Jurgen Klopp might well have looked at Zinedine Zidane green with envy at full-time on Tuesday night – and not just because his side were on the end of a 3-1 defeat in the Champions League.
Klopp has endured his toughest season at Anfield since arriving. The defending Premier League champions are in a four-way dog fight for a Champions League spot and now have a two goal deficit in their only remaining cup competition.
In fairness, injuries have ravaged Liverpool‘s squad, leaving the German without the likes of Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez, Jordan Henderson and even Fabinho at times. His front three have suffered as a result, with only Mohamed Salah keeping up his excellent levels of goalscoring from the past two seasons.
But despite the bad luck, Klopp has also been levelled with some criticism. Bar Diogo Jota, who has already performed far above his expectation, Liverpool’s unwillingness to act in recent transfer windows has cost them.
Liverpool were instead left flapping in January, bringing in Schalke’s Ozan Kabak on loan and Ben Davies from Preston, who has yet to make an appearance.
Klopp’s struggles are something Zidane can relate to. The Frenchman did not invest in his squad at all in the summer and has been without Eden Hazard for much of this season. A poor start to the campaign saw, like Klopp, criticism come his way. But unlike Klopp ,Zidane has managed to turn things around.
Real Madrid now take a commanding lead into the Champions League quarter-final second leg and still have a real chance of winning La Liga, sitting just three points behind leaders Atletico.
It’s something that hasn’t been missed by former Spain and Middlesbrough hero Gaizka Mendieta.
When asked out of all eight remaining teams in the Champions League who he would watch first, Mendieta replied: “Real Madrid.
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“It’s the only Spanish team we have.
“I think the way Zidane has managed to turn around the team from being criticised for not signing players and the players they were using and how he’s managed to adapt these negative things and turn it around and be alive in the competition and of course Real Madrid in the Champions League is a special relationship.”
Zidane himself opened up on the criticism prior to the tie against Liverpool, firing back at the comments.
“In the end, we deserve trust,” said Zidane. “What is said, we can’t change all of that. What we can do is our jobs every day.
“But through history, this team turns around the things that have been said. We never give up on things, never. While there is a chance we always fight.
“We have had difficult moments, now we are in a good moment, though it doesn’t mean anything at the moment. We have to keep on fighting and compete.”
Klopp still has a chance to overturn his critics, however, when Liverpool host Real Madrid in the second leg next Wednesday.
Given Liverpool’s penchant for staging stunning European comebacks on Merseyside it’s best not to write off their season just yet.
Gaizka Mendieta is the first of three UEFA Champions League legends to take part in Hotels.com Dream Island Campaign, which is a hilarious new series that will take fans on a journey through the legend’s dream holidays. Dream Island launches ahead of the quarter finals of the UEFA Champions League fixtures in partnership with digital publisher JOE.