Liverpool fans were left stranded in queues for hours outside of the Stade de France and some were even tear-gassed before the Reds’ agonising 1-0 defeat to Real Madrid in the Champions League final
Sometimes, it is just written in the stars, it is just preordained – there is no other way to describe it.
That is why Zinedine Zidane was amongst the Real Madrid throng, that is why Rafael Nadal was in the same vicinity. They came to watch Real Madrid do what Real Madrid do. And no amount of credit should be deducted from their achievement, even though they were largely outplayed, even though fortune was on their side when getting past Chelsea and Manchester City.
But Liverpool fans, whose occasion was soured from start to finish, should still stand tall. Yes, they might have fallen short. Yes, they might have come up 50 per cent shy of a quadruple. Yes, they were hit by a sucker punch. But there was no shame.
And remember this, Liverpool supporters, the biggest triumph of the season was getting Jurgen Klopp to sign that contract that will keep him at the club until at least 2026. There will be more campaigns like this one, more ecstasy and agony, more thrills and spills. There will never be a dull moment.
But, hopefully, there will never be another off-the-field night like this one. The winning glory should not be diluted by the chaos that preceded the match but the frightening shambles outside the Stade de France should not be forgotten. And do not buy the insulting line peddled by the suits at UEFA that late arrival of supporters was the root cause of the scary scenes.
I arrived at the venue four hours before the scheduled nine o’clock kick-off time and there were bottlenecks forming then, purely because of the shockingly ill-conceived stewarding and policing measures. After the chaos at the Euro 2020 final at Wembley, the English might not hold the high moral ground but that was a UEFA event and, when not dishing out punishments and passing bucks, did they not learn any lessons from that day?
They had plenty of time to plan for this event and it is not as though this arena has not hosted major sporting finals previously. It has. Many of them. But hey, at least the VIPs managed to get in without much trouble and at least there was enough champagne in the hospitality areas.
Meanwhile, fans who had forked out a month’s wages in a time of grievous financial struggle were being treated like cattle on the roadways of St Denis. Hell, they were using pepper spray on people peering through fences, waving their tickets in vain. Unforgivable.
To say it left a bitter, poisonous taste in the mouth would be an understatement. It was the least of anyone’s worries, of course, but it would also have had an impact on the players, although not a huge one if the evidence of Liverpool’s start was anything to go by. And, ironically – considering what was to happen later – key to it all was Alexander-Arnold.
Look, let’s stop calling him a full-back. He is a hybrid player who defends when he has to but is a key element of Liverpool’s attacking unit. When Real actually managed to produce an attacking foray in the first half, it was, more often than not, Alexander-Arnold who tidied up.
When one Luka Modric pass looked as though it might set Vinicius Junior free, it was Alexander-Arnold who intervened. But his primary responsibility was to create, to cause danger. One moment, he was sliding in the most intelligent of passes for Mohamed Salah to test Thibaut Courtois, the next he was having a pop from distance himself.
And all of that made his role in the Vinicius Junior goal even more regrettable. Yet while he was culpable in not being alert to Vinicius Junior ghosting in behind him, he was not the only player to blame. Actually, to blame anyone would be harsh because this is a Liverpool team that has done their followers proud. And with Klopp around for another four years, there is plenty more to come.