Harry Kewell leads club to AFC Champions League final – creates Istanbul ‘rematch’

Harry Kewell is currently a manager in Japan, and on Saturday he will lead his in the AFC Champions League final, in a matchup that has ties to its 2005 European counterpart.

The former Liverpool man has been in management since 2015, starting at Watford‘s academy before taking on roles throughout the Football League up until 2023.

In December, he was announced as the head coach of Yokohama Marinos in Japan, and he has since led his side to the final of the most prestigious club competition in Asian football.

The AFC Champions League operates much like UEFA’s competition, and the winner will qualify 2025 FIFA Club World Cup, taking place in the United States next summer.

Kewell guided his side safely through the knockout stages – which included a semi-final penalty shootout – and will meet Abu Dhabi’s Al Ain in the final, who are managed by Hernan Crespo.

ISTANBUL, TURKEY - WEDNESDAY, MAY 25th, 2005: Liverpool's Jerzy Dudek is beaten by AC Milan's Hernan Crespo for the third goal during the UEFA Champions League Final at the Ataturk Olympic Stadium, Istanbul. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

It is a name Liverpool fans will know all too well, as he scored a double for AC Milan in the 2005 Champions League final before the Reds mounted their incredible comeback.

Kewell was named in Rafa Benitez’s starting lineup in Istanbul but was withdrawn before Crespo got his name on the scoresheet after a groin injury in the 23rd minute.

Fast-forward nearly 20 years and Kewell and Crespo will again be in opposite dugouts as they seek to lift the trophy with a winning scoreline over two legs.

Unlike the European Champions League final, its Asian counterpart sees the final take place over two legs, with both clubs having the opportunity to play at home.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, February 16, 2008: Liverpool's Harry Kewell in action against Barnsley during the FA Cup 5th Round match at Anfield. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Kewell’s side will host the first leg on May 11 before a trip to Abu Dhabi follows on May 25.

While the Australian has succeeded in knockout competitions, Yokohama Marinos have only won four of their 11 league games to date to sit in 11th position, nine points off the leaders.

The now 45-year-old played 139 times for the Reds between 2003 and 2008, scoring 16 goals and lifting two trophies.