2005 Liverpool vs 2018 Liverpool: Rafa Benitez has decided which team is better

Rafa Benitez will always hold a place in Liverpool folklore.

He is, of course, responsible for one of the club’s greatest ever triumphs.

It was back in 2005 when Liverpool, led by Benitez and captained by Steven Gerrard, stunned AC Milan in the Champions League final.

Trailing 3-0 at half-time, the Reds scored three times in the second half and would hoist the trophy after Andriy Shevchenko missed a penalty in a thrilling shootout.

Thirteen years on and Liverpool supporters still talk about that night in Istanbul.

What makes their achievement all the more incredible is that Benitez didn’t have a stellar squad to call upon.

His starting line-up against AC Milan included Djimi Traore, Harry Kewell and Milan Baros, none of whom were world-beaters.

2005 V 2018
But they managed to overcome a team that included Shevchenko, Kaka, Clarence Seedorf, Cafu, and Andrea Pirlo.

So it’s hardly surprising that Benitez believes Klopp has a better squad than he did in 2005.

“We achieved what we achieved – they talk about the Miracle of Istanbul – but this team is better,” Benitez said, per BBC Sport.

“We had Stevie, of course, also some players with experience and quality, Alonso and Hamann.

“We had players who worked very hard, we had a good balance.

“This team also has good balance, but the front three can make a difference on their own. We had one player who maybe could make a difference on his own, and here they have three.

“If we talk about the money spent, my budget was £20 million. The value of this team is so much higher.”

In fairness, Liverpool’s current squad includes a record-breaking attacking trio in Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane.

They have combined to score 29 goals in the Champions League this season, the highest amount for an attacking triumvirate in a single campaign in the tournament.

Klopp has also been able to call upon Virgil van Dijk to shore up his defence, the Netherlands international making an instant impact upon his arrival from Southampton for £75m in January.

And Liverpool’s squad promises to be even better next season, with Naby Keita set to arrive and more signings planned.

In fact, it’s quite hard not to feel sorry for Benitez, whose bench in Istanbul featured Josemi, Antonio Nunez and Igor Biscan, to name just three Liverpool greats.