The road to a major final rarely runs smoothly and Jordan Henderson knows that better than most.
Liverpool’s journey to the Wanda Metropolitano has been full of highs and lows and Henderson, the club captain, has lived them all.
Ahead of Saturday’s showdown with Tottenham, Henderson – who will become only the fifth English footballer to skipper a team at consecutive European Cup finals – gave Sportsmail a unique take on the past 12 months and explained why Liverpool are ready to go one step better.
Jordan Henderson is desperate to make amends in the Champions League final in Madrid
The midfielder will captain the Reds in the final for the second consecutive season
Saturday, May 26th 2018; Olympic Stadium, Kiev. Liverpool 1 Real Madrid 3
How does it feel to lose a Champions League final?
‘God (puffs out his cheeks)… good question. I remember the final whistle and dropping to the floor. The immediate emotion is disappointment but quickly it becomes frustration, anger, emptiness.
We were in the game then it was gone. Nobody can help you, nobody can say anything to make it better.
We put so much into getting there and then the night boils down to standing in a group, watching Real Madrid lift the trophy.
That was hard. So, so hard. Part of you wants to run to the dressing room but you have to pay your respects to the winners no matter how much it hurts.’
Twelve months ago the heartbreak was fresh for Henderson, after losing to Real Madrid in Kiev
Tears had to be fought back after the Reds surged to Kiev but fell at the final hurdle
Tuesday, September 18th; Anfield. Liverpool 3 Paris St Germain 2
‘So much had happened since we had played Madrid, not least the World Cup.
I was asked before we played PSG, our opening group game, whether it felt like we had unfinished business in Europe but you don’t think like that, certainly not in the first group game. All we wanted to do that night was make a statement.
Looking back on it, we played brilliantly. The tone was set early on when Milly (James Milner) flew into Neymar and flattened him with a tackle and we went from there.
It didn’t feel like a group game; the atmosphere was amazing and the way we won it was even better.
Roberto Firmino came off the bench to score a late winner as Liverpool defeated PSG
Bobby (Roberto Firmino) came off the bench to score in injury time and it was the perfect start.
Everyone had PSG down as favourites for the tournament but we came up with a performance that showed reaching Kiev was no fluke.’
Wednesday, October 3rd; Naples. Napoli 1 Liverpool 0; Tuesday, November 6th; Belgrade. Red Star 2 Liverpool 0
‘Our two worst performances of the season. There was no intensity, no rhythm. It wasn’t good at all. When people ask me what Jurgen Klopp is like in such circumstances, I think they expect me to say that he screams and shouts and he goes mad but that just isn’t the case.
He’d rather wait a day or two, watch the match again on video, then get his point across without too much emotion.
o be fair, we knew ourselves that neither of those games were good enough and we had fallen way short of our standards. Belgrade was a kick up the arse.
The wheels looked to be coming off as Liverpool suffered a big defeat away in Belgrade
I couldn’t go to Belgrade because I’d injured my hamstring. There is no worse feeling than watching the lads on television. It’s worse than being at the stadium. Either I have my hands over my eyes when they attack or I’m shouting when we get a chance.
In the past, I’d let defeats eat away at me but I’ve got two little girls, Elexa and Alba, who quickly get me back on track. I can’t sit there sulking at breakfast when they are asking me to play with them, can I?’
Tuesday, December 11th; Anfield. Liverpool 1 Napoli 0
‘Everything was on the line after we had lost 2-1 to PSG in Paris but big players step up on these nights.
Mo (Salah) scored a brilliant goal but the thing I remember most was the save from Ali (Alisson Becker) in injury time (from Arkadiusz Milik). I still don’t know how he made it.
Goalkeeper Alisson Becker pulled off a crucial late save to keep Champions League hopes alive
That moment shows why the manager wanted to sign him. Honestly, I can’t speak highly enough of him.
He is an unbelievable ‘keeper, he’s won the Golden Gloves but he’s an even better lad. Without that save, we are in the Europa League after Christmas. You can’t stress the importance.’
Wednesday, March 13th 2019; Allianz Arena. Bayern Munich 1 Liverpool 3 (aggregate 1-3)
‘A brilliant performance, one that I think made everyone look at us as contenders again.
Everyone felt Bayern were in control after they drew 0-0 at Anfield but we blew them away and Sadio (Mane) was unplayable. He certainly made the experience of watching the game much more comfortable.
Sadio Mane scored a sublime double as Liverpool dominated at the Allianz Arena
I damaged my ankle ligaments early on. The last thing you want is to come off early in such a game and I knew the bench were looking over at me to try to get my attention.
I literally could not put the brakes on when I was running, so I had no choice. Thankfully it wasn’t serious.’
Wednesday, April 17th; Estadio do Dragao. Porto 1 Liverpool 4 (aggregate 1-6)
‘This wasn’t straightforward. We won the first leg 2-0 but in the first 45 minutes over there, you could really feel the pressure in the stadium.
We were under pressure and it would have been an interesting night had they scored the first goal.
Liverpool bagged a 1-6 aggregate win over Porto, but were made to work hard over two legs
In the end, it was comfortable but there were no great celebrations in the dressing room afterwards.
I know it’s a big thing to reach another semi-final but, as we were trying to win the Premier League, the first thing you would hear said was: ‘On to the next one’. You don’t sit back and admire things when you are here.’
Wednesday, May 1st; Nou Camp. Barcelona 3 Liverpool 0
‘I would be lying if I said I wasn’t hurt before this match. I felt sick not to be named in the starting line-up but, as hard as it is, you cannot put yourself first.
When you are the captain of Liverpool in a European semi-final, the team is the priority and always will be.
As it turned out, I came on quite early as Naby Keita got injured. It was the first time I had been on a pitch with Lionel Messi.
Lionel Messi hit an incredible freekick to seemingly condemn Liverpool to elimination
You don’t think to yourself ‘Oh my God – that’s him’ but there’s no question he plays the game differently to when you see him on TV. He’s so fast.
Thinking about his free-kick now, I still can’t believe he scored it. I actually thought he was going to take it short.
I’ve told you how good I think Ali is but Messi put that shot in the one area Ali couldn’t protect. The whip, the pace, the precision – It was absolutely perfect. Did I think about asking for his shirt? No. I’ve never done it.
The Barcelona maestro helped his side to a 3-0 aggregate lead following the first-leg tie
Roy Keane told me when I was at Sunderland that if you ask for someone’s shirt, it looks like you are in awe of them.
As it turned out, I came home with Luis Suarez’s shirt. Luis is a good lad and he gave me it as a gesture as we had played together for Liverpool. I don’t know what he’s done with mine!’
Tuesday, May 7th; Anfield. Liverpool 4 Barcelona 0 (aggregate 4-3)
‘The manager’s speech on the morning changed everything. We had a meeting at Hope Street Hotel, the base we use before every home game, and he said to us: ‘What we need to do tonight I would say is impossible but, because it is you, there is a chance.’
He had us straightaway. All through the day I was thinking to myself: ‘Anfield… the crowd… an early goal: maybe?’
As it turned out, it worked to perfection. I should have scored our first goal but, thankfully, Divock (Origi) was on hand to put in the rebound. I’ve never heard anything like it.
Henderson and Co were buoyed by emotion at Anfield as the impossible became possible
There was no way I was going to come off that night. I hurt a tendon in my knee in a tackle but I knew if I could manage the pain and reach half-time, I’d be ok.
I had injections and painkillers and jumped on the spinning bike for 10 minutes to stop my knee seizing up.
What happened afterwards will stay with me forever. It completely different experience to Roma the previous year, where we got to the final by hanging on.
I had a bottle of Fanta when we got to the final 12 months ago, this time it was water! I tried to sleep when I got home but it was impossible.’
The skipper finished the game physically and emotionally drained after giving his all
Saturday, June 1st; Wanda Metropolitano. Tottenham v Liverpool
‘I know the lads at Tottenham from being with them at England. I know how good they are. But this is a new chapter for us.
We are a better side than the one that played Real Madrid in Kiev and there is no need to use that experience as motivation.
We want to show everyone how far we have come. We want to grasp this opportunity.’
Atletico Madrid’s Wanda Metropolitano now awaits Liverpool for a shot at redemption