Jordan Henderson has detailed his vivid memories from a year ago as Liverpool were crowned champions of Europe for the sixth time.
The midfielder became the fifth Reds captain to lift the trophy after he and his teammates beat Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 in the Champions League final on June 1, 2019.
To mark this week’s first anniversary of the triumph, Henderson provided his reflections on the night during an in-depth chat with Liverpoolfc.com.
He took us inside the build-up to that unforgettable evening in Madrid, analysed how the game itself unfolded and, of course, recalled the ecstasy of the post-match celebrations.
The chat is now available to read in full below...
A year on from the 2019 Champions League final, let’s take you back to the semi-final first. You put so much energy into that, so how did you go about refocusing for that final push?
Obviously the league season was a good season for us. To get 97 points was a fantastic season but unfortunately we couldn’t quite get over the line. So, the feeling after the last game was really tough and it was a hard one to take. But, I knew it would help in a weird way in terms of going into the final and the game against Spurs in Madrid because we could use that pain to make sure that wasn’t going to happen again and be on the right side of the result this time around. Thankfully, that was the case.
How did you find the lead-up to the 2019 final compared to the lead-up to Kiev the year before?
It was a little bit different because we had such a long period of time in between the last game until the final. To be fair to the manager and his staff, I think he got it spot on in terms of the lead-up and then the different periods we had within those three weeks and come the game I felt as though we were in a really good place physically and mentally. I think that showed within the game.
What did you personally take from Kiev that you used in your preparations to try to go one better in Madrid?
I think the experience of playing in a Champions League final, you can’t really underestimate that. A lot of us had been there the year before and experienced that and I think it did help us come the second time around. Just that experience, game-management stuff within the game, how you would feel prior to the game and the adrenaline and stuff like that. I think once you’ve experienced it then the second time around you can learn a lot from that, and I felt as though we did that. Thankfully, we managed to get the job done and it was a brilliant result in the end of course for us and a very special night.
What was the biggest factor you adapted in order to make sure you were better equipped 12 months on from Kiev?
I think again, just learning from the whole experience. In the first time around I still felt that we could go and win the game, of course. I felt we were still in a good place, we prepared really well for the game and going into the game we felt really good. Sometimes that’s football. You don’t always get maybe what you deserve on the night. You learn from certain things within the game and things that you can do better after reflecting afterwards, but I think all of them things the next time around helped us because that’s on the pitch, off the pitch and we all learned from that experience. It did help us come the final in Madrid.
You cited the near miss in the Premier League as being part of your motivation going into the final in Madrid, but how much did you use what happened in Kiev as motivation too?
That was another big factor. Not only that but prior finals over the years that we have been involved in, the Europa League final as well, League Cup final that we lost. All of them things you sort of learn from and it gives you even more hunger to go out there and put things right and improve. Every time we have faced that adversity we have bounced back in a really good way. It was just a case of continuing to do that and if we did that then we knew the time would come where we’d managed to win something. Thankfully it did.
After the three-week build-up, how did it feel to finally lead the team out at Estadio Metropolitano?
There’s a lot of excitement and a lot of adrenaline in the body. For the three weeks building up to it there wasn’t a day that went by that I didn’t think about it. It was probably the first thing I’d think about when I woke up and the last thing I’d think about when I was going to sleep for a long time. So, all of that build-up and the adrenaline, the excitement, it’s about trying to use that in the right way and controlling that as best you can and to use it within the game in the right way. I felt as though we did that definitely and again, things like that help and that’s through experience of playing in big games and finals.
How do you keep that nervous energy in check and channel it positively on the pitch in such a huge game?
When you are sort of within the game or in the warm-up and stuff it’s a lot easier. I find it a lot easier once I’m there in the stadium and I’m warming up or playing in the game. It’s a lot easier to focus on what your job is and what you are trying to do and focus on the game really, as it’s happening there and then. It’s the weeks leading up to it that are quite hard because it’s everything you think about leading up and that was probably the toughest part for me, the build-up and having that three-week period and waiting for so long when you just want to get out there and play. In the end it was a fantastic result and we managed to do the business.
You got off to a flying start in the game, of course. What goes through your head when a penalty is awarded inside the first couple of minutes?
Delighted! To get the penalty and score the first goal, which is always important. It maybe changes the mindset a little bit for both teams, but ultimately I thought having scored so early on, having reflected on the game and watched it back - because when you are in the game and are trying to find solutions straight after the game you think we didn’t quite play probably to the levels that we had previously and wasn’t a great performance - but actually when I analysed the game and I looked back at it I thought we handled the situation very well. It was a very mature performance, we defended really well and did everything we needed to do in a final to win the game, so there was still a lot of positive things looking back on the game.
You were 1-0 up for so long - did you feel during the game that you were going to get over the line, or was there always a bit of a concern because the lead was so slender?
Yes, 1-0 is a dangerous scoreline because one mistake or one special moment from a Spurs player and it’s all level again. It’s always dangerous but in the best way I thought we controlled it defensively really well. We are known a lot for going forward, creating so many chances and scoring so many goals, but I thought the defensive performance from everybody that night was pretty good. Even though we were defending for maybe large parts of the game I still felt in control. We did it very well and we were hard to break down. I knew if we could create one or two more chances going forward then we can get another one.
And you do get another one when Divock Origi scores late on. What are the emotions when that second goal finally goes in?
It was a massive goal and a massive moment in the game. Of course, it gave us that little bit more breathing space and probably deflated Spurs that little bit more, so that was another key moment within the game. But even still, and it’s 2-0, you are basically just giving everything, trying to defend as best you can, trying to keep the ball as long as you can until that final whistle goes.
Explain to us how it felt when that final whistle did blow...
[It’s] every emotion you can think of really. Joy, relief, happiness, just everything that you could possibly think of. It was just the most special moment to hear that final whistle go, to know that all of the hard work and everything that we have done together in the past however many years, we actually got over the line and managed to win one of the greatest trophies ever. It was everything I dreamt of and more really.
Can you compare those feelings to anything else you have experienced or is it in a different category to everything else in life?
Yes, you can’t compare that feeling with anything else. It’s so hard to explain now. It’s the best feeling I’ve ever had in my life. Obviously, people will say, well when you have kids and stuff, which again of course is a totally unique and most special feeling in the world as well, but it’s different. Just everything that goes in with sport, the competitiveness and everything, it’s just a different feeling to when you have kids or anything else like that. It is so unique and it was an amazing feeling I hope I’ll never forget.
Had you thought in advance of how you would lift the trophy?
Yeah, but actually I didn’t really plan on doing that, to be honest! It was a little bit of banter in the changing rooms prior. Robbo was messing about, he’d always do the shuffle pretending to lift the trophy and stuff like that. So, when the time came I felt as though I just wanted to sort of do it together and use that sort of banter that we’d had previously in terms of the little shuffle and stuff. I just wanted to be able to see the lads’ faces just before I lifted it as well. That was really special for me to be able to see the lads rather than just have my back to them, so yeah it was a little bit off the cuff, to be honest. After we done that in the Champions League the lads made sure I kept on doing it for the Super Cup and Club World Cup.
Well, it’s an iconic trophy lift now...
A lot of people enjoyed it, especially young kids and stuff. I had a lot of videos of kids doing it, doing the shuffle and stuff, so that was really nice, but actually on the night it wasn’t something that... well you don’t plan to do that when you are lifting the Champions League. You just want to go up and lift it but it was just something that I felt was right because, like I say, the things that Robbo was doing previously and I just wanted to be able to see the lads before I lifted it. That was a special moment as well.
Is there a moment that stands out for you from the post-match celebrations on the pitch?
Well, obviously the standout for me personally would be when I saw my dad on the side. We were on the pitch for quite some time and I didn’t want to come off! But for me personally when we were celebrating on the pitch it was nice to be able to spend that moment with my dad. I would say that is another moment of the night which stands out for me.
Did the emotion of all that pre-match motivation, to make sure you got over the line this time, come pouring out at that moment?
Yes. Football means a lot to me, to my family and we’ve been through a lot not only in football terms in those finals and everything you work for, and just in life as well with what my dad went through, his life and how much it means to him. I know how much it means to him and he knows how much it means to me. Just everything, up until that moment, it just felt as though it was meant to be somehow in the end, looking back. It was meant to be that way and it was a very special moment.
Just how special was it to have your dad, who has been through a lot, there in Madrid watching when you lift one of the biggest prizes in world football?
Very special. Not only my dad but my mum as well, my wife, my family being there obviously means a lot. But, especially my dad after what he’d been through over a long time really, a few years leading up to it, and how much it means to me to be able to win that trophy and everything that we went through together. To be able to spend that moment with him so quickly after doing it was a real special and unique moment.
And there is now a banner on the Kop with that image of you lifting the trophy - how does that make you feel when you look up and see it before games?
Yes, it is special. To be part of the club’s history and to see that banner on the Kop, you never get used to it, to be honest! I just try to use it as even more motivation to make sure I do everything I can for this football club and this team to be successful, which I’ve always tried to do. But in terms of stuff like that you can never thank the fans enough for what they give to us as a club and as a team. That’s what makes this football club so special really.
How would you describe the squad that you are a part of, the club you are part of? It’s a pretty special time to be at Liverpool FC...
Definitely. As I just said before I couldn’t have dreamt of doing it with anybody else. The amount of great players of course that we have in this team, but how they are as people, how we are as a dressing room, how close we are and not only players but that’s the staff as well. The fans are incredible of course so it’s just an amazing football club and over the past couple of years we’ve played some pretty good football, went through some pretty tough times but also some pretty amazing times, so I’m just so excited to see what the future holds for this team and this football club because I know we’ll continue to give everything and keep improving and keep learning. If we do that then there’s no reason why we can’t have more success in the future.
Just finally, is there a particular memento from the final that you’ve kept in the house just to remind you of that special evening in Madrid?
There’s plenty of things you keep from the day, you know! Shirt, boots, everything. Even your tracksuit and your trainers, you just keep everything and get it and keep it in a safe place. We all got a book as well about the journey from losing the final in Kiev to then getting to another final in Madrid and then winning it. We all got a book so that’s nice and a keepsake to have. Now and again I’ll have a bit of time just looking through the photos... it’s nice just to go through those now and again.