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Since Kiev? Why Liverpool now streets ahead of Real Madrid - on & off the pitch

COMMENT: So what are we missing? Liverpool and the Champions League. The summer mega spend. Why the pessimism around the Reds and Europe...?

This week we've had Gary Neville, the former Manchester United captain, urging Liverpool to write off the campaign before it's started. Juventus icon Alessandro del Piero has branded last season's finalists third rate. And even one of their own, John Barnes, insists going through this season without a trophy can still be a positive!

But you can't believe the club's owners, FSG, agreed to this record outlay to reach June potless. And why should they? On paper, no team - not even Juve and Cristiano Ronaldo - have improved themselves through the summer market like Liverpool. If Kiev was to be replayed today, with the current first-choice XIs to start, Real Madrid would struggle to lay a glove on Klopp's lot.

There's no treading water with these two. Real, sans Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane, have gone backwards since the final. The Portuguese hasn't been replaced and Zidane's successor, Julen Lopetegui, is now experiencing his first season in LaLiga - and is yet to win a trophy.

In contrast, Liverpool have upgraded their goalkeeper - by some margin. Strengthened their midfield with Naby Keita - and potentially Fabinho. And snapped up a genuine matchwinner in Xherdan Shaqiri.

And while Real are counting on the likes of Marco Asensio and Isco to find another gear, Liverpool can point to Trent Alexander-Arnold and the emergence of Joe Gomez as two young players already a level above what they were producing 12 months ago.

Liverpool are on the march. The perception is here's a club on the move. Pushing forward. Real Madrid? Florentino Perez's Real Madrid? They're just trying to hold the place together.

Indeed, consider this: Liverpool have paid more - much more - in just agents' fees in the past 12 months than Florentino shelled out for his richest signing, Thibaut Courtois, over the past three transfer windows. The former Chelsea goalkeeper arriving for €35m - barely a third of what FSG agreed to pay AS Roma for Alisson Becker over the summer.

Liverpool have worked the transfer market like no other this past year. Even the loss of Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona is being almost celebrated as the catalyst for this new Reds surge.

As we say, Liverpool are on the march. They've strengthened where they were weak. They've added where they were short. Goalkeeper. Midfield. Attack. In contrast, Real's big signing was Courtois. A man to replace Keylor Navas - just named UEFA's Goalkeeper of the Year. Not exactly a decision to improve a declining team.

Go deeper and it gets worse. At Anfield, this record spend - from Virgil van Dijk to Alisson - has all occurred as FSG have bankrolled the redevelopment of the stadium and the club's training facilities. In contrast, we had news this week of Real's immediate transfer spending being threatened by Florentino's plans of a refurb for the Santiago Bernabeu. Yes, there's €375m available for the coming transfer windows - but that might not be the case if the stadium plans are to be fulfilled.

Indeed, not since the summer of 2014 and James Rodriguez's World Cup campaign has Real managed to get close to what Liverpool are spending today. The former AS Monaco attacker joining Real on the back of his '14 Brazil form for €75m. The only deal to come close since was the €45m Real committed to Flamengo for a 16 year-old Vinicius Junior 18 months ago.

Of course, the spending is one thing - and you can't argue against Real's record in Europe over these past four years. But football is about the here and now. Just ask Manchester United. When that fall comes, getting back up can take years.

That's not to say Liverpool are destined to romp to this season's title. Juve, Barcelona and Pep Guardiola's Manchester City will all have recognised the opportunity a faltering Real offers. But the pessimism from pundits about Liverpool's chances is unfounded.

If, as European champions, Real Madrid are the barometer. If they're to be compared with the rest. Then there's plenty for Liverpool supporters to be excited about going into this season's Champions League - and beyond.

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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