World champions Liverpool ready to take on the universe

The Reds wrapped up an incredible 2019 by beating Flamengo in the Club World Cup final on Saturday and look perfectly placed for an even bigger 2020.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year – especially if you happen to be of a Liverpool persuasion.

For the third time in little more than six months, the ‘Champions Wall’ at Melwood, which details the club’s vast array of honours, requires an upgrade.

Jurgen Klopp and his thrill-seekers, those relentless, remarkable "mentality giants", have only gone and picked up an addiction to silverware.

“Best on Earth,” screamed the headline in Sunday’s Liverpool ECHO. Right now, it’s hard to argue.

In Doha on Saturday, Liverpool became the first English club to win the Champions League, UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup in the same calendar year. Champions of Europe, Champions of the world.

“Bring on Saturn!” joked one supporter. They’re ready to take on the universe, if needed.

How does it feel to be on top of the world? “It’s a unique feeling,” said Roberto Firmino, the match-winner against Flamengo in Saturday’s final. “It’s an exciting time to be a Liverpool player,” added Trent Alexander-Arnold.

He can say that again. Liverpool is a club used to success, with a fanbase that demands it, but they haven’t had it this good for a long, long time.

“We’ve written history,” said Andy Robertson. They seem to be doing that on a weekly basis, in truth. The milestones, the records, the memories, the trophies; they just keep on coming.

Make no mistake, 2019 belongs to the men from Anfield. The Premier League title may have eluded them, and until that particular itch is scratched, nobody in red will be completely satisfied, but this is a club on the up in just about every way possible.

For once, it really was their year.

And the scary thing is, it could get even better. Liverpool head into Christmas 10 points clear at the top of the Premier League, and with a game in hand on their nearest rivals. Win at Leicester on Boxing Day and they can start thinking about ordering that silver polish, surely.

Their Champions League defence, too, remains on track. Atletico Madrid will pose a threat in the last 16, but why would a team such as this fear anybody?

You wouldn’t back anyone to beat them right now. Their belief, their quality and their resilience makes them the best club side on the planet.

Don’t agree? Well, what more do you want from a team? Liverpool boast the world’s best goalkeeper and the world’s best centre-back. Their full-backs are as good as it gets, as is their front three.

Four of the top seven players in this year’s Ballon d’Or list came from Anfield, and seven of the top 30. Andy Robertson, Fabinho and Jordan Henderson can count themselves a little unfortunate to have missed out too, by the way.

The majority of those players are secured on long-term contracts, and they will be joined in January by a shrewd new signing in Takumi Minamino, the versatile attacking midfielder who has signed from Salzburg in a £7.25 million (€8m) deal. Rarely does this club stand still.

And then there’s the manager. Perhaps the biggest thing to happen to the club this month was the news that Klopp had committed to a new four-and-a-half year contract, which will keep him on Merseyside until 2024.

Klopp’s commitment to the Liverpool ‘project’ underlines the remarkable strides the club, never mind the team, have made since his arrival in October 2015. “There can be no better place than this,” the German said.

Fenway Sports Group, the club’s owners, described him as “the best manager there is". He’s the perfect fit for Liverpool, in every way imaginable. Players love him, staff love him, supporters adore him. Four years in, his legacy is already secured.

The progress can be seen everywhere. In the New Year, plans to upgrade Anfield, taking the stadium’s capacity beyond 60,000, will be formalised, while in the summer the Reds will move into their new £50m ($55m) training complex at Kirkby – a switch Klopp played a huge role in securing.

These are significant moves, as is the forthcoming kit deal with Nike, which is expected to be announced in January. Liverpool went to the High Court to secure that, and believe it will have a transformative effect on the club’s commercial revenue. Their global brand has never been stronger, and partnership with one of the world’s leading brands it can only grow further.

In February, the club announced a record pre-tax profit of £125m ($140m) for the year up to May 2018. Turnover was up to £455m ($505m), part of a “stable and sustained improvement in the club’s financial position.” We can expect similar numbers when the next set of accounts are published.

It all adds up to a very healthy club. “People see what happens on the pitch as a measure of our progress,” Klopp said recently. “And although it is the best measure, it’s not the only measure.”

Not for the first time, the Liverpool manager summed it up best.

“The world in their hands,” read another headline on Monday. Right now, it really feels that way at Liverpool.

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