Liverpool have a lifelong fan in former player Lucas Leiva, who insists he was happy to see his former club win the Champions League despite missing out on the honour himself.

Lucas departed Anfield for Lazio in July 2017, bringing to an end his 10-year stay on Merseyside.

The Brazlian's only trophy in that decade was the 2011-12 League Cup, but following his switch to Italy the Reds reached consecutive Champions League finals.

Jurgen Klopp's side bounced back from a defeat to Real Madrid in 2018 to down Tottenham the following year, with Lucas an interested onlooker on both occasions.

"The year after I left, we lost in the final. I met the boys here in Rome [for the 2018 semi-final]. But, of course, [to win it] I was really happy, to be honest," he said on the latest episode of LFCTV's Legends in Lockdown.

"My son, my family, we are Liverpool fans now.

"It's a great achievement and I’m just really happy because so many people there I am still in touch with and still care a lot about.

"Of course, you always think, 'Had I waited one more year…' but, to be honest, I wasn't happy.

"When you are not happy it makes no sense so, to be honest, it's better I see Liverpool winning and I'm happy as well playing.

"As a fan I'm really happy. Of course, I would like to have won it but I won it as a fan, let's say."

Liverpool were dumped out of this season's competition by Atletico Madrid, but sit 25 points clear at the top of the Premier League.

No return date for the English top flight has been set since fixtures were halted in March amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Virgil van Dijk has revealed there was an "instant feeling" with Liverpool that led to him joining the club, with the move allowing him to make "big progress" in his career.

The Netherlands centre-back eventually arrived at Anfield from Southampton for a reported £75million in January 2018, the Reds having initially attempted to sign the player prior to the start of that season.

Van Dijk has blossomed since the switch, helping Liverpool reach back-to-back Champions League finals while they had moved to the brink of a first title in the Premier League era prior to the domestic season being suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Having also finished second to Lionel Messi for the Ballon d'Or last year, the 28-year-old is delighted with the way things have worked out since choosing to head to Merseyside.

"It was surreal for me to have to make a decision where to go to at the time. The instant feeling was there with Liverpool and they ticked most of my boxes," Van Dijk said in an interview with Jamie Redknapp for Sky Sports.

"When I went to Celtic I didn't realise how big they were at the time, but I had a feeling before I joined Liverpool how big Liverpool really were.

"You see all their games, I'd played there two times before I joined them, and over the course of time before I signed, I met so many people, Liverpool fans, that would say, 'I hope you sign for us'.

"It was special, and when things got finalised and you start playing, my debut against Everton was something I will never forget.

"How things went in the end; starting in the winter, reaching the Champions League final, the disappointment of losing it but then winning it the year after, coming very close to winning the Premier League and obviously now we are in a very fortunate position to hopefully get it over the line when things start moving again.

"We are making big progress as a team and I have definitely made big progress myself."

Van Dijk was a key member of the Liverpool team that conquered in Europe last season, Jurgen Klopp's side securing the Champions League trophy.

The former Celtic defender described the final in Madrid, where they defeated Premier League rivals Tottenham, as "surreal" – and he hopes to experience it again during his career.

"Winning the Champions League was surreal. I slept only one hour after, then we went straight back to Liverpool after that and then we went on the parade," Van Dijk said.

"I couldn't keep my eyes open; I was so tired, but it was an unbelievable night, something I will never forget.

"It was just incredible, from start to finish, it's something we all want to experience again, whether it's in the Premier League or next season in the Champions League.

"We will try and go again. Hopefully we can experience something similar in the future."

May 11 is a day that has contrasting FA Cup final fortunes for each side of the Manchester divide.

While for United it was a day to celebrate in 1996 after Alex Ferguson's men defeated the old enemy Liverpool, for City it was one to forget in 2013 as Wigan Athletic pulled off a huge shock.

Arsenal remember the date fondly as they were crowned champions of England 19 years to the day, while just 12 months ago Saracens were standing tall in Europe in what was a familiar story.

Below we take a look at some of the memorable sporting moments from May 11.


1991 – Golden Graham's Gunners lift league title

For the second time in the space of three seasons, Arsenal were crowned champions of England in the 1990-91 campaign.

Some 13 years before Arsene Wenger's 'Invincibles', George Graham's team lost just once and thumped Coventry City 6-1 in their final game of the season in a hectic campaign.

During the season, Tony Adams was jailed for drink-driving and the Gunners were docked two points for their part in a brawl at Manchester United in October 1990.

1996 – Cantona sinks the 'Spice Boys'

There is little love lost in the rivalry between Manchester United and Liverpool but in truth the 1996 FA Cup final was a forgettable game.

Eric Cantona settled the clash at Wembley, shooting through a crowd of players in the 85th minute to complete a league and cup double for the Red Devils.

While the action on the pitch did not live long in the memory, the sight of Liverpool's squad arriving in white Armani suits has lasted the test of time.

The funky attire did little to shelve the 'Spice Boys' moniker that had been given to the Liverpool squad by the British press.

2013 – Watson header sees Latics shock City

Seventeen years later and the blue half of Manchester suffered an upset FA Cup final defeat as City were downed 1-0 by Wigan Athletic.

City's expensively assembled cast were the overwhelming favourites having won the same trophy two years previously and been crowned Premier League champions in 2011-12.

But substitute Ben Watson headed home in the first minute of injury time to leave City – who had Pablo Zabaleta sent off six minutes from the end – little time to muster a response.

Just a couple of days later, City sacked boss Roberto Mancini.

2019 – Sarries reign in Europe again

The past few months have been particularly trying for Saracens, who will be relegated from the Premiership over a breach of salary-cap regulations.

But just 12 months ago, Sarries were celebrating a third European Rugby Champions Cup success in the space of four years thanks for a 20-10 triumph over Leinster.

Milan Skriniar has established himself as one of the best defenders in the world since moving to Inter from Sampdoria in 2017.

Manchester City, Manchester United and Barcelona have been linked to Skriniar.

Real Madrid are also reportedly interested amid uncertainty over captain and defender Sergio Ramos.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID INTERESTED IN SKRINIAR

Real Madrid are eyeing a move for Inter defender Milan Skriniar, according to Diario Gol.

With uncertainty over the future of captain Sergio Ramos, Madrid are looking to bolster their defence at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Napoli centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly and RB Leipzig's Dayot Upamecano have been linked but an exchange deal sending James Rodriguez plus cash to Inter could see Skriniar join Madrid.

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- Marca claims Madrid forward Gareth Bale is a priority for Newcastle United's prospective new owners. Newcastle have also reportedly identified former Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino as their next head coach and that could convince Bale to return to the Premier League.

Manchester City are monitoring Lyon sensation Houssem Aouar, says L'Equipe. The 21-year-old is valued at around £44million (€50m) by Lyon, who are prepared to cash in. Aouar has been linked to the likes of Liverpool and Juventus.

- Gazzetta dello Sport reports Napoli want at least £44m (€50m) for Hirving Lozano, who is attracting interest from Everton.

- The future of Zlatan Ibrahimovic could be decided in 20 days, according to Calciomercato. As Ibrahimovic prepares to return to Milan following the coronavirus pandemic, the Rossoneri want to define the 38-year-old's future as they plan ahead amid links to Madrid's Luka Jovic.

Chelsea will make a move for West Ham midfielder Declan Rice if they lose N'Golo Kante, says The Mirror. Madrid are reportedly tracking Kante.

- L'Equipe claims Manchester United are keeping tabs on PSG veteran Edinson Cavani. The soon-to-be free agent has been tipped to join Atletico Madrid, while an MLS switch is also an option for the veteran forward.

Liverpool star Virgil van Dijk is the best ever Premier League centre-back, according to Vincent Kompany.

Van Dijk, 28, has starred since his move from Southampton to Liverpool, for a reported £75million, in January 2018.

The Netherlands international finished second to Lionel Messi for the Ballon d'Or last year, having helped Liverpool win the Champions League.

Manchester City great Kompany, now the Anderlecht player-manager, believes Van Dijk is the best centre-back in Premier League history.

"I would bring it back to Virgil van Dijk," he told SPORF.

"It's a weird one because he hasn't been on the scene for as long as these names we mentioned – John Terry, Rio Ferdinand, these guys were there for a long, long time.

"But the signs he showed in his last few years, just makes it so obvious that if he would've been at the top, top level before that he would've been already further as well.

"From what I've seen in terms of having an impact on a team and a defender is never about himself, it's about his communication with other guys and how you make your team more solid.

"The Liverpool before Van Dijk and the one after him, it's a completely different setup and I'll give him that one because of that."

Liverpool held a 25-point lead atop the Premier League table when the season was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic in March.

RB Leipzig star Timo Werner would fit well at a club like Liverpool, according to former coach Ralf Rangnick.

Werner, 24, has been heavily linked with a move to the Premier League leaders after scoring 27 goals in 36 games for RB Leipzig this season.

Rangnick, the former Leipzig coach and now the head of sport and development at Red Bull, wants Werner to stay, but feels Liverpool would suit the forward.

"The league is less important, but the club, from a purely hypothetical point of view, I would better see him in good hands with a club that is not necessarily defined by ball possession football," he told BILD.

"Since Timo has made progress under Julian Nagelsmann, his most important weapons, however, are the quick switching movement and his powerful finish.

"Therefore, he would rather fit a club like Liverpool, which is similar to our style of play, but I would prefer him to stay here."

Werner has enjoyed four strong seasons at RB Leipzig, netting 88 times in 150 games for the club since joining from Stuttgart in 2016.

Rangnick said the Germany international had a decision to make over his future.

"In the end, it is up to Timo to decide what he wants to do. Here in Leipzig he knows what he has," he said.

"Here he can play Champions League again next year."

Rangnick added: "And Timo is someone who also needs trust. He only gets that if the respective trainer knows him and relies on him."

Bill Shankly laid the foundations, yet it was Bob Paisley who started Liverpool's love affair with the European Cup.

Shankly's former assistant steered the Merseyside club to their maiden success in the competition, way back in 1977. Just 12 months later and they had made history at Wembley, becoming the first English team to retain the trophy.

There have been difficult moments in a complicated relationship since, but the tournament – now known as the Champions League of course – remains special to the Reds.

Take a trip down memory lane with a recap of the six occasions when Liverpool ruled the roost in Europe, starting with a famous Italian job...

 

1977: NO PLACE LIKE ROME FOR REDS

Having won the UEFA Cup in 1975-76, Paisley's side went all the way in Europe's showpiece club tournament the following campaign.

The route to Rome was far from straightforward, though. Against both Trabzonspor and Saint-Etienne – the beaten finalists in 1976 – they had to overcome losing the first leg 1-0 on their travels, memorably beating the French side 3-1 on a famous night at Anfield to progress.

Borussia Monchengladbach were their opponents at the Stadio Olimpico in what was a repeat of the 1973 UEFA Cup final, the German side skippered by Berti Vogts and also including Jupp Heynckes.

Terry McDermott put Liverpool ahead and while Allan Simonsen levelled in the second half, goals from defensive duo Tommy Smith and Phil Neal, who converted from the penalty spot, secured a 3-1 triumph.

1978: KING KENNY RULES AT WEMBLEY

Liverpool had beaten Club Brugge to lift the UEFA Cup two years earlier, only this time their European Cup meeting was not over two legs.

The English club had once again beaten Monchengladbach in the competition, this time by a 4-2 aggregate scoreline in the last four, to secure a trip to the familiar surroundings of Wembley for the final.

Kevin Keegan had gone by this time but Paisley signed Kenny Dalglish as a replacement and the Scotsman was the hero against the Belgians, scoring the only goal of the game to give captain Emlyn Hughes the opportunity to once again lift the famous trophy.

A throughball from compatriot Graeme Souness allowed Dalglish to deftly lift a finish over the advancing Birger Jensen as the deadlock was broken just after the hour.

1981: ALAN THE KEY AS KENNEDY UNLOCKS MADRID

After failing to get beyond the first round in the previous two seasons, Paisley masterminded another triumph in 1981.

Alex Ferguson's Aberdeen were brushed aside to set up a semi-final clash with Bayern Munich. After a 0-0 draw at Anfield, Ray Kennedy's late strike secured a 1-1 result in the return fixture in Bavaria, a result good enough to see Liverpool progress on away goals.

Real Madrid awaited at the Parc des Princes, the Spanish heavyweights making their first appearance in the final of the tournament since 1966. A simmering contest rarely came to the boil, but was eventually settled in the 82nd minute.

Alan Kennedy – who had been an injury doubt beforehand – ran onto namesake Ray's throw-in down Liverpool's left flank and after evading one defender, fired the ball beyond Madrid goalkeeper Agustin Rodriguez from a tight angle.

1984: SPAGHETTI LEGS TIE UP ROMA IN SHOOT-OUT

Seven years after seeing off Monchengladbach in Rome, Liverpool - now under the guidance of Joe Fagan, promoted from within to replace the retired Paisley in 1983 - returned to the scene of their first European Cup success to face opponents with a distinct advantage.

Roma made it through to play in the final at their own ground in dramatic circumstances, overcoming a 2-0 first-leg deficit to eliminate Dundee United 3-2 on aggregate.

Phil Neal capitalised on a loose ball to put the Reds ahead early on against the Italians, only for Roberto Puzzo to equalise with a glancing header before the break.

With no further goals, even during extra time, penalties were required to decide the winners. Goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar's spaghetti legs trick seemingly worked to put off Francesco Graziani, allowing Alan Kennedy to slot in the winner as he once again delivered on the grandest stage.

2005: MILAN AND THE MIRACLE OF ISTANBUL

Having endured a fright at home to Olympiacos, only making it out of the group phase thanks to Steven Gerrard's late wonder strike, Rafa Benitez's squad overcame Chelsea in an all-English semi-final due to what will forever be remembered as a 'ghost goal' from Luis Garcia.

They had impressively shut out Jose Mourinho's title winners twice to go through, yet were cut open by a ruthless Milan during the first 45 minutes of the final in Istanbul.

Hernan Crespo struck twice to give the Italians a commanding 3-0 lead after Paolo Maldini's first-minute opener, yet a half-time substitution and a change in formation resulted in a stunning turnaround. With experienced holding midfielder Dietmar Hamann on for full-back Steve Finnan, Liverpool scored three times in a six-minute spell to draw level – the talismanic Gerrard inspiring a fightback for the ages with his emphatic header.

Jerzy Dudek spectacularly denied Andriy Shevchenko in extra time and then did the same again in the shoot-out, following on from earlier misses by Serginho and Andrea Pirlo. Somehow, against all the odds, the Reds had prevailed.

2019: RED REDEMPTION AS KLOPP ENDS TROPHY WAIT

Few saw Liverpool reaching a second successive Champions League final after they lost 3-0 away to Barcelona in the first leg of their last-four tie in 2019.

Yet despite being without Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah for the second meeting, Divock Origi – aided by a corner taken quickly – swept away the Spanish champions at Anfield, with Lionel Messi and company suffering an embarrassing 4-0 loss.

There were no such fireworks in Madrid, however, as a meeting with Premier League rivals Tottenham – who produced a stunning semi-final comeback of their own to knock out Ajax in Amsterdam – failed to live up to the hype.

Salah scored from the spot after Moussa Sissoko was adjudged to have handled inside the opening 30 seconds, while that man Origi cemented his cult-hero status with a late second off the bench. A year after losing to Real Madrid, Liverpool claimed the first trophy of Jurgen Klopp's reign in the Spanish capital.

The transformation of Barcelona under Johan Cruyff took an important step forward on May 10, 31 years ago.

The Catalans won their first trophy since the great Cruyff's return to his old club, beating Sampdoria to claim the Cup Winners' Cup.

Liverpool became European champions for the second time on this day in 1978 as they defended the trophy by defeating Club Brugge.

More recently, May 10 has brought about historic achievements from Stephen Curry and Rafael Nadal.

 

1978 - Liverpool defend European Cup

Liverpool became the first English team to retain the European Cup in 1978 – and they did so at the national stadium, too.

A solitary goal from Kenny Dalglish in the second half secured a 1-0 victory over Club Brugge at Wembley in a game that was a far cry from the thrilling 4-3 aggregate win for Liverpool against the same opponents in the UEFA Cup final two years earlier.

The Reds will not have cared too much, though. It was their second European Cup triumph, following on from 1977's 3-1 defeat of Borussia Monchengladbach, and they would go on to lift the trophy twice more in the next six years.

 

1989 - Barcelona win Cup Winners' Cup to kick-start Cruyff legacy

Johan Cruyff was a legend as a Barcelona player, but he returned as coach during a time of real strife at his old club.

Within a year, he had secured his first trophy in charge, as the Catalans claimed a 2-0 victory over Sampdoria to lift the 1988-89 Cup Winners' Cup.

Goals in each half from Julio Salinas and Luis Lopez Rekarte were enough to seal the win and kick-start the sustained success of Cruyff's fabled 'Dream Team'.

By the end of the 1993-94 season, Barca had won four LaLiga titles in a row, a Copa del Rey, three Supercopas de Espana, the UEFA Super Cup of 1992 and the European Cup of the same year, where they beat Sampdoria again.

 

2016 - Curry becomes first unanimous NBA MVP in history

Stephen Curry led the Golden State Warriors to a historic 73-9 in a regular season in which they seemed to break records at will, only to lose the Finals 4-3 to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Still, there was little argument against Curry being named MVP for the second year in a row. In fact, it seems there was no argument at all.

He swept all 131 first-place votes to become the first unanimous winner of the award in history, with Kawhi Leonard of the San Antonio Spurs a distant second.

2018 - Nadal breaks McEnroe record for consecutive set wins on single surface

Rafael Nadal is quite good at tennis on clay courts, if you were not aware.

Two years ago, he reminded everyone just how imperious he can be on the red dirt (if 12 French Open singles triumphs since 2005 was not proof enough).

By beating Diego Schwartzman 6-3 6-4 at the Madrid Open, Nadal broke the record for winning consecutive sets on a single surface. He reached 50 set wins in a row on clay, surpassing the 49 on carpet set by John McEnroe in 1984.

Remarkably, the run ended in rather meek fashion in his next match, as Dominic Thiem won their quarter-final 7-5 6-3.

Fabio Cannavaro has sympathised with Virgil van Dijk after the Liverpool star narrowly missed out on winning last year's Ballon d'Or award.

Barcelona forward Lionel Messi came out on top by just seven points in the voting to claim football's most prestigious individual honour for a sixth time.

A defender has not won the award since Cannavaro did so in 2006 in the wake of Italy's victory at the World Cup.

Cannavaro felt Van Dijk was extremely unfortunate not to triumph after the huge impact he had on Liverpool's backline on their way to Champions League glory in 2019.

He believes defenders start at a disadvantage when compared to attacking stars like Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

"I messaged Van Dijk to congratulate him on last season but, as a defender, it is difficult to win," Cannavaro said to Sky Sports.

"You don't just need to have a great performance and to win trophies.

"You need to be lucky not to have a striker like Ronaldo and Messi in front of you. This is the key. If you have Messi or Ronaldo you start the game 1-0 up."

Liverpool had three of the top five players in last year's Ballon d'Or voting, with Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah also faring well.

"Liverpool had an amazing season and they deserve to win and celebrate this league," added Cannavaro, referring to the Reds' position at the Premier League summit.

"But we are in this [coronavirus] situation and it's a shame for them.

"I respect Salah a lot. He's changed a lot at Liverpool. For the last three years, he's been like a machine. 

"He's the player every coach would like to train because he can defend and attack and he leaves everything on the field, he never gives up."

Cannavaro, who is in charge of Guangzhou Evergrande, hopes to manage in the Premier League one day.

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp and Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola are among those he is impressed by.

"I watch every game in the Premier League and I like the ambiance and culture of football in England," he said.

"I am in China to try to improve my system and idea within football. I am at one of the best Asian clubs and of course, in the future, I'd like to try one experience in Europe. 

"I like the Klopp mentality but at the same time, I like the Pep culture about football because always we need intensity with and without the ball. 

"But you need to control the game and try to win. I have my system and I hope one day you will see."

Kalidou Koulibaly's future remains a talking point and Liverpool are reportedly in "pole position" to sign the Napoli defender.

Koulibaly, 28, has been linked with a move amid reported interest from several of Europe's biggest clubs.

And it seems a Koulibaly-Virgil van Dijk central defensive pairing is getting closer at Anfield.

 

TOP STORY – LIVERPOOL IN 'POLE POSITION' TO SIGN KOULIBALY

Liverpool are in pole position to sign Koulibaly after Paris Saint-Germain withdrew their interest, according to Le 10 Sport.

With Manchester United having also reportedly withdrawn from the race, Jurgen Klopp's side and Newcastle United – pending takeover – could land the defender.

Koulibaly is contracted at Napoli until 2023 and it will reportedly take an offer of £88.4million (€100m) to land the defender.

ROUND-UP

- PSG do seemingly want to hold onto Mauro Icardi beyond the end of his loan from Inter. La Gazzetta dello Sport reports PSG are willing to offer Julian Draxler as part of a deal for Icardi, who joined with a €70m purchase option.

- Staying at PSG and the Ligue 1 giants are looking to sign Brescia midfielder Sandro Tonali, according to Le 10 Sport. Tonali has been linked heavily with a move to Juventus.

- t seemed Barcelona and Juventus were preparing for a swap deal. But Goal reports an exchange involving Barca midfielder Arthur and Juventus' Miralem Pjanic is off, with the LaLiga giants also wanting money for the 23-year-old Brazil international.

- Dries Mertens is drawing plenty of attention with his contract at Napoli expiring at the end of the season. Mundo Deportivo reports PSG have joined Atletico Madrid, Inter and Chelsea in a fight for the forward.

- Also with Inter, the Serie A club are still considering forward Jonathan David, according to CalcioMercato. David, 20, has scored 23 goals in 40 games for Gent this season.

- With his loan deal at Roma ending, Chris Smalling looks set to return to Manchester United. Corriere dello Sport reports Roma are considering Liverpool defender Dejan Lovren and Barcelona's Jean-Clair Todibo, who is on loan at Schalke, to replace Smalling.

Arsene Wenger admitted he still worried about Arsenal and the former manager hopes Mikel Arteta can restore the club's style.

Arteta replaced Unai Emery at the helm in December last year, with Wenger having retired at the end of the 2017-18 season.

But the 70-year-old still keeps a close eye on his former club and said he hoped Arteta could bring back Arsenal's possession-based style.

"I worry about the club still a lot and I watch all of the games," Wenger told talkSPORT on Friday.

"I believe there is a culture in the way to play football at Arsenal that I want to be respected.

"And I hope Mikel can get that back."

Arsenal were ninth in the Premier League when the season was suspended in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Liverpool were 25 points clear at the top and Wenger feels Jurgen Klopp's men are champions, regardless of whether the season is finished or not.

"Jurgen has done extremely well because that club has waited 30 years for this title," the Frenchman said.

"And when you think they have such a massive difference to the second team, Manchester City, as well – 25 points, it's absolutely massive.

"No matter what England will decide, Liverpool are champions in everyone's head, I think."

Bojan Krkic believes Barcelona would be better off signing Liverpool forward Roberto Firmino than Argentinian target Lautaro Martinez.

Inter striker Martinez has been strongly linked with a switch to Camp Nou at the end of the season, where he would team up with international colleague Lionel Messi.

But former Barca star Bojan suspects Martinez does not have the qualities that Barca require, given their shape and playing style.

And he has warned signing another out-and-out striker could prove an error, after the difficulty Antoine Griezmann has encountered in settling following his move from Atletico Madrid.

With Luis Suarez established as Barcelona's main target man, when fit, Griezmann has been forced into a wide role.

Writing on Spanish website Sport, Bojan said Martinez was well suited to Inter's counter-attacking game, and stressed he was an "excellent" player.

But he also expressed doubt over the Barcelona link, saying: "Inter don't usually take the initiative and that makes me think that Lautaro could occupy an area at Barca that is naturally not his. [That is] something that would certainly be a shame.

"If you allow me a name, I would bet more on Firmino: a link player, with a lot of presence and great mobility. I do not intend that this reflection be interpreted as a refusal to sign the Argentine, but I understand that his profile must be analysed very well because it would be unforgivable that, as happened with Griezmann, we sign a striker to put him on the wing and then complain that it doesn't work.

"That cannot happen again because, although it seems obvious, a nine is a nine. That is his natural habitat and to move him from there is to waste his talent. If Barca need a nine, sign him, but do it to really use him."

Brazil international Firmino joined Liverpool from Hoffenheim in 2015 and signed a long-term contract extension in April 2018, going on to help Jurgen Klopp's team win the Champions League last season and top the Premier League this term.

The Champions League delivered drama in droves last season.

With the 2019-20 competition on hold for now, it is the perfect opportunity to remember just how crazy Europe's premier competition became 12 months ago.

In a run of games from early March to early May, the Champions League churned out a succession of classic contests that will live long in the memory.

Here we look back at three months where Europe's grown-up football tournament started behaving like a devil-may-care teenager and was all the better for it.

March 5, 2019: Real Madrid 1 Ajax 4 (3-5 agg)

Ajax's team of fearless young stars produced one of the great Champions League campaigns.

Despite their impressive display in a 2-1 first-leg defeat, nobody really seemed to think Erik ten Hag's side could turn things around in the last 16 at the Santiago Bernabeu. Sergio Ramos certainly did not – he earned a booking to avoid the risk of a quarter-final ban, earning an extra game suspension from UEFA in the process.

In the absence of their captain, Madrid completely capitulated to their fearless and thrilling opponents.

Hakim Ziyech and David Neres put the visitors 2-0 up after only 18 minutes and it was 3-0 just after the hour mark thanks to the inspired Dusan Tadic.

Marco Asensio got a goal back, but Lasse Schone's free-kick beat Thibaut Courtois and sent Madrid crashing out. It was the first time they had ever been knocked out after winning the first leg of a Champions League tie.

March 6, 2019: Paris Saint-Germain 1 Manchester United 3 (3-3 agg, United won on away goals)

A day on from Ajax's thrashing of Madrid, Manchester United made history at the Parc des Princes.

No side had ever won a knockout tie after trailing 2-0 from a first leg at home and with 10 senior players missing, including the banned Paul Pogba, United's chances looked slim.

Romelu Lukaku scored just two minutes in, though, and despite Juan Bernat's equaliser on the night, Lukaku struck again after a Gianluigi Buffon error to make it 2-1.

As the game crept towards second-half injury time, Diogo Dalot's shot struck Presnel Kimpembe's arm and the referee awarded a penalty after a lengthy VAR review. Marcus Rashford scored it, United progressed, and the clamour for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to be given the permanent manager's job grew louder.

April 17, 2019: Manchester City 4 Tottenham 3 (4-4 agg, Spurs win on away goals)

Tottenham scored through Son Heung-min in a tense, frenetic first leg. Crucially, as it turned out, City did not. They were not about to make the same mistake as Raheem Sterling thrashed an early opener past Hugo Lloris at the Eithad Stadium.

Son responded with two superb finishes of his own, leaving Pep Guardiola's side with a mountain to climb. They duly began to scale it. Bernardo Silva scored, Sterling scored again. There had only been 21 minutes played.

Something faintly resembling a normal football match broke out and Sergio Aguero finished emphatically to give City the lead in the tie for the first time in the 59th minute.

In a sight Ajax are now familiar with, Spurs looked spent until Fernando Llorente bundled them back into the lead on away goals. That advantage ultimately remained, but only after Sterling thought he had completed his hat-trick. Bedlam ensued until VAR showed Aguero was fractionally offside during the build-up.

May 7, 2019: Liverpool 4 Barcelona 0 (4-3 agg)

Fresh from netting a late winner at Newcastle United the weekend before, Divock Origi allowed the Liverpool faithful to dream by poaching his maiden Champions League goal in the seventh minute. Still, overturning the 3-0 advantage Barca had brought to Merseyside looked a tall order.

Jurgen Klopp needed Alisson to be on form as he saved from Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, before another unlikely hero emerged.

Andy Robertson's injury forced James Milner to left-back and Georginio Wijnaldum into the fray at half-time. By the hour, the Dutch midfielder had Liverpool level thanks to two goals in 122 delirious seconds.

Origi had the final word thanks to Trent Alexander-Arnold's quick thinking from a 79th-minute corner, leaving Barcelona and Messi crestfallen.

May 8, Ajax 2 Tottenham 3 (3-3 agg, Spurs win on away goals)

As they did at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, Ajax made a smooth start and led through their inspirational captain Matthijs de Ligt in the fifth minute.

Ziyech emphatically made it 2-0 on the night and 3-0 on aggregate, but Lucas changed the complexion of the contest as he was supported by Dele Alli's intelligent running from midfield and Llorente's robust accompaniment in attack.

Ziyech hit the post and Spurs centre-back Jan Vertonghen hit the bar. Amsterdam held its breath and Lucas proved to be the coolest man in the stadium in the 96th minute, sending his side through to face Liverpool in Madrid, where the Reds ultimately prevailed.

A year on from Liverpool's stunning Champions League win over Barcelona, Stats Perform's Russell Greaves recalls a memorable night at Anfield.

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There are banners promoting Liverpool football club adorning lampposts in the streets around Anfield that display prominently the words 'dream' and 'believe'.

A big line runs through the word 'dream', leaving 'believe' to stand proudly as a slogan for the club and their fans.

On May 7, 2019, Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool believed in something that many would not have dared to dream of, and willed it into existence.

From a 3-0 first-leg deficit against the mighty Barcelona, the Reds produced a comeback for the ages to secure a spot in the Champions League final for the second season running.

Klopp had seemingly already prepared himself for a semi-final exit, conceding that any side would "have to be perfect" to beat Barcelona.

If their 4-0 win did not quite hit that lofty mark, it was simply because perfection is obtainable only in dreams. This was reality.

The scale of the task facing the hosts was so great that their manager had planned for the best way to lose the tie. In his pre-match media conference, Klopp suggested they would at least strive to "fail in the most beautiful way".

He also called for a "football party" on Merseyside, and outside the ground before kick-off many were happy to oblige in providing the revelry.

Victory over Newcastle United in the relentless Premier League title race had helped supporters digest the disappointment of the Camp Nou result and there was an atmosphere around Anfield prior to the game that suggested they would enjoy the occasion, despite the apparently insurmountable odds.

There was not, however, any real sense of what was about to happen. Nobody outside of the home dressing room could genuinely bring themselves to the point of believing that a miracle would unfold on this night.

This was, after all, Barcelona. This was Lionel Messi. One goal from the much-vaunted LaLiga champions would have made the impossible somehow even less possible.

And even for an unhinged optimist, the absence of Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino for a Liverpool side who needed goals, and plenty of them, certainly made the improbable less probable.

All of this meant that the only sensible approach for Liverpool fans was to allow for a little flicker of hope and see how far that would take them before it was inevitably extinguished.

It took seven minutes for Divock Origi's opener to turn that flicker of hope into the embers of belief. In two second-half minutes, amid the tinder-box atmosphere of Anfield, Georginio Wijnaldum's double set alight those embers.

It does not take quite such a leap of faith to believe in something when it is happening in front of your eyes.

But that third goal had only levelled the aggregate scores. Extra time awaited, maybe penalties. Then again, Barca only needed that solitary strike to force Liverpool into requiring another two.

The Reds stood on the brink of either their greatest comeback, or what would be perhaps their most agonising near-miss.

With Anfield rocking, Barcelona reeling and Liverpool utterly dominant, Trent Alexander-Arnold's quick-thinking brilliance from a corner allowed Origi to add the finishing touch.

After the mayhem of the celebrations, which even a neutral might have got a little swept up in, a glance at one of the scoreboards displayed the absurd truth: Liverpool 4-0 Barcelona.

You better believe it.

Common Goal reached a milestone on Tuesday – 150 players or managers signed up to the charity movement.

Manchester City and Scotland star Caroline Weir made the pledge to commit one per cent of her income to sporting charities.

Led by Manchester United's Juan Mata and Street Football World, Common Goal was launched in 2017 – a project used to fund charities across the globe, which has raised more than €2million.

Mata, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, RB Leipzig head coach Julian Nagelsmann, UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin, Bayern Munich forward Serge Gnabry, Juventus defender Giorgio Chiellini and Borussia Dortmund's Mats Hummels are among the high-profile footballers to have joined the cause, while Danish outfit FC Nordsjaelland are the first professional club involved.

But it is the women – the likes of Weir, United States female stars Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe – female leadership and the new generation, led by 16-year-old Real Madrid youth-team player Bruno Iglesias and Wolfsburg's Xaver Schlager, shining through.

And while Common Goal has come a long way since its launch, the organisation is not resting on its laurels as it tackles the "greatest social challenges of our time" and eyes a collective effort.

"We reached 150 and it's a female, a 24-year-old, playing for Manchester City, she already has more than 70 caps for her country, she is doing her degree, she is a very smart woman, an extraordinary footballer," Ben Miller, one of the founding team of Common Goal, told Stats Perform. "It's very significant but again it's a woman or the female leadership that's shining through Common Goal.

"There's a huge diversity of players in this team of professionals and it's really reflective of football. Yes, Chiellini, Hummels, Gnabry and Klopp are there, and Casey Stoney, Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe but there's players from second and third divisions and that's what it's like.

"Football is like a triangle, not many are at the top of it. Interestingly in the female membership, most of the women are at the top of their profession, at the top of the triangle. If you look at the male membership, there are a significant number of high-profile players who have shown a great deal of faith in the model.

"If we work as a team, we can actually have a significant contribution to making the world a better place through football itself, with a mechanism which is transparent and high-impact and aligned to the UN sustainable development goal, so it has a clear track towards 2030. We're all very ambitious to see this work but we have a way to go before we reach a tipping point, where it really becomes a normal thing to do if you're an athlete."

"To start with a single player, and now it's 150, yes, it's amazing," he added. "But, one per cent of what the football industry generated last year would be €400million and there are a lot of football players. I'm happy but we have to continue to grow this and explain how simple it is. It's not one thing or the other. The way this will work is the power of the collective. I'm happy but we still have a long way to go and I think these landmarks are important because they give us a boost to keep going.

At a time of crisis as the coronavirus pandemic wreaks havoc globally, Common Goal has set up the COVID-19 Response Fund – supported by the UEFA Foundation for Children.

"It's not reinventing the wheel, it's using the existing network of football-based community projects that are in the heart of the communities that will be hardest hit by COVID-19," Miller said. "Caroline Weir for example, her donation will go towards the response fund. Existing members, who are coming up to the end of the year and will do another donation, they can choose to put that in the COVID-19 fund as well. You don't have to be a Common Goal member to participate, anyone can donate.

"The idea is to give immediate response but to give the mid- to long-term support that the organisations will need to re-establish themselves. All the programs are on hold, people need access to food and medicine, survival basics… help empower the young boys and girls."

Common Goal, though, is not without its challenges amid cynicism and a lack of trust within the football world towards charity organisations. Klopp made the pledge in front of a star-studded crowd during The Best FIFA Football Awards in September. However, no one made contact or wanted to find out about Common Goal following the announcement in Milan.

But with 90 per cent of donations going directly to charities, compared to 50 per cent in a lot of cases with other charities, Miller has faith in what Common Goal is building, thanks to its members – with several players donating significantly more than one per cent.

"You have a 16-year-old kid [Iglesias], who has made the decision, not to wait until he gets in Real Madrid's first team and the senior Spain team but he is going to do it now. He is going to make this part of his journey, no matter where he goes," Miller continued.

"This just gives me an incredible amount of faith in the future, that this new, younger generation of players who are embracing this from the word go. They're not going to wait until they reach a certain level and allow people to make these kinds of decisions for them. Because making this decision is a fundamental part of who they are as a human being."

Miller added: "It's the first time in our lifetime that a crisis that's happening in the real world has actually penetrated the bubble of elite football players. They've never been affected by anything before. The ones that are in touch are still in touch of what's happening – they're aware that there are 70 million displaced people because of the refugee crisis. But a lot simply aren't and it's not a criticism to them, it's just the world in which they live, it's very insular.

"We're all in the same boat. We're all the same – that's the fundamental message. If I don't care about you, you don't care about me, we don't care about what's happening in Australia, Spain or the UK, then we don't stand much of a chance of tackling any of the crises we face."

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