Champions League final tests the wits of two tough opponents


Liverpool’s clash with Real Madrid in the final of this year’s UEFA Champions League, Europe’s most prestigious and richest football tournament, will pit the Spanish champions against the English runners-up.

This is a game between two teams with global fans and European football pedigree backed by 19 UEFA Champions League and European Cups shared between them.

Along with prestige, a huge financial prize is guaranteed for champions. Last year’s winners Chelsea collected €119.8million for lifting the trophy, a sum augmented by additional royalties and bonuses from sponsors. By contrast, Villarreal, who won the UEFA Europa League second-tier competition last season, collected €33m. Winners at the Stade de France in Paris on Saturday will also qualify for the UEFA Super Cup.

Off the pitch, financial analysts suggest that no club is worth more than Real Madrid. The club has an estimated market value of €3.1 billion including debt, according to Football Benchmark. By the same parameters, Liverpool are in fifth place with a value of 2.5 billion euros.

German coach Jürgen Klopp will lead Liverpool in the club’s third encounter with Real Madrid in the Champions League final. Under his leadership this season, Liverpool have recorded one of the highest win rates in the last 20 years of Champions League matches.

The team’s win rate of more than 2.5 times the median club this season is only surpassed by two clubs: Manchester City last year and Bayern Munich’s Champions League winning streak in 2019- 20, where he won all 11 matches, according to an analysis by Financial Times.

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The season before Klopp arrived at Liverpool in 2014-15, the Reds’ Champions League win ratio was just 0.3 times the median.

In contrast, Real Madrid have won two-thirds of their matches this season, twice the median club, coming from behind in each of the last three rounds of the knockout stage. Italian manager Carlo Ancelotti is hoping to become the only manager to have won the competition four times. Klopp has a European title with Liverpool.

But as the teams progressed to the knockout stages, the numbers don’t tell the whole story. While Manchester City have won the English Premier League title four times in the past five years, European success has eluded Pep Guardiola’s side.

The same is true for the French champions Paris Saint-Germain. Both clubs have spent heavily in their quest for European glory. According to data website, Man City have spent a net amount of over £710m since 2015-16, compared to £530m for Paris Saint-Germain – considerably more than Liverpool and Real Madrid, who spent around £230m and £60m. respectively after accounting for players sold.

Despite that outlay and continued domestic success, Man City and PSG appear to be stumbling over one final psychological hurdle in Europe’s elite competition.

Klopp often calls his Liverpool players ‘monsters of mentality’ for their fighting spirit, but in the Champions League this season, one side has mostly shown their ability to save a losing position: Real Madrid.

Charts showing how Real Madrid and Liverpool fared in the Champions League Round of 16.  Liverpool have never been behind in any of their knockout matches, while Real Madrid have had to come from behind in each of their knockout matches.  Including overturning a 2-goal deficit in their semi-final against Manchester City with 90 minutes of regulation football played in the second leg.

The Spanish champions have trailed in each of their Champions League knockout ties but have made three consecutive comebacks, sometimes with just minutes on the clock.

The first time was against then defending champions PSG Chelsea and in the semi-finals they secured a thrilling 6-5 victory over Manchester City, where they were two goals down after 89 minutes and yet they still won.

This season’s exploits and a trophy-laden past – they have won in their previous seven Champions League finals – mean few doubt Real’s winning mentality.

Data Visualization by Steven Bernard


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