Europa League: Silverware means more than gold to Liverpool
A place in the Champions League may be at stake but Jurgen Klopp's side are in Basel to win a trophy above all else
Liverpool face Sevilla in the Europa League final tonight with twin ambitions: to win the Europa League and to secure a place in the Champions League.
The two prizes go hand-in-hand but scratch very different itches for the modern football club, says Henry Winter in The Times. But he is in no doubt that Liverpool should go into the game thinking about silverware rather than gold.
"Club accountants, and owners, may focus on qualification for the Champions League as the benchmark for a successful season but no open-top parades are planned on English streets for finishing second, third or fourth," he says
"In recent years, as broadcasting bullion courses through the bountiful game, the culture of football has changed... [Liverpool] have a chance to confront that sad, burgeoning reality in the land of the rammed bank vaults," he adds.
"Liverpool have always embodied the game's more important values: team before self, glory above all."
It is a message echoed by manager Jurgen Klopp and James Milner who, in the absence of Jordan Henderson, will be captain at the St Jakob Park in Basel.
"It is a wonderful story to tell your grandchildren when you are old about being a Liverpool legend," said Klopp. "You win it, you get the trophy, you are then a European champion and you have to work with it."
Being a European champion means a lot on Merseyside, says Ian Ladyman in the Daily Mail. The Europa League may be the continent's second-tier competition but success in Europe has always been "fundamental to Liverpool's esteem and sense of self-worth".
"Despite all that has happened – or not happened – at Anfield during the years of the Premier League, Liverpool's record in Europe continues to set them apart in England. It matters to them.
"A win against the holders Sevilla could take Klopp much further forward in terms of his standing and his prospects at Anfield than perhaps even he realises. Managers who win European trophies for Liverpool are revered."
That sentiment is echoed by former captain Steven Gerrard in the Daily Telegraph. Victory would mean "a place in history for all those players and the sense they are at the beginning of a new era under one of the greatest coaches of his generation".
Failure would not just be a blow, it would shift the focus onto the trimmings that they will miss out on. Defeat would mean "not just another year without a trophy, but no European competition at all next season".
That outcome would "have an impact on the quality of players Klopp can attract, the financial rewards for the club and the morale of the squad... there would be a hangover. There always is when you lose a game of this magnitude."