Liverpool drew on ‘heartache’ of past failures to triumph, says Sturridge

• Lessons learned from European final defeats, explains Sturridge
• Striker reveals players’ meeting before Champions League final

Daniel Sturridge has described how the “heartache” of past European final defeats proved an invaluable lesson for Liverpool’s Champions League triumph in Madrid.

The Liverpool striker, who will leave as a free agent this summer, has witnessed several cup final defeats and Premier League title near-misses during six and a half years at Anfield. He admits the experiences have left a lasting pain but also helped Liverpool to prepare for Saturday’s final and maintain composure when put under pressure by Tottenham.

The 2016 Europa League final, when Liverpool led Sevilla 1-0 at half-time thanks to Sturridge but lost 3-1, was mentioned during the interval on Saturday before Jürgen Klopp secured the first trophy of his Anfield reign.

Sturridge said: “The heartache never goes away – you always think about it. People were saying: ‘If we win we won’t think about it,’ but you do. You always think: ‘What if?’ All the things when you lost, you take them into a game because you’ve learnt from them: all the pain, all the heartache you had prior to that.

“And when you come into a game like this final, you go: ‘OK, cool.’ You come in at half-time and you talk different. You’re like: ‘OK, remember what happened last time guys. Let’s do this.’ When we got in at half-time everyone started speaking about how they felt we needed to improve for the second half. In the Europa League we were 1-0 up and we lost 3-1.

“We had a long talk as a group of players on Wednesday. We said: ‘If we go one up how do we play? If we go one down how do we play?’ It’s about being prepared for everything. That was important, just the players hashing it out. We haven’t had those conversations before. I feel like maybe before the Europa League final we didn’t prepare as well. We’d had two [European finals] before this year so we have learned much more.

“When you lose you think about anything and everything you could have done right and what you did wrong. You learn from that and that’s what we did on Saturday.”

Sturridge has two Champions League winner’s medals despite being an unused substitute against Spurs and in the 2012 final for Chelsea against Bayern Munich. He explained why they are deserved.

“I contributed and even the players who haven’t played a minute,” said the striker, who made seven Champions League appearances this season and scored in the group win against Paris Saint-Germain. “There are guys who have been on the bench and haven’t played a single minute but have been a part of it: from training, to acting like the opposition that we have been playing against, to doing a job, to sacrificing themselves and the way they play just to do a job on the training field.”

The 29-year-old declined to discuss his future because he did not want to take attention from Liverpool’s sixth European Cup triumph. He said: “What’s important now is celebrating something so momentous and something we were striving and working for for a long time.” The victory means Liverpool will play in the Club World Cup in Qatar in December.

Joe Gomez, meanwhile, believes the possibilities for Liverpool are unlimited because victory in the Champions League demonstrates to every big-name player that Anfield under Klopp is the place to be. He said: “That’s what we all know. We are here together to stay and I think the boundaries are limitless. We have a foundation which will stay and only get stronger so all our belief in what we can do is at an all-time high.”

Gomez’s substitute appearance in the final marked a fitting end to a season in which the 22-year-old excelled before breaking a leg at Burnley in December. He said: “I’ve had some tough times and it’s a battle to come back from it but I’ve never doubted myself and I never will.”


Andy Hunter

The GuardianTramp

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