Lungani Zama.

There is something very special brewing in the Champions League.

If you still don’t believe it, you might want to find your closest Liverpool-supporting chom – he won’t be hard to find – and let them confirm that statement.

Magically, in Kiev, we will have the magic of two traditional European giants squaring up.

What is tradition these days, you might ask? How can we possibly mention that word of long-standing, of familiarity and of belonging, in an era where a player’s loyalty lasts as long as his latest Ferrari?

These are different times we live in, and nothing can ever be taken for granted. But one thing we can say with certainty is that May 26 will see the collision of two of Europe’s greatest pedigrees when it comes to continental football.

Liverpool are always accused of banging on about their history, because they have done nothing of late.

Clearly, under their mad German scientist, there is something cooking on the Kop. 

Jurgen Klopp is looking more and more like the perfect fit for this modern Liverpool side, one that has emerged from the considerable shadow cast over it by Steven Gerrard and his domestic shortcomings.

Everyone who lives in the red half of the city of Liverpool would have used their last pound if it meant buying Gerrard a league-winning medal.

That the marauding, magnificent Gerrard never tasted league success is a shame in its own way, but football doesn’t do sentiment.

Even in today’s market, where everything has a price, sentiment is still not on the shelf. Ask Gianluigi Buffon.

What Gerrard has, though, is Istanbul. No one can take away that incredible miracle, and the class of 2018 are trying to emulate 2005’s miracle-makers with a script of their own.

I was living in Liverpool in 2005, and I can still remember an entire city pouring out on to Victoria Street and Concert Square after that penalty shootout.

Young and old – some in pyjamas – all united in song and celebration for one of the most ridiculous nights in the history of the European Cup.

Jurgen Klopp is looking more and more like the perfect fit for this modern Liverpool side. Photo: Carl Recine/Reuters

That is the history that Liverpool keep banging on about – the history that they keep on revisiting when their sides catch fire in the ultimate competition in world football.

They might not be able to endure the marathon of a league, but boy do they know their way around the steeplechase of a Champions League pursuit.

Perhaps it is the long, nostalgic chats that present players have with past greats, about those famous nights in Rome, Istanbul and the like, that galvanise the modern lot to reach heights they struggle to touch on a weekly basis.

Somehow, Europe matters more to them. Go to Anfield on a Champions League knockout night, and you will feel the difference.

‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ becomes more spiritual, as flags that have touched every corner of the continent are unfurled, and a stadium transformed into a cathedral.

No wonder the players respond by playing as if touched by angels.

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Now that they have reached the promised land, brace yourselves for tales of Scousers trekking from around the world to be in Kiev – even if they don’t have a match ticket. Istanbul was a reminder to them to never give up hope.

All the logic ahead of the final says it is Real Madrid’s to win for a third straight time. Form, squad depth, star quality, all of it.

But, as any Scouser will tell you, Liverpool don’t really do logic in Europe.

Logic said that the expensively-assembled Manchester City would ditch them at the quarter-final stage. Go figure.


Sunday Tribune