A goal, a decision or a result can all alter the trajectory of future events for both good and bad, and Liverpool have encountered countless of these sliding doors moments.
A signing that never was, the selection of a certain manager or goals that were or were not—they all act as forks in the road and can change the destiny of what lies ahead.
Some you fail to even notice and others leave you pondering what could have been, and here we have collated a number of sliding doors moments which have presented themselves to Liverpool over the years.
The 2002/03 showdown: Champions League and Abramovich…
It’s the final game of the 2002/03 season and the winner clinches the final place in next season’s Champions League—a match dubbed as ‘the £20 million game’.
Both teams start the day on 64 points but instead of Jesper Gronkjaer scoring the winner to ensure it was Chelsea who would finish it with a place at Europe’s top table, picture that it was instead Liverpool.
A £140 million investment from Roman Abramovich weeks later would no longer come to fruition and with Chelsea’s finances in dire straits, they would crack and be sent into oblivion.
Like Leeds United, they would spiral down the divisions while the Reds would retain their place on the grandest club stage on the continent.
They could have even lost one of their most influential players to Liverpool, with Gerard Houllier approaching John Terry after the game and the centre-back intimating he would be open to the move.
In reality, Liverpool had to settle for UEFA Cup action with future owners who would take the club to the cusp of administration while Chelsea went on to be bankrolled to heights which had never been seen in English football; Terry, among others, was handed a new contract.
How different could things have been had Liverpool held onto their lead that day.
No. 18 delayed as Barnes makes wrong turn…
After steamrolling their way to a 24-match unbeaten run in 1988/89, the 19-point gap from Arsenal at the top had been closed to set up a final-day clash where anything better than a two-goal defeat would see the 18th league title arrive at Anfield.
Arsenal were 1-0 up as the game entered stoppage time and instead of taking the ball towards the corner, John Barnes tried to dribble infield.
He was dispossessed and the Gunners scored the all-important second goal.
Had Barnes navigated to the corner the “most dramatic finish in the history of the Football League” would never have come to fruition and Arsenal would have little to talk about since.
Gudjohnsen’s fluffed lines in 2005 semi-final…
It was a miss celebrated as though it was a goal for the men in red, one which sealed Liverpool’s place in the 2005 Champions League final and consigned Jose Mourinho’s side to defeat.
With Luis Garcia netting the only goal in the early stages, Anfield was left on tenterhooks as the visitors needed only one goal to turn the tie on its head, and Eidur Gudjohnsen could have been the enemy on Merseyside and the hero in London.
With the game entering extra-time Gudjohnsen drifts to the back post unmarked, the ball falls to his feet and he lashes an effort into the net instead of firing wide, Anfield falls eerily silent as the players drop to their feet as Mourinho charges up and down the touchline.
There would be no miracle of Istanbul, no fifth European Cup and, instead, Chelsea would come up trumps once more to reach their first European Cup final.
Who knows if they would have toppled AC Milan but its not a reality I’d like to live in as it could have had far-reaching consequences…
Gerrard goes from Liverpool red to Chelsea blue…
…one which would have seen Steven Gerrard line up in the blue of Chelsea instead of at his boyhood club.
While he would hand in a transfer request post-Istanbul, the trigger to seek pastures new was Liverpool having shown few signs of competing for honours consistently and no European crown would have certainly tipped him over the edge.
He would have tasted a lot of success as Chelsea won nine trophies post-2005 and there’s no doubt a chill runs down your spine at the very thought.
Thankfully, it was not a reality we had to endure.
Macheda and Man United sink Rafa’s Reds…
A fierce title battle in 2008/09 saw Rafa Benitez’s side go toe to toe with Man United and they came within touching distance of ending the long wait for a league title.
It hurts to look back on what could have been as the Reds were two points ahead when Alex Ferguson’s side met Aston Villa with nine games to go.
And by the 75th-minute mark, it was all smiles for Liverpool as United were 2-1 down, only for Cristiano Ronaldo to level the scores before the unknown entity that was 17-year-old Federico Macheda hit the winner.
They would go on to drop points just once in the run-in to make the Reds’ results meaningless.
It was Macheda’s first of five goals for United and who knows how it would have all unfolded come the season’s end had they stumbled at that juncture.
The shoulder that sidelined Salah in Kyiv…
The red wave was washing over the defending champions, and then it all came to a grinding halt as Sergio Ramos laid an unorthodox tackle on Mohamed Salah.
Tears from both him and those watching on as the star man was out and, with it, the hopes of ending the night with the title in Kyiv took a hit.
If his shoulder had survived the fall we could be talking about the defending European champions and Real would have never won three in a row.
The road to Kyiv was one major sliding door in hindsight, from needing to beat Middlesbrough on the final day of the 2016/17 season to be able to offer the likes of Salah and Virgil van Dijk the European football they craved in the first place.
Gerrard and that moment against Chelsea…
Chelsea have stood at a number of crossroads involving Liverpool and this one needs no introduction.
It happened, it broke hearts and continues to stop many from looking too deep into the weird and wonderful season that was 2013/14, as like Gerrard once said: it remains an “open wound.”
But in a parallel universe, or one where a giant neutraliser wiped all our memories and set out a new reality where it never happened, a draw would have been enough with two wins to follow against Crystal Palace and Newcastle.
A 19th league title would have been secured and the chant many arrive at Anfield with stolen out of their long list of tired and deplorable songs.
Other events such as Jordan Henderson’s red card or the offside called against Raheem Sterling at Man City also acted as sliding doors moments for a campaign which would end in heartbreak.
The unexpected thunderbolt from Kompany vs. Leicester…
Ninety-nine times out of 100 that goal does not happen. You can’t deny its impressive nature but you can certainly crumble because of its repercussions.
Had City only managed a 0-0 against Leicester, Jurgen Klopp’s side would have needed to beat Wolves, like they did, to be crowned champions.
But should it have fallen that way would it have had an effect on the Barcelona tie, as when the Spaniards made their way to Anfield, Liverpool had nothing to lose?
The league title was gone and they had a 3-0 deficit to overturn, but without Kompany’s goal could it have resulted in Anfield’s great celebration moving to the weekend and one trophy in place of the other?
The story starts here: Alisson and Napoli…
Liverpool never do anything the easy way, so much so that it seems as though every player and manager who signs a contract is obliged to continue the legacy.
When Napoli arrived for the final Champions League group game in 2018, the Reds had to win with a clean sheet or by two clear goals to progress. Salah did his part and then it was squeaky bum time.
Napoli had only minutes left to salvage their place in the knockouts and then it happened. Arkadiusz Milik was open in the box and all he needed to do was slide the ball beyond Alisson.
And in this reality, what if he did? Liverpool would have been condemned to Thursday night football and there would be no “we won it in Madrid,” no Klopp gleefully looking at the masses at the back of the open-top bus.
In the end, Alisson’s world-class save would make No. 6 possible and it shows how invaluable it is to have a top ‘keeper commanding your goal.
Brendan Rodgers, Jurgen Klopp and the Premier League in 2013/14…
What if? It’s one of life’s most-asked questions and this one certainly falls into that category.
What if Liverpool had won the Premier League in 2013/14? Would Brendan Rodgers have been able to acquire the talent needed, would Luis Suarez’s decision have been different and, ultimately, would the manager have been given more time?
He was shown to the exit in October 2015, 17 months following the conclusion of 2013/14 having been given the benefit of the doubt during that summer—but if he had clinched what the club had been striving towards for so long would FSG have delayed their decision?
No Jurgen Klopp, or at least not at that time. It’s a weird alternate timeline to think about.
The High Court and FSG’s takeover…
It doesn’t even bear thinking about the two clowns running the club not being thrown out, does it?
FSG, then New England Sports Ventures, had to endure a tedious court battle to overthrow Tom Hicks and George Gillett after three years as owners.
The debt was pilling up, unfulfilled promises and public squabbles were the norm and Liverpool were becoming a laughing stock.
Had John W. Henry and Co. not arrived when they did and were not prepared to jump through all the hurdles, who knows where the club would have landed—certainly not as the world, European and soon-to-be English champions.
Staying at Anfield…
The club had long flirted with the idea to move to Stanley Park, with designs—as seen above—and planning permission first granted in 2003.
Hicks and Gillet would ‘make it their priority’ but they failed to ever make progress before FSG arrived.
The new owners too considered their options to make the move but would ultimately go down the avenue of redeveloping Anfield to over 60,000 capacity.
The ground has been Liverpool’s spiritual home since its inception in 1892 and it’s hard to imagine a day when it no longer acts as such, and having seen London clubs make a transition, it makes it all the more significant that the Reds stayed put.