Generation game: What Liverpool's First Division winners of 30 years ago think about Klopp's class of 2020


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Red letter day: Liverpool players celebrate their 1990 First Division title victory

Red letter day: Liverpool players celebrate their 1990 First Division title victory

Red letter day: Liverpool players celebrate their 1990 First Division title victory

Bruce Grobelaar on Alison Becker: “He came with a big price tag. I think it helped that the label ‘most expensive goalkeeper in the world’ was immediately taken by the Chelsea ’keeper, Kepa Arrizabalaga, because that pressure switched.

You need a big character to have that role at Anfield. He has lived up to all the expectations upon him. He has a fantastic character, ability and work ethic. His positioning is absolutely brilliant. That is what makes him one of the best in the world.

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Alisson Becker

Alisson Becker

Alisson Becker

“There was a tradition of ’keepers at Anfield to play as a sweeper, going back to Tommy Lawrence under Bill Shankly. Ray Clemence was the best in the world at having nothing to do for 89 minutes and then in the 90th minute making a great save. When I came in, at the beginning I did not have that because I liked talking to fans and walking on my hands! When I settled down I had that knack too. With Alisson, he had that right from the beginning. He is probably used to it with Brazil. For sure, he is one of the world’s best.”

Steve Nicol on Trent Alexander-Arnold

“It is hard to think of any attacking full-back in Europe who is better. I do not think there is one. The player I would compare him to is Dani Alves when he was at Barcelona, the difference being Alves was at the peak of his career then and Trent has only just turned 21. That is frightening.

“He sees things as a player, and then he delivers. It is one thing to see the pass, it is another to use the ball as well as he does. It seems everything he tries comes off – whether it is picking a pass or his set-pieces. He can put the ball in behind too. It can sound basic but it is far from it, to be able to execute so consistently.

“In the 1990 team he would be a midfielder, not a defender. The way Jurgen Klopp sets up the side is perfect for Trent. He can work on his defending, especially one-on-one, but it is a balancing act between accepting you might lose a little in one area but you are gaining so much more going forward.

“If he was 25 you might be more worried about that, but he is still maturing as a player and is at a point in his career where he is already the best in his position in Europe. That is incredible.”

Glenn Hysen on Joe Gomez

“He has done fantastically well. At the beginning there was a little bit of uncertainty, but since he established himself alongside Virgil van Dijk he has been cruising through so many games. I have to be honest and say I was not sure how good he was, so his progress this year has come as more of a surprise. There is no doubt he benefits from having a player like Van Dijk alongside him. He can follow his lead.

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Joe Gomez

Joe Gomez

Joe Gomez

“I was fortunate in 1990 to have a similar situation with Alan Hansen. Alan may have been coming towards the end of his career then, but he had so much class it was easier for anyone to come in and play with him.

“I think it is a fair comparison – Hansen then and Van Dijk now. Van Dijk has that similar presence; calm, never over-reacting, always showing leadership and quality. Gomez has improved because of this. It was the same when Joel Matip was there. It is no coincidence players look more confident alongside Van Dijk.”

Gary Gillespie on Virgil van Dijk

“I saw him at Celtic and thought he was worth signing then. He went to Southampton and the rest is history. Since he has been at the club, everyone recognises his quality. From day one people were comparing him with Alan Hansen. Obviously Alan did it over a longer time, but you can compare because Virgil inspires those around him. That he is measured to that level is some barometer. Technically and physically, he is the best centre-back I have seen.

“Sometimes you do not realise what you have until it is lost, and that was certainly the case after Alan retired. He was a cornerstone of Liverpool and improved as he got older. He had the coolness and calmness and ability to come from the back, and I think Virgil can do that more.

“Salah, Mane and Firmino get the headlines, but most people who have played in title-winning teams will tell you it starts with defence.

“When Liverpool signed Van Dijk – and I would add Andy Robertson and Alisson to this – things started to change for the team. Virgil has been the key because Liverpool always had a chance of getting a goal, so when you start keeping clean sheets on a regular basis you take some stopping.

He has been pivotal in taking Liverpool to the next level. He is a leader in the dressing room as well. We always had big characters in 1990, and this team has plenty.”

Steve Nicol on Andy Robertson

“What I like about Robertson is he is a throwback. That is what Liverpool needed – someone more ‘old school’. I like it that he sees his first job as defending. They have so much firepower going forward, it’s defenders that are required. Robertson defends well and offers something in attack, too.

“But it’s hard comparing anyone to when I was playing. It’s not so tricky when you’re playing with Alan Hansen, Mark Lawrenson and Gary Gillespie. It does not get much better than that. I could just give John Barnes the ball and make a run because I knew we were not going to lose it for a while.”

Jan Molby on Fabinho

“He has an ability to read the game. He knows where to be when Liverpool do not have the ball. With the style of play of Liverpool using their full-backs as playmakers, it enables our midfield to be a shield. Most of what they deal with is in front of them. That is Fabinho’s strength.

“He is also especially good at keeping the ball moving. He is a good passer but not overly ambitious. It fits with how Klopp wants to play – getting the ball forward to those who make things happen.

“He is a guard dog, so if those in front play with a bit of risk – trying the clever ball or dribble – he is the one behind to press and get it back.

“Klopp is very good at getting his players to do what he wants. He has more to his game but he keeps it simple. He does not take risks. Keeping it simple is sometimes the hardest thing in football.”

Ronnie Whelan on Gini Wijnaldum

“Gini probably gets forward a bit more than I did, certainly when I was in the later stages of my career. The midfield three for Liverpool are very good at winning back the ball and keeping the ball moving.

“Gini is not always noticed that much in the game – maybe recently fans and pundits have spoken more about Jordan Henderson – but you can be sure everyone in the team appreciates the work he does.

“He is in the team virtually every game when he is fit, which speaks volumes for the job he does. He wins it, picks up the second ball, is very strong on the ball and has a good touch on the ball.

“He also has a habit of scoring in the biggest games. That was a good habit I had, too, chipping in with goals in finals and semi-finals. Sometimes it just happens for you that way – like when I scored in two cup finals early in my career. He is good at timing his runs into the box.

“You know you will not get an average performance from him. I think players like this are appreciated more than maybe used to be the case. It was like that in my career. People understood your role more the longer you played – and maybe even more when you were not there. I think it is the same for Gini. He has been a very good, versatile signing.”

Steve McMahon on Jordan Henderson

“He has been so consistent. I do not think he has changed his game so much, but because the team has been winning, success breeds success. He is always going to be at least a seven or eight out of ten, which is a manager’s dream.

“The added responsibility since Steven Gerrard left gave him the incentive to become the main man in midfield.

“He has done whatever role that has been asked of him well over a number of years. He has been the sitting midfielder and interchanged very well.

“When you look at Liverpool’s midfielders they are quite similar, so when one goes out and another comes in there is not a massive difference.

“What you have seen with Jordan is the development of leadership qualities. You saw that even more in the games he was out – something was missing in there.

“I do not think it has the most flair of any Liverpool midfield, but in terms of the work-rate, there is no slouch in there and Jordan is a huge part of that. There is no one who does not want to work and Jordan sets the example.

“I think he embarrasses others to ensure they do the same amount of work. There was me and Ronnie – Jan didn’t run! The success of a team is balance. Liverpool’s midfield brings that. They do not score much but leave the rest to the rest.”

Ray Houghton on Sadio Mane

“There was a period after the last World Cup when Mane was injured and I thought it took him a wee while to get back to the level of his first season at Liverpool, when he was on the right of the attacking three. But he came back to his best again at the start of this season and showed his quality again.

“He has turned himself into more of a goal machine. He did not always get the headlines, but at the start of the season he was the one making the difference.

“It is impossible to compare this side to 1990. I played in the wide-right role whereas since Liverpool signed Mo Salah, Sadio has been moved and is a right-footer on the left. When I came inside I was probably doing it too much, like a frustrated central midfielder! But in this team it is encouraged.

“You always want to be involved and the centre of the pitch is the place to be. The role had a bit more defensive responsibility in 1990, but what the 2020 side has that we had is a variety of ways to win. It was never about one player, and was not always about great football.

“First and foremost, we could compete with anyone, and after that every player in every position could create or score – whether it was Stevie Nicol overlapping from full-back or the midfielders chipping in with goals. Our wide man could come inside to allow that from our full-backs.”

John Barnes on Mohamed Salah

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Mo Salah

Mo Salah

2020 Pool

Mo Salah

“He has been a breath of fresh air, fantastic since he joined the club. It helps playing for a manager who plays the style that suits him and brings the best out of him. I am not sure he could do what he does at any other club. The same with Sadio Mane.

“Klopp has identified players who fit how he wants to play. There are some players who may not get into Man City’s team, but they are in a side that pushed themselves ahead of City in terms of points won.

“It has suited Salah being a left-footer playing on the right. I am not sure John Aldridge would have been too happy had I been asked to do that when I joined Liverpool! I played on the left and it was all about getting to the byline and getting crosses in.

“Had I been asked to do what Salah has, go to the right and work inside to shoot, I would have been happy. But it is all about what suits the team.

“For Liverpool, the crosses come from the full-backs. I am sure Mo could have played as I did, beating his full-back and getting in crosses, but this Liverpool side plays a different way.”

Ian Rush on Roberto Firmino

“He is such a hard-working striker. Even if he does not score, the work-rate is phenomenal. It took him time to adapt when he joined Liverpool but he has excelled, particularly under Klopp.

“People mention he has not scored many at Anfield, but in a league season it is away from home where you need your strikers to really show up in those games where it is more difficult to create chances and score goals.

“He was there for vital 1-0 wins. Some players only play well at home and go missing away. You can’t have that in a title-winning team. Look at the key moments this season and Firmino’s influence.

“So much of football is what you do without the ball. Even someone like Cristiano Ronaldo, in a 90-minute match he may actually have the ball at his feet less than 10 minutes during the game. So what you do for the next 80 minutes is your game. Firmino is one of the best in the world at that and he makes everyone play their part.

“When Bobby works to close down defenders, everyone else in the team sees the signal of where to go. It is not so dissimilar to what we were like as a team. We all worked together to get the ball back as soon as we lost it.”

Telegraph.co.uk