Will Liverpool finally rule the world? How the Reds have never won the Club World Cup

While Liverpool are on the cusp of tearing up their own record books, one niche trophy continues to elude the Premier League and European titans.

For all their storied history, Liverpool are yet to lift the Club World Cup and be declared, in somewhat official terms, the world’s top football team.

The politics of the competition means the Reds have found themselves battling for the trophy on three occasions of a possible five – and have fallen short each time. Now, under Jurgen Klopp, time could be ripe for change.

Sportsmail peers back at Liverpool’s Club World Cup past, to see what has gone before and what could be achieved in Qatar. 

Liverpool have another chance to finally end their wait for a Club World Cup title this week

Early beginnings

Before diving into the FIFA Club World Cup as we know it in its current form, it is important to look back through the archives and observe where the competition came from and what it used to be.

At the 1958 congress of the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) in Rio de Janeiro, a proposition was put forward.

The then-president of UEFA, Henry Delaunay, raised the suggestion of a competition between the top clubs in Europe and South America, in order to bring together two football-obsessed continents and determine the finest club side on the planet.

The early competition saw fierce clashes. Pictured: George Best being sent off vs Estudiantes

The early competition saw fierce clashes. Pictured: George Best being sent off vs Estudiantes

In order to facilitate the concept, a tournament would have to be held in order to determine South America’s top team; thus – the Copa Libertadores was born. Its winner would face the winner of the European Cup in the Intercontinental Cup, starting in 1960.

The early years of the competition saw a nasty reputation quickly form, with the Intercontinental Cup marred with fan violence, fights on the field and increasing resistance to the concept.

Clashes between Celtic and Racing Club, Manchester United and Estudiantes as well as AC Milan and Estudiantes saw the standing of the tournament plummet. Red cards were a regular feature, as were dangerous injuries. It did little to encourage Liverpool to put their all into it.

1977 – Boca Juniors vs Liverpool

And so we arrive at the first instance of Liverpool competing in the early form of the tournament. Or, rather, not competing at all.

So bad had conditions got, teams started to pull out altogether. After winning the European Cup in 1971 Ajax refused to face Uruguayan club Nacional. 

They would later go on to play against Independiente after winning the European Cup again a year later, but probably wished they hadn’t bothered after star man Johan Cruyff received death threats before the match and was badly injured during it.

As a result, Liverpool plainly refused to participate in 1977 after winning their first European Cup against Borussia Monchengladbach in Rome.

The German side took Liverpool’s place, and drew the first leg 2-2 before suffering a 3-0 defeat in the second.

1978 – Boca Juniors vs Liverpool

One year later and, after defending their European trophy, Liverpool found themselves with a case of deja vu.

Boca, still dominating in South America, were again penciled in to face the Reds in order to decide the top dog.

Again Liverpool would not play, but this time not purely down to their own doing. Boca also refused to play on this occasion.

With the tournament still seen as a danger, it was no skin off Liverpool’s nose. Their wait to play in an Intercontinental final would go on.

In '78 Boca Juniors refused to play. They went on to win the old trophy in 1997, 2000 and 2003

In ’78 Boca Juniors refused to play. They went on to win the old trophy in 1997, 2000 and 2003

1981 – Flamengo vs Liverpool

And so, three years later, the Reds would finally make their appearance.

The Japanese capital of Tokyo would play host to the contest, as Liverpool went up against Brazilian outfit Flamengo – who they will face again in this year’s final if they get past Monterrey.

Liverpool were happy to participate after the format of the competition had been overhauled. This, and also the fact that teams were now contractually obliged to play.

Brazilian outfit Flamengo were too sharp for Liverpool in 1981 and coasted to a 3-0 victory

The previous negative connotations had seen fan numbers fall massively, with the competition in danger of going obsolete.

With sponsors on board, Japan flexed their financial muscle and the rebrand became the Toyota Cup. At this point it was agreed that the final would be played as a one-off match in the land of the rising sun, as opposed the two-legged affair in both teams’ stadia of years gone by.

Liverpool legend Mark Lawrenson admitted that the players initially considered refusing to go due to confusion regarding their contract clauses, but this was soon rectified. 

The iconic defender confesses he and his team-mates did not quite take the match seriously, and were hampered badly with jetlag. 

Zico celebrates with the trophy in front of Liverpool's dejected and defeated players

Zico celebrates with the trophy in front of Liverpool’s dejected and defeated players

Liverpool’s players could not sleep in Japan, ending up on a driving range at 4am prior to the match. Needless to say, they struggled.

Flamengo were vastly superior and prepared adequately for the contest. Zico ran the show as the Brazilians coasted to a 3-0 victory. Lawrenson would go on to say it was a regret he never won the trophy.

1984 – Independiente vs Liverpool

It was back to Tokyo for the Reds in ’84, as they prepared for their second real stab at bringing home the one trophy they had not captured.

Focus was primarily on winning another league title, meaning Liverpool’s interests were elsewhere. While the tournament had regained some reputation, in many quarters it was not taken with much serious intent by Europeans.

Independiente celebrate their victory over Liverpool following a close game in Japan

Independiente celebrate their victory over Liverpool following a close game in Japan

In front of 62,000 spectators, Liverpool would slip to a slender 1-0 defeat.

The glitz and glamour of today’s football arrangements were not on offer for Joe Fagan’s team. The European champions made the journey, there and back, in the economy cabins, stopping in Anchorage, Alaska, as a linking flight destination.

Independiente put in a well-drilled performance, with the likes of Argentina legend and World Cup winner Jorge Burruchaga helping get the victory over the line.

2005 – Sao Paulo vs Liverpool

After years in the wilderness, the Reds were somehow back.

Rafa Benitez had pulled off the impossible and won the Champions League on his first season on Merseyside, guiding a team of Djimi Traores and Igor Biscans to the showpiece final and toppling one of the finest AC Milan sides in history.

Surely, then, Liverpool’s time to win the Club World Cup – now freshly rebranded once more – had arrived?

This was the first installment of the ‘FIFA Club World Championship’, which featured champions, and runners-up, from all FIFA’s confederations, rather than just Europe and South America.

Steven Gerrard was left dejected as Liverpool fell short in 2005, with two offside goals

Steven Gerrard was left dejected as Liverpool fell short in 2005, with two offside goals

Nonetheless, it was still a South American foe who faced off against Benitez’s side. Liverpool took the trip with a higher degree of respect, but once again struggled with jetlag upon arrival.

After blitzing Costa Rican side Deportivo Saprissa 3-0 in the semis, Liverpool looked well on course to bring the silverware back to England.

A final of repeated chances would culminate in utter frustration, however, and the Reds would be left empty handed once more with Rogerio Ceni in sensational form in goal for Sao Paulo.

Mineiro – who would go on to flop at Chelsea – scored the only goal of the game just before the half-hour mark, with Benitez’s side unable to respond despite hitting the woodwork on multiple occasions and having two goals disallowed for offside.

2019 – Retribution?

Liverpool must first overcome Mexican side Monterrey tonight, if they are to progress to the final.

Jurgen Klopp has taken a full strength squad out to Qatar, but had made clear his frustrations with hectic fixture congestion.

Questions have been raised over the Al Bayt Stadium, which is hosting each of the ties. But Klopp tried to dispel fears over the pitch on Tuesday.

Should the reigning European champions progress to Saturday’s final, Flamengo will be laying in wait again.

It’s the one trophy of the crop available today that Liverpool have not won. Yet, with such a blistering title charge in full force which is on course to end a painful 29-year wait, can the squad risk going full pelt at such a pivotal time?

Silverware is silverware at the end of the day, but only time will tell.

Liverpool's high-flying current crop of stars now have chance to bring the trophy to Anfield

Liverpool’s high-flying current crop of stars now have chance to bring the trophy to Anfield

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