You can spot a real winner a mile off. The usual telltale sign is that they do not — or simply cannot — revel in individual victories.
During my time at Liverpool, Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher were always on to the next game the moment we got back inside the dressing room. I thought, can we not enjoy this one first? But it went unsaid. Bang, they were just ready to go the next day.
I don’t think they ever enjoyed any victory other than when it resulted in lifting silverware.
Trent Alexander-Arnold (C) was right to demand that Liverpool win a trophy every season
You look at players like that and think: ‘We have to win for them next Saturday.’ Being around those characters and there were a few among the England squad as well, offered a great learning experience. Move on. There is more to do.
It would be wrong for me to write in this column that I was the same as them, because I wasn’t. I enjoyed every moment of it!
Yet the guys who win repetitively — over and over again for years —know they can properly reminisce with fondness after it’s all finished.
It is easy to spot a real winner, and Alexander-Arnold’s comments shows he has determination
What they also do is speak freely, with determination, about targets. That is what we witnessed with Trent Alexander-Arnold’s press conference before Liverpool beat Inter Milan last week when he said: ‘There’s an expectation now — one trophy a season, minimum.’
I love that. No shirking. It’s a winning mentality of an elite professional. He is right too. Liverpool are exactly the same as Manchester City now — one trophy a year is the minimum requirement.
Jurgen Klopp’s team are still in all four competitions, six points behind City in the Premier League before Wednesday night’s game in hand against Leeds United.
Before Saturday, you just could not see City losing a single game. Momentum is building at Liverpool and this title race is interesting in the same way as that dramatic run-in three years ago, which makes it a fantastic spectacle for English football. They have each other to play at the Etihad Stadium in April and hopefully it will go right down to the wire.
Jurgen Klopp’s side are still in all four competitions and are six points behind Manchester City
And Liverpool have the Carabao Cup final with Chelsea this weekend. It is shaping up to become a huge few months for the club.
As we stand, Klopp’s trophy haul as manager is four. Two big ones, of course, and both have real historical significance. Massive achievements, especially the 2020 league title. Plus the Super Cup and Club World Cup.
These competitions all count towards the legacy of this team and this manager. But this squad have not won the two domestic cups.
The club last had the League Cup in their possession in 2012. The FA Cup even further, 2006 when I was there. One hundred per cent both of them matter greatly to Liverpool.
Full back Alexander-Arnold has tasted success in the Premier League and Champions League
He helped Liverpool to their sixth Champions League triumph in 2019 against Tottenham
Let’s go back to Trent’s target of one trophy a year. It might be a League Cup but that gives you some grace. Weirdly, it gives you a bit of breathing space. How mad is that?
Two years without winning anything would be a disaster. That is the cut-throat nature of this business at the very top. Two years ago, Pep Guardiola experienced how valuable the domestic cups are: City missed out on the league but still had Carabao Cup medals in their pockets.
Even the great Klopp needs trophies. The main two — the league and in Europe — are the ultimate prizes they want but he will realise what a big deal the League Cup is on Sunday. I’ve tried to get four tickets for Wembley and could only get my hands on two! People love it, there is a hunger for that match.
Liverpool facing Chelsea in a final will always be a big deal, no matter what competition.
Liverpool vs Chelsea will always be a big deal in a final, no matter what the competition is
My dad and I were given a little private tour of Anfield when I signed from Southampton and I’ll always remember it.
The size of what I was joining really hit home during that walk. The winning machine ingrained into the club over the glory years of decades earlier. The players that have wandered those corridors, the bulging trophy cabinet.
Luis Diaz will have experienced that recently when moving from Porto. He is a man who will be crowned Michael Edwards’ parting gift when the sporting director leaves in the summer.
Diogo Jota said Diaz was the best player in the Portuguese league by a distance — it wasn’t as if he was a hidden gem — so Liverpool have done exceptionally well to tie him down ahead of others.
Mohamed Salah is becoming immortal at Anfield and he makes his brilliance look so easy
He already looks at home alongside Sadio Mane and Mo Salah. There is not a great deal else left to say on Salah at this point as he became only the 10th man in the club’s history to reach 150 goals. Only Roger Hunt managed that in fewer games.
We take greatness for granted, the same with Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. We just expect their genius. With Salah, he has reached that level where brilliance is just the norm and brilliance looks so easy.
You know what he is doing but nobody can stop it. Watching him is a privilege and he is becoming immortal.
City’s style suits Conte’s Italian football
What a way to bounce back from three defeats by Tottenham and their superb manager Antonio Conte.
I was at the Southampton game the other week and they were awful. Add losing against Wolves to that and it was hard to imagine the performance at Manchester City. A huge result for them and that can happen when you possess world-class players. Because Spurs really do have serious quality.
Playing that proper Italian football, soaking up pressure and countering quickly, meant City’s style actually suited them.
Tottenham’s style of football meant Manchester City’s style actually played into their hands
Antonio Conte set his stars out to soak up pressure before countering their opponents at pace
The trick now is bossing games when the opposition sit in, getting that consistency in results because nobody has taken charge of fourth spot yet. It helps when Harry Kane is back to his best, doesn’t it? An incredible display at City.
Ruthless passing when he dropped deep and held it up, clinical in the box. Dejan Kulusevski complements Son Heung-min and Kane really nicely. He’s clever and tricky, can break in behind at pace.
Conte obviously needs backing if he is to get it right in the long term. They need wide players for the way in which the manager plays — ideally his wing backs have plenty of the ball. They are a bit short in certain areas but this is a positive step after such a horrible month.
What Ronaldo can learn from my robot!
I mentioned last week that I was doing some football coaching out in Dubai for Football Escapes and it’s been a great professional experience.
I have really enjoyed coaching the kids and my little girl — who has never taken to the game — could not stop playing. She kept coming over to me describing her goals.
All of them wanted to perfect the Cristiano Ronaldo ‘siu’ celebration. Now, I have a bit of knowledge in this area. I got them all doing the robot but no, it was all about Ronaldo.
Ronaldo has to learn that you have to save your celebrations and leave punters wanting more
I think this needs saying as a public service announcement: the key to a good celebration is not doing it too often. You don’t want anybody turning round saying: ‘Oh, here he goes again.’
I only did the robot three times on a pitch (more at weddings, obviously!) — in England friendlies against Hungary and Jamaica and, with Stoke, when I scored my 100th Premier League goal.
You have to save them. Leave the punters wanting more. Think on, Cristiano.