”, is one that Alonso breaks into English to emphasise. Phrases he keeps with him from his five brilliant years at Anfield.
Something the Basque also considers “meant to be” is the “symbiosis” between Jürgen Klopp and Liverpool. ”There are some people in life who just fit in a particular place or role and that is Jürgen at Anfield. He’s understood Liverpool, landed on his feet at the perfect club for him in terms of his personality, his football vision.
“That’s why he’s unleashed this great energy which buzzes around the club and transformed it into superb football. Not just because they’ve won now but for how Liverpool do things, how they play, what their attitude is like. His communication skills mean that the players will do anything for him and they are reaping the rewards.”