“That can’t continue,” squealed Jamie Carragher after Liverpool had been eased out of the Champions League by a Real Madrid side that remained firmly in second gear all night.
“The problem they have got in that position is that they’ve never had real competition for Trent Alexander-Arnold and one of the reasons why is because he has been so good and you think ‘Who do you buy and how much do you spend for someone who is not really going to play every week?’
“Liverpool are at the point now where they have got to go and buy a right-back. It’s Jurgen Klopp’s decision in terms of how good that right-back is and how much he costs, but that lad needs serious competition.”
What Alexander-Arnold also needed was a blanket, a warm cup of tea and soothing words from a medical professional after being ragdolled by the imperious Luka Modric.
With the game meandering towards a forgettable stalemate, with Liverpool looking spooked from their collapse in the first leg, Modric took it upon himself to enliven proceedings.
After receiving the ball on the left flank, with Alexander-Arnold lurking nearby with the vague curiosity of a 1920s farmer investigating a UFO, the Croatia international casually flicked the ball over his opponent.
By the time Alexander-Arnold had rediscovered his bearings, Modric had skipped away down the wing and delivered a zinging cross into the penalty area.
The Liverpool defence, resembling a flock of pigeons congregating by a pond, flapped powerlessly as Federico Valverde powered a free header over the bar.
As Modric trotted back into position for the goal-kick, Alexander-Arnold said nothing. But his face depicted a man that was busy questioning every life decision that led him to this humiliation.
Modric is unreal… what an assist that would've been! pic.twitter.com/Jkgudq7BSe
— M•A•J (@Ultra_Suristic) March 15, 2023
“We’re a modern team,” Carlo Ancelotti said afterwards. “Football nowadays demands collective commitment, individual quality, energy and experience.
“Modric and Kroos played well today. The team could have been afraid to have the ball to avoid their press, but they did well and we controlled the game.
“The atmosphere is created by the players,” the Madrid boss added. “The humility of the veterans is the key, they have no ego. The youngsters are patient, knowing they have players with fantastic careers ahead of them.
“But Modric and Kroos don’t play because of the careers they’ve had, they play because they deserve it.”
The 37-year-old’s contract expires at the end of the season. In the past, Los Blancos have been hesitant to give veteran players long-term contracts, with extensions usually limited to one or two seasons for players over 30 due to age-related decline.
Modric has been the exception. He’s reportedly set to sign for another year and, even if Madrid sign Jude Bellingham in an effort to gradually phase him out, we wouldn’t bet against Modric shining on the Champions League stage this time next year.
By Michael Lee