Rafael Benitez says this Liverpool team is better than his teams ever were, given the talent both in the starting lineup and on the Reds bench.
Benitez, currently at Newcastle, became a Liverpool legend by leading the club to the stunning come-from-behind win over AC Milan in the 2005 Champions League finale.
That match went down in history as Benitez’s crowning achievement, but the manager also led the Reds to an FA Cup, Community Shield, UEFA Super Cup and a second Champions League final appearance in 2007.
But he says this Liverpool team is much better than the ones he managed as the Reds prepare for their second consecutive Champions League final appearance under Jurgen Klopp.
“I want to be very respectful about my team, but this team is much better. Not just the team, but the squad,” Benitez told the Liverpool Echo.
“In my time at Liverpool we had (Fernando) Torres as a striker and (David) Ngog, who was a good player and a good lad but we paid £1.5million for him. He was on the bench.
“Now you have (Xherdan) Shaqiri, (Daniel) Sturridge and (Divock) Origi on the bench so it’s totally different. Times have changed.
“What we achieved was good because to win against that AC Milan team was a massive achievement and the way in which we did it. Now Liverpool have a lot of good players.
“People were talking about them having some problems in defence and they were able to sign Virgil van Dijk for a lot of money and then the keeper (Alisson Becker). I think this is a stronger Liverpool and the teams around are also stronger.”
Benitez’s players went down in history, though, for their successes in that final, with stars like Steven Gerrard, Xabi Alonso, Jamie Carragher and Jerzy Dudek still counted as Reds legends.
Every player, even the bit-part ones, remain heroes, Benitez says, and this current group can lock up the same status by beating Spurs on Saturday.
“Not just the key players but everybody involved in that final is seen as a legend,” he said.
“I was talking with Djimi Traore the other day when he came to Newcastle. Everyone remembers Djimi and every player from that time.
“This final is a great opportunity for the current players to show what they can do and to be sure that they will be remembered in the history of Liverpool.
He added, “Winning the Champions League changed everything and it gave us the opportunity to win more trophies and to be very competitive and improve the team. It was a massive change, not just for me, but for everybody.
“The players were the main ones but also the club was growing. I remember when I just arrived they were talking about a takeover and selling the club. Then we won and had three or four years in a row of winning titles and doing well and another Champions League final in Athens.
“Istanbul was massive for everyone. It gave us a lot of confidence to go on and achieve even more things.”