You wait seven years for a trophy and then three come along in six months. While the Club World Cup may not have the cachet in Britain that it has in other parts of the globe, the fact that Liverpool have become the first English team to win it whilst also in possession of the European Super Cup (as well as the initial requirement of having won the European Cup/Champions League) befits a 2019 in which Liverpool have won an insane number of football matches, and where, merely being 10 points clear in the Premier League with a game in hand, would not be sufficient reward.
While Man City won the league title in 2019, Liverpool’s superior record across the entire calendar year – in Europe, and in the league to the tune of a double-digit superiority – makes them the obvious contenders for the best team in the world, having usurped City themselves for that title, given their 2018. And so, Liverpool, in addition to being Champions of Europe, are now officially the Champions of the World. It’s indisputable, and to some, undoubtedly unbearable.
The stats have said for a while that Liverpool lead the world, as seen in the Club ELO rankings, and in that sense the gap is growing into a chasm, in a year when both teams have had more than a few injures. As of today the standings are:
1 Liverpool – 2,060
2 Man City – 2,003
3 Barcelona – 1,980
4 Bayern – 1,929
5 Juventus – 1,907
Liverpool’s ELO high of 2,064 this season is the highest ever recorded by an English side, and the 5th-best of all time (and the 4th-best since 1961). As I spent so long saying last season, and indeed, the season before that, what Liverpool were starting to do was rising from the significant to all-time levels of excellent.
As the Reds prepare to return to England, Jordan Henderson now has the chance to lead Liverpool to the league title in addition to the Champions League, European Super Cup and Club World Cup, all within the space of 12 months. Indeed, the captain – less underrated than he was but still not given the respect he deserves – was the second-best player on the pitch in Qatar, after the sensational Joe Gomez.
And, having gone into the game with the Reds having scored 14 consecutive open-play goals with flowing moves and beautiful passes (not a set-piece goal in sight), the game was won in extra-time with the 15th; 13 of which began in the Reds’ own half, with the first dozen of them discussed in detail in this recent piece.
This time the goals was created – as around half have been – with one of those inch-perfect longer passes, where the notion of “long ball” is instantly ridiculed by the angle, elevation and precision of what are essentially slide-rule deliveries that drop on the exact intended blade of grass.
I noted recently that Trent Alexander-Arnold was essentially a “quarterback full-back”, but also that Virgil van Dijk’s passing is similarly sublime. That’s two defenders who are up there with the best passers in the world, as part of a defence that is also notably parsimonious. Not far behind is the vision of Henderson, who perhaps doesn’t ping a pass as effortlessly as the two defenders, but whose range is still mightily impressive.