It is a day of parallels for Liverpool Football Club, with tonight’s Premier League trophy lift coming on the exact same day as another three years ago.
That trophy was, of course, the Premier League Asia Trophy collected during a pre-season tour in Hong Kong in 2017.
The Reds secured victories over Crystal Palace and Leicester City to lift what was then the first piece of ‘silverware’ under their new manager after two crushing final defeats in his first season at the helm.
The pre-season tour ahead of the 2017/18 season was one which saw the team travel to Hong Kong during monsoon season, forcing training sessions to be cancelled and plans to be rearranged at short notice.
And it was also one which was clouded by non-stop debate, rumours and bids for the wantaway Philippe Coutinho, with Barcelona laying offers on the table in the region of £72 million as they flapped for a deal following the departure of Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain.
As we know, Liverpool held firm throughout the summer and only opened the door in January, and it was met by both disdain and frustration as another player was to treat the club as a stepping stone rather than the destination.
But before the Brazilian was to ever depart, a vital piece of business was to play out as Mohamed Salah switched Roma for Anfield and would help secure the Premier League Asia Trophy and ultimately act as a key piece of the puzzle in returning the club back to its perch.
And while the Reds had previously suffered at the hands of key players leaving, Klopp’s Liverpool side would only grow stronger and more resilient.
Of the 25-man squad who travelled to Hong Kong in 2017, only 11 remain as members of Liverpool’s 2019/20 side, while a further three have spent the season on loan.
The 11 of Gini Wijnaldum, Dejan Lovren, James Milner, Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah, Joe Gomez, Jordan Henderson, Adam Lallana, Divock Origi, Joel Matip and Trent Alexander-Arnold were there when the Reds lifted the cup in Asia and will be there once more as the Premier League title is lifted on the Kop.
And if you’re wondering where Sadio Mane was, he was still recovering from a knee injury sustained at the end of the 2016/17 season.
As individuals and as a team, they each have their own unique story and tale of how they have grown and pushed Liverpool to the greatest of heights.
Trent, for example, had only just broken into the first-team and was on his first pre-season tour and now, merely three years later, is one of the world’s best full-backs and is a champion of the world, Europe and England.
While Salah would use pre-season as a launchpad for a remarkable maiden campaign which returned 44 goals in 52 appearances.
And for all the drama that Coutinho brought along and the saga involving Virgil van Dijk, who would later arrive in January, a key linchpin in Andy Robertson and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain would also sign on the dotted line after the trip to Asia.
The squad was slowly transforming from a team with promise into one which could consistently compete, with deadwood continuing to be offloaded.
Liverpool were electric in 2017/18 and they would finish the league season in fourth-place but would ultimately fall short at the final hurdle in the Champions League – it was only the start, however.
The lessons learned from the final defeat coupled with the departure of Coutinho would turn out to be a key turning point, with the funds used to acquire Virgil van Dijk and Alisson, while Fabinho and Naby Keita would also join the ranks.
Defeat in Kyiv would lead to triumph in Madrid a year later and a runners-up finish in the Premier League in 2018/19 would lead to a convincing title merely one season later – not to mention a Club World Cup and Super Cup title sandwiched in between.
The transformation from that night in Hong Kong three years ago to the Liverpool we see today has been nothing short of remarkable, from the Premier League Asia Trophy to the Premier League title itself – one of four major trophies secured in 418 days.
“What we do here we do together. At times that has men suffering together, but right now – and in the last 14 months – it has meant celebrating together. I love this,” Klopp wrote in his match programme notes for this evening.
Let the celebrations commence.
Squad Then vs. Now
2016/17 Asia Trophy Squad –
Sold: Coutinho, Clyne, Sturridge, Klavan, Moreno, Mignolet, Solanke, Stewart, Flanagan, Kent, Ward
On-loan: Karius, Grujic, Woodburn
Players still at club: Wijnaldum, Lovren, Milner, Firmino, Salah, Gomez, Henderson, Lallana, Origi, Matip, Trent
2019/20 Premier League Title Winning Squad: Alisson, Adrian, Van Dijk, Lovren, Gomez, Robertson, Matip, Trent, Williams, Fabinho, Wijnaldum, Miler, Keita, Henderson, Ox, Lallana, Shaqiri, Jones, Elliott, Firmino, Mane, Salah, Minamino, Origi