News, Culture & Society

PETER CROUCH: I felt sick as Liverpool tore into Barcelona

Peter Crouch is a columnist for Sportsmail

When I look back at my final words in last week’s column, I find myself wincing. You may remember the subject was Lionel Messi and I stated it should be on your bucketlist to go to watch him.

I had the chance on Tuesday but turned it down. I was only up the road in Burnley! What was I thinking? As Liverpool tore Barcelona to shreds to start an outstanding week for English clubs in Europe, I felt sick.

Not only did I miss the opportunity to see the greatest footballer of all time, I missed one of the greatest sporting events, too. I assumed Barcelona would score an away goal and cruise into the Champions League final — but what Liverpool did to come back was sensational.

It was a privilege to play in a semi-final but what I saw was miles ahead of the night when I was involved against Chelsea in 2007. I wouldn’t say it was better than Istanbul, as that was a final, but I will stick this statement out there: Beating Barcelona was Anfield’s greatest night.

When you thought things couldn’t get better, Tottenham followed up in Amsterdam to set up an all-Premier League showdown in Madrid and then, for good measure, Chelsea and Arsenal progressed to the Europa League final in Baku.

It’s easy to say on the back of what has happened in the past few days, but I believe we are now set for a period of Premier League clubs dominating Europe in a style that has not been seen since the period from 1976 to 1985, when English teams won 11 trophies, including seven European Cups.

During the peak years of my career at Liverpool and then Tottenham, the Premier League always seemed to have a side in the Champions League final and only missed out once, in 2010, from 2005 to 2012. Our teams were brilliant back then, but what you are seeing now is on a different level.

Put it this way: if Tottenham, Chelsea or Arsenal went to play in the Bundesliga, Serie A or Ligue 1, they would go close to winning them. Liverpool and Manchester City would run away with those championships, as they are so much better than every side in Germany, France and Italy.

You can say Paris Saint-Germain are an emerging force, but they always flatter to deceive in Europe. Bayern Munich look like they need major work to get back to the levels they hit six years ago, while the lack of competition in Italy is hindering Juventus.

Georginio Wijnaldum goes wild after scoring Liverpool's third goal in their dramatic victory

Georginio Wijnaldum goes wild after scoring Liverpool’s third goal in their dramatic victory

The strength of our league, by contrast, is incredible. We are privileged with the money we have in our game but finance doesn’t guarantee success and I had consistently questioned whether our teams could translate what they were doing at home in Europe.

I don’t have doubts any longer. When I look at Tottenham, I see a group who are being led by an inspirational manager and writing history. When I look at Manchester City, I see the best Premier League team we have ever seen, who have eclipsed Arsenal’s Invincibles.

They have a bizarre relationship with the Champions League, one I don’t understand, but they will win that trophy soon. Force of habit sees everyone make Real Madrid or Juventus favourites to win the biggest prize every year but, soon enough, City will have that tag.

Arsenal and Chelsea fans have complained about their domestic form but look at them in the Europa League, miles ahead of their rivals. Even Manchester United, with their finances, have the power to get back. The two all-English finals are a sign of things to come. The future has never been brighter.

Colossus Kompany has raised the bar for City

It’s strange how you can feel sympathy for a man who scored the goal that might win the Premier League title but that was the case with Vincent Kompany.

When he crashed that shot into the top corner against Leicester, I expected him to be in the spotlight all week, but events elsewhere were so spectacular that he ended up being overlooked. It is time to put that right.

Kompany has provided unbelievable leadership over 10 years for Manchester City and it would be fitting if he made the difference in the title race. I actually believe he is improving as a player as I can see aspects of his game that were not always obvious.

Clearly Pep Guardiola thought Aymeric Laporte and John Stones would be better options in possession, but I watched Kompany on Monday, knocking it around with confidence against Leicester, and could see the manager’s influence.

Vincent Kompany has provided unbelievable leadership over 10 years for Manchester City

Vincent Kompany has provided unbelievable leadership over 10 years for Manchester City

He is more prepared to take on challenging passes than five-yard balls.

I’ve played against him many times and the best perspective I can give is that I used to make a conscious decision to try to unsettle his partner rather than get involved in a tussle with him. He is a man-mountain: quick, powerful and aggressive.

He is everything a central defender should be.

There have been some huge figures in the Premier League in his position and Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk is currently out on his own.

But Kompany’s place in the top three to have played in this era has long been assured. He is a colossus.

Nerves will be fraying for many fans this weekend with the play-offs starting.

It’s been a great week for my old clubs, Liverpool and Tottenham, and I’m hoping another two — Aston Villa and Portsmouth — are also successful.

The momentum is with Aston Villa in the Championship play-offs and they will be looking to make home advantage count against West Bromwich in Saturday’s first leg of their semi-final. You’d think Leeds would go up, but I think they have run out of steam at the worst possible moment.

Villa, however, are flying and I want to see Jack Grealish inspire them. He is too good to remain in the Championship and, while plenty of big clubs will be watching his progress, I’d love to see him back in the top flight.

MY WEEK

WHO’S CAUGHT MY EYE: Divock Origi

No easy task being asked to fill the boots of Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino but their understudy stepped up.

It’s so important to have people in your squad who can do that. Origi is an Anfield hero forever. 

Divock Origi stepped up for Liverpool in their thrilling win over Barcelona on Tuesday

Divock Origi stepped up for Liverpool in their thrilling win over Barcelona on Tuesday

NEXT UP FOR ME… 

The final game against Arsenal and it would be nice to put a dampener on their week. We are desperate to finish on a high and I want to go and enjoy it.

This is also the last regular column of the season but fear not Crouch fans… I won’t be far away.

WHAT I’M LISTENING TO…  

It’s been a case of getting back to my roots in the last few days and I have had The Coral and The Stones Roses on.

It is 30 years since the Roses released their first album and it still sounds fresh.

WHAT I’VE BEEN UP TO…

The success of our teams in Europe, on top of Manchester City’s clash with Leicester, has played havoc with my attempts to catch up with Line of Duty. 

No spoilers, please, I intend to put that right next week. 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


Comments are closed.