What Jurgen Klopp has been able to do in less than five years as Liverpool manager says an awful lot about his credentials.
In his first game in charge of the Reds, Klopp’s starting line-up included Simon Mignolet, Alberto Moreno and Mamadou Sakho.
Joao Carlos Teixeira, Jerome Sinclair, Adam Bogdan, Jordon Ibe and Connor Randall were all on the bench.
It’s a far cry from the team that the German is able to field now, which features world-class players in every position.
And the outcome of that squad improvement is, of course, silverware.
The Champions League was followed up by the Club World Cup and Liverpool eventually landed the big one: the Premier League title.
Through shrewd investment and player development, Klopp has been able to build a squad that has conquered the world.
Liverpool fans will feel like they deserve this after years of being on the periphery.
In 2014/15, the season prior to Klopp’s arrival, trips to the semi-finals of the FA Cup and League Cup were weighed down by a sixth-place finish in the league and an abysmal Champions League campaign in which they didn’t get out of their group.
Brendan Rodgers was in charge at the time and it’s worth remembering when he tried to take down Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu with a starting line-up that looks laughable six years on.
While Carlo Ancelotti fielded Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, Toni Kroos and Luka Modric, Rodgers opted for Moreno, Javi Manquillo, Lazar Markovic and Fabio Borini.
Meanwhile, Steven Gerrard, Philippe Coutinho, Raheem Sterling and Jordan Henderson were all named on the bench.
The outcome? Liverpool were *only* beaten 1-0, with Benzema scoring in the first half.
Liverpool’s line-up sparked plenty of controversy, with Rodgers having to respond to accusations that he was ‘throwing in a white towel’.
“Rodgers has left out Henderson, Sterling, [Mario] Balotelli, Gerrard and Coutinho at Real Madrid. He has, though, thrown in a white towel,” Lineker said on Twitter when Liverpool’s team was announced.
“Selecting a weakened side in Europe’s premier competition, especially against Real Madrid, is unbefitting of a club of Liverpool’s stature.
“If I were one of Liverpool’s star players, I’d be choked to be left out of a game at the Bernabeu against the European champions.”
Rodgers has left out Henderson, Sterling, Balotelli, Gerrard and Coutinho at Real Madrid. He has, though, thrown in a white towel.— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) November 4, 2014
Rodgers made seven changes to the team that had been beaten by Newcastle three days before and he refuted Lineker’s claims.
“I think the performance says the words,” he said, per BBC Sport.
“Gary is a figure who I respect and was a top player in his day but he’s never been a manager, so he has never truly understood what it is like in terms of picking players.
“I respect his opinion but I think the words were played out by my team. The performance was far from throwing the white towel in.
“Right to the very end my players put in a performance befitting of the wonderful club this is. That would be my answer.”
After hearing Rodgers’ response, Lineker tweeted: “Rodgers intimating that many of his players were dropped for being awful at Newcastle rather than being rested. If that’s true, fair enough.”
Rodgers intimating that many of his players were dropped for being awful at Newcastle rather than being rested. If that's true, fair enough.— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) November 4, 2014
Lineker wasn’t the only person to question Rodgers’ line-up.
Following quotes provided by BBC Sport:
Spanish TV presenter and former Liverpool player Michael Robinson on Twitter: “Incredible starting 11 for Liverpool. It’s one thing to give players rest and another to not respect the contest. I think Rodgers has made a mistake. Thousands of Liverpool fans have come to the Bernabeu to see five key players on the bench. Rodgers has raised the white flag of surrender before the game has started.”
Chief Football Writer for The Times Henry Winter: “We can spin it either way and say that people like Kolo Toure and Alberto Moreno played well, but Liverpool leave here having slipped another place down the table and they have got to win their next two games. This was not the Liverpool way tonight.”
Reporter for The Times Paul Joyce: “It’s a very brave, some would say foolhardy decision by Brendan Rodgers. It invites a lot of scrutiny and spotlight at a time when things aren’t going well. It’s a massive call from him. He has made a lot of decisions tonight and he will live or die by them.”
Spanish journalist Julio Maldonado on Twitter: “Tough to believe it, but Liverpool line up without Gerrard and Sterling. Irrespective of the result, I think a giant club like Liverpool and the greatest competition don’t deserve that.”
Spanish commentator Marcos Lopez: “Without any English players in the starting line-up, Liverpool were devoid of intensity or passion and greatly damaged their reputation. It looked like a friendly on a summer tour to America.”