Mark Lawrenson says the Liverpool side he helped win the European Cup could teach Jurgen Klopp’s side a thing or two about the “dark arts” – but he admits the 1984 vintage could be blown away by the modern day team’s attack.
Liverpool will face Real Madrid in the Champions League final on Saturday hoping to emulate the five previous teams to bring Ol’ Big Ears back to Anfield.
In 1984, Lawrenson lined up at centre-back as Liverpool beat Roma on penalties after a 1-1 draw in the Stadio Olimpico.
Comparing that side to the team built by Klopp, Lawrenson has no doubt his team-mates were of a similar calibre, but that’s not to say he thinks they would have come out on top in a game against the modern Reds.
“People say the game is different now, but I would argue we had players in the 1984 European Cup winning team that were good enough to play in any era,” Lawrenson says.
“Never mind people saying players are fitter or faster or whatever it might be, because the players I played with at Liverpool would have adapted to the modern game and been stars if they were around now.
“Players like Alan Hansen, Graeme Souness, Kenny Dalglish and Ian Rush were world-class performers and they would have been stars now, no doubt about it.
“Imagine how much Kenny and Rushie would be worth not in the current transfer market…you couldn’t put a price on them.
“It is easy to say the modern-day players have taken the game to the next level, but I think other factors are just as significant.
“Players don’t drink alcohol any more, that is a factor, and they are fit all year round, which may not have been the case for some players when they went back to pre-season training after a summer holiday.
“The game has evolved on and off the pitch, but top players are top players and they will adapt.
“What I think we would have been is far more worldly-wise than Klopp’s side, but they might just have pulled us all over the place and smashed three goals past us before we could have started to use the dark arts to stop them.”
Reflecting on the 1984 victory, in which Liverpool triumphed over Roma in their own backyard, Lawrenson is in no doubt where it ranks among his achievements.
“It was the greatest moment of my career, simply because I could call myself a European champion,” he says.
“We had to overcome so much in that final. Roma were on home soil, the fans were hostile inside and outside of the group and yet we held firm, matched them in all aspects.
“That included stopping some of the antics they were trying to get up to to win the game by any route possible, and then coming out on top in penalties.
“Bruce Grobbelaar always gets the credit for our win in the penalty shoot-out as his spaghetti leg trick seemed to put the Roma players out of their stride, but look back on the video and he didn’t get near any of those penalties.
“Rome missed the target and Bruce was the hero, but that is what can happen on nights like this.
“It is often a once in a lifetime moment for a player to play in a Champions League final, and these Liverpool players have to grasp it on Saturday in Kiev.”
Lawrenson’s Liverpool side conceded just twice on their way to the final in 1984, whereas Klopp’s outfit have let in 13 – albeit having played four more matches.
But the former Republic of Ireland international suggests that is merely a reflection of how modern football has changed.
“Defending is not as important any more, it’s as simple as that,” he says. “Not so long ago, the aim of an away game in Europe was to keep a clean sheet and set the tie up for the second leg at home, but those days are gone.
“Now it is a case of you score a few, we score a few and we back ourselves to come out on top at the end of the tie. From a neutral’s perspective, it is great to watch and that’s why I expect we will get a sensational final in Kiev this weekend.
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“Look at the semi-final between Liverpool and Roma. One finished 5-2, the other was 4-2 and in the end, you needed calculators to work out the aggregate score, but what a spectacle it was.
“Full-backs pile forward whenever they want. If centre-backs can play a bit, they are encouraged to come out and attack when the moment is right and I hope this is the way football is going moving forward.
“Sadly, I think cautious football will be the vogue at the World Cup again this summer, but European club football this season has had a wondering, daring quality about it that has made it joyous to behold.”
And finally, a prediction on how this weekend’s final will pan out: “I just think something is set in stone for Liverpool to win this. I just feel they will come out and win this. They are ready for it.
“Never write off a side like Real Madrid and they have not won the last two Champions League titles without being very good at winning when it matters, but they are there to be beaten in my view.
“This Liverpool team are good enough to do that.”
Mark Lawrenson is a Paddy Power ambassador. To read more, go to news.paddypower.com
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