He's the Scouser in the team and Trent Alexander-Arnold knows exactly what it would mean to bring the European Cup back home to Liverpool this weekend.
Six years old when the club last lifted Old Big Ears, the clash with Tottenham Hotspur in Madrid on Saturday night remarkably offers the No.66 a second chance at winning the trophy before his 21st birthday.
Alexander-Arnold will make history if he starts at Estadio Metropolitano, as the youngest player ever to feature from the beginning of successive Champions League finals.
But what shines through in every interview with the right-back is his humility, the insistence that his achievements are secondary to his desire for Liverpool to reign supreme again.
Ahead of the final, he sat down with Liverpoolfc.com to discuss that commitment, his development since the defeat in Kiev a year ago, how his competition with Andy Robertson guided both defenders to new heights this season, and the thought of returning home on Sunday with the European Cup in his grasp…
Let’s start with Barcelona and an occasion that every Liverpool fan will look back on for years and years to come. What are your memories of it?
Just feeling special, feeling part of something really exciting and feeling part of history as well. There’s not been many times where people have come back from 3-0 down in a semi-final, especially against Barcelona, who are probably the best team in the world. But we showed how good we are, we showed as a full club how good we are – and now we are here.
Where does it rank in terms of experiences because you’ve had some great ones already in a very short career so far? Is it the best feeling you’ve had as a player?
Yes, definitely. I think there’s not much that can really compare to it. I think barring winning something and the feeling of lifting a trophy I don’t think anything can really come close to such a dramatic game like that. But until the day we win something then that will probably be the highlight of my career so far.
And the atmosphere as well, because you are a Liverpool fan, we can’t forget that, you seemed to appreciate it not more than the other players but you wanted to savour every bit – that was quite clear afterwards…
It was a bit like Roma away last year when we reached the final there – you know you are going to a Champions League final as a full club; it’s not just the players, it’s the supporters, everyone, and it’s a chance to represent ourselves across all levels and show why we are one of the best clubs in the world as a whole. It’s just good to try to let the supporters know that they are appreciated as much as they really are, that we don’t take them for granted. I think that the fact I am a supporter of the club is a reason why I try to soak it up as much as possible.
If you start in the final you will break a very special record as well – that must mean a lot to you should it happen?
Yes, it’s obviously something that is hopefully going to happen, but the main thing is that the manager has got the trust in me personally to go out there in the biggest games and hopefully put on a good performance. It’s good to get the individual recognition but as a team we need to do it together and that’s the main thing: to win as teams.
You are a year more experienced than last season and you were obviously a very young lad to play in that final – do you feel that year more experience now?
Yes, I think as a team we probably feel a lot more experienced. Probably last year we were a bit inexperienced, a bit naïve, just went for it all of the time and didn’t really know how to slow games down and control games as much as we do now. Last year there was a lot of balls in behind and using our speed and now we can break teams down in any way, get round them, play through them and just mixing it up. So it’s good that we’ve now got that balance and obviously we are keeping a lot more clean sheets and hopefully that will prove well for us in Madrid.
Do you feel Real Madrid did that better on the day, in the sense that they were experienced playing in finals, experienced in knowing that their moment in a game will come?
In the first half they kept the ball. We probably had them on the ropes in the first 20 maybe, but they got a foothold in the game and from then it was downhill for us really. Even when they went in front, that’s when you saw them buying fouls and taking the sting out of the game. We couldn’t find any rhythm and it was really tough for us. I’m sure that throughout the season we have used that experience and hopefully in Madrid if we go ahead then we’ll be able to use that experience again.
Tottenham are so familiar in terms of opponents, we know all about them and they know all about us – does that make this a test that you would prepare for any differently to a Premier League game or not?
No. Because they are Premier League opposition I think it’s important to maybe think of it as potentially a Premier League game and don’t overthink it. It’s potentially the biggest game of your career but we’ve played them twice this season so they know us, we know them, and we know their strengths and weaknesses so I’m sure it will literally be down to whichever manager analyses the other team better and uses the game plan better, and the team implements that game plan. So I’m sure our manager and the analysts will be digging deep into their history and see how they play and try to prepare us as well as possible.
They had an incredible encounter as well against Ajax and, like us, they don’t know how to give up – which makes it an unbelievable proposition for a neutral fan?
Yes, definitely. Both teams are coming in off probably one of the best European nights in their club’s history so both teams have got a massive amount of momentum going into the game. So I’m sure it will be really exciting for the neutrals and for both sets of fans.
One game to go, the biggest game of your life again, but how do you reflect on the season that’s just gone by?
It has been a massive season for me personally and as a team. I think we’ve done everything we can to try to win something, which was our aim going into the season: to get some silverware. We have still got that chance and we have got one game left to try to do that. Obviously we were gutted about the league but it’s good that we have now got the Champions League to focus on and we can put everything into that now. We have had a few days off and now we are preparing again for that, so it’s important for us to give our all in that game and know that if we play at our best we’ve got a decent chance of getting some silverware.
How about your assists as well, 17 across all competitions – how proud are you with that?
Massively. I think it has just been a really good season across all fronts, especially on the home straight into the end of the season. I have been in decent form and been picking up quite a few assists, so it has been good to be able to get results for the team and to help the team as much as possible. Especially us full-backs, me and Robbo, it’s not just about getting the clean sheet, we want to go forward and we want to try to impact the game going forward as much as possible as well. As a duo we’ve tried to do that as much as possible and the little competition we had has really pushed us to our limits. And hopefully we’ll be able to grab a few more in Madrid.
Is he taking you out, are you taking him out? What’s the forfeit at the end for you and Robbo?
Nothing! It was in pre-season, the first day we met up, we just had a little bit of banter about it, I think he got more than me last season so we just had a little bit of banter about him beating me and this season we’ll see who wins. It was friendly and there was nothing on it and I don’t think we can honestly say that we expected to have as many [assists] between us. But, like I said, it has very much worked in our favour and in favour of the team. We have pushed ourselves further and I’m sure we’ll both be wanting to do it again next season.
You’ve got a song as well now, dedicated to you, that must be a massive moment in any footballer’s career but particularly as we mentioned before you being a Liverpool fan. What was it like when you heard it for the first time?
Something very special. You are obviously focused on the games but you do hear the fans and you do hear the songs and everything while you’re playing. To hear your name getting sung around Anfield is something really special and something you dream of growing up as a kid and hopefully it will carry on. It’s something that I’m really thankful for and it gives the team and whatever the player song they sing at the time a lot of confidence. So, a big thanks to the fans for doing that for me.
Being the Scouser in the team, when you came through the doors at the Academy for the first time at the age of six it’s what you set out to do, it was the dream wasn’t it?
Yes. It seems so far away but it actually flew by quite fast. It’s something that the whole family wanted for me and there’s been a lot of sacrifices along the way but it was always the dream to be able to play for the club as much as possible and represent them, to win things and be a legend for the club and captain the club – and that’s still the dream now, to keep going forward and build a legacy.
You were very young when Istanbul happened in 2005 but you know what it means to the people of Liverpool. For you to be part of that potentially, what would that mean?
Massive. I think if you look back on the team from 2005, every single one of them will always be remembered and that’s something the team want to do. We don’t want to be just another Liverpool team that was good but not quite good enough. We want to be a team that dominated for years, that stayed together, kept getting world-class players and building on it rather than selling our world-class players and maybe going downhill. We want to keep pushing forward. The manager has got a vision for us all and if we buy into the vision that he has then I’m sure the club will keep rising until we are at the very top. That’s where all of us want to be, as players and as a team, we want the team to be the best in the world, and I think we are on a good track for doing that.
We mention the fans, we mention the songs, we mention this togetherness that you have now, that would be some reward you have for them as well, the dedication of the fans trying to get to Madrid, trying to get a ticket – it would be fantastic for them wouldn’t it?
We all know as players about the ticket allocation and how hard it is for the fans to get hold of tickets, and it’s probably not fair on a huge amount of fans who feel like they deserve to be there, but it’s not about whether you are in Madrid or back home in Liverpool, or you are in Madrid but can’t get a ticket, the support that they give us is massive no matter where they are in the world. We know, especially in pre-season when we travel the world and we actually get to see how many fans we have worldwide, it’s mind-blowing. So, I think we all know no matter what the fans will be supporting us from wherever they are. And that’s the main thing for us, to do it for them whether they are there or not.