Revisiting Liverpool’s second string XI Brendan Rodgers sent to the Bernabeu in 2014

Liverpool and Real Madrid have met a fair few times in their storied histories. When they have faced off, the occasion has usually been befitting of two European powerhouses.

Someone didn’t give Brendan Rodgers that memo back in November 2014, whereby he infamously made seven changes to his starting XI and appeared to meekly accept a Champions League group stage exit.

The second-string Reds didn’t disgrace themselves, only losing 1-0 at The Bernabeu, while the first team had previously been outclassed with a 3-0 defeat to the eventual champions at Anfield. We’ve taken a look at what became of that Liverpool team.

GK: Simon Mignolet

One of few first-teamers on the teamsheet that night, it was just as well Rodgers went with Mignolet ahead of Brad Jones, given who he was coming up against.

The Belgium international faced plenty of criticism over the years at Liverpool, much of it justified, but he did well to keep the score down in the Spanish capital.

He made eight saves, while Cristiano Ronaldo – who was on a run of scoring in 13 straight games and was vying to move level with Raul’s tally of 71 Champions League goals – had five shots on target but couldn’t find a way past Mignolet.

The keeper had been usurped by Loris Karius and sat on the bench the next time they faced Los Blancos in the 2018 final. He was Alisson’s back-up when they won it a year later and then returned to Belgium with Club Brugge. He remains there today, outlasting Scott Parker.

RB: Javier Manquillo

The Madrid-born right-back had spent some time on Real’s books as a youth, before making the switch to Atletico, but couldn’t ever find a way into Diego Simeone’s team.

Manquillo made just 10 Premier League appearances during his season-long loan from Atleti and was subsequently shipped out to Marseille and Sunderland before signing on a permanent deal with Newcastle in 2017.

Now into his sixth season with the Magpies, he’s struggled to tie down a consistent spot, in and out of the team as a handy squad player.

CB: Martin Skrtel

The Slovakian centre-half made over 300 appearances for the Reds, between 2008 and 2016, but the only silverware he had to show for it was the 2012 League Cup.

Having agonisingly missed out on the Premier League title in 2013-14, he eventually did win a league title (to add to the one he won with Zenit in 2006-07) as a 35-year-old veteran in Istanbul Basaksehir’s Super Lig triumph in 2019-20.

Skrtel left the club in January 2021 after suffering an Achilles tendon rupture and saw out his career with one last stint back in Slovakia with Spartak Trnava.

CB: Kolo Toure

A cult hero wherever he went, Toure reunited with Rodgers at Celtic in 2016-17 and saw out the final season of his playing career with a Scottish Premiership title.

The pair’s relationship continued on for years. The former centre-half started coaching during his time in Scotland and followed Rodgers to Leicester, where he served as an assistant before leaving to take on a short-lived and wildly unsuccessful stint of Championship side Wigan.

READ: A celebration of Kolo Toure: Likeable, hilarious, and also very, very good

LB: Alberto Moreno

Somewhat erratic, Moreno retained the trust of Rodgers’ successor, Jurgen Klopp, for a surprisingly long time.

Even after Liverpool signed Andy Robertson from Hull in 2017, the Spaniard continued to get the nod at left-back, and it was only after he suffered an ankle injury in the December of that campaign that he dropped behind in the pecking order.

With Robertson flying, Moreno could barely get a look-in during the final 18 months of his contract, but he did leave with a Champions League winners medal before joining Villarreal on a free transfer in 2019.

Moreno is into his fourth season with the Yellow Submarine, with whom he won the Europa League – with a victory over Manchester United in the final – in 2021. 

CM: Emre Can (Philippe Coutinho, ’75)

Signed in the summer of 2014 as Liverpool reinvested the Luis Suarez funds, Can went on to become a stalwart in midfield during the early years of Klopp’s reign.

But his final season on Merseyside was impacted by injuries. After a couple of months on the sidelines, his final appearance for the Reds was eight minutes off the bench after Karius’ howler gave Real Madrid a 3-1 lead in the 2018 Champions League final in Kyiv.

Juventus snapped Can up on a free transfer. He won a Scudetto during Max Allegri’s final year in Turin, but struggled for opportunities under Maurizio Sarri and went on to join Dortmund in 2020. He’s enjoyed a resurgence of late and recently scored a wonderfully shit halfway-line goal.

Coutinho returned to Spain in January 2018 when Barcelona and their deep pockets came calling. The Brazil international could never justify his £142million price tag and subsequently returned to the Premier League with Aston Villa, where he’s had his moments but struggled to be the player he was at Liverpool.

CM: Lucas Leiva (Steven Gerrard, ’69)

An undisputed Kop hero, Lucas left Merseyside after 10 years and 347 appearances in the summer of 2017.

He went on to enjoy a similar level of popularity at Lazio, where he’s actually won more silverware, with a Coppa Italia in 2019 and a pair of Super Cups, and he was also named their player of the year two years running.

Lucas finally left the Olimpico last summer and now – at the age of 36 – is still going, back in Brazil, with boyhood club Gremio.

After hanging up his boots in 2016, Gerrard moved into management and ended Rangers’ 10-year wait for the Scottish Premiership title before a less successful stint at Aston Villa. It will be interesting to see what’s next for the legendary Liverpool captain’s coaching career.

READ: Seven reasons why Lucas will always be loved by Liverpool fans and players

RW: Joe Allen

Allen showed his technical ability in fits and starts during his four years on Merseyside, having reunited with his old Swansea boss Rodgers. But he never quite nailed down a spot in the starting XI, especially under Klopp, and left in 2016.

Shortly after leaving, Allen enjoyed a resurgence, as one of Wales’ standout players in their run to the semi-finals at the 2016 Euros. During his first two years at Stoke, he registered eight goals and eight assists, a stark contrast to four goals and one assist in four Premier League campaigns with Liverpool.

But no top-flight club moved for his signature after the Potters’ relegation in 2018 and he’s been in the Championship ever since. Allen left Stoke to return to first love Swansea City last summer.

AMC: Lazar Markovic (Raheem Sterling, ’69)

The Madrid defeat was early in Markovic’s Liverpool career when there was still hope that the once highly-rated Benfica starlet would turn out to be the business.

Instead, he’d become emblematic of their disastrous 2014 transfer window, eventually released after seeing out his five-year contract with five unspectacular loans away, rejoining his hometown club Partizan Belgrade in 2019.

He’s currently at Turkish Super Lig club Trabzonspor, on loan from Gaziantep. Sounds about right.

The way Liverpool reinvested after selling Coutinho for a club-record fee proved a game-changing masterstroke. The same can’t be said for how they spent the £75million they’d received for Luis Suarez.

Sterling made an acrimonious exit a few months later, joining Manchester City in a £49million move. The winger enjoyed lots of success at the Etihad, winning five Premier League titles, five League Cups and one FA Cup during his seven seasons there. Last summer he became a member of the small army of new recruits signed by Chelsea.

LW: Adam Lallana

Signed from Southampton in a £25million deal in 2014, Lallana was making just his 12th appearance for the Reds.

The midfielder remained a key player early on in Jurgen Klopp’s time in charge, only for a string of injury problems to force him down the pecking order.

He lifted the Premier League title in his final season at Anfield before joining Brighton on a free transfer in 2020 in search of regular first-team football.

ST: Fabio Borini

Something of a fan favourite in Sunderland thanks to always stepping up in Tyne-Wear derbies, Borini did well during an initial loan away from Liverpool and went on join the Black Cats permanently in 2015.

He managed just two goals as David Moyes’ Sunderland finished bottom of the Premier League in 2016-17, but AC Milan saw enough to move for a loan with an obligation to buy.

Borini left the San Siro for Hellas Verano in January 2020 and is now with Turkish side Fatih Karagumruk.

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