HALFWAY through October 2015 and following a hard-fought 0-0 draw at White Hart Lane, Tottenham are seventh in the Premier League, Liverpool tenth. Jurgen Klopp says 0-0 “is not my dream result, but it’s OK”, while Mauricio Pochettino says: “In football you need to be clinical.”

Seventh and tenth. This was Klopp’s first game in charge of Liverpool after succeeding Brendan Rodgers. Its venue - White Hart Lane - brings a nice circularity given who Klopp and Liverpool meet tonight in the Champions League final in Madrid.

Seventh and tenth. It is one marker to show where Spurs and Liverpool were relatively recently and what has been achieved since.

Both clubs were in the Europa League that 2015/16 season. Spurs went out in the last 16, 5-1 on aggregate to Borussia Dortmund. They did, though, come third in the Premier League, which meant in 2016/17 Tottenham played Champions League football for the first time in five years. Something was developing.

READ MORE: Neil Lennon confirmed as Celtic manager

Liverpool reached the 2016 Europa League final, but lost 3-1 to Seville. In the league, they moved up from tenth on Klopp’s first day, but only to eighth. It meant that in 2016/17 – three seasons ago – Liverpool were not in Europe.

From where they were to the ultimate European club game tonight is a triumph of both clubs’ management and, in Liverpool’s case, intelligence in the transfer market.

As Spurs have not purchased a player since January 2018 – Lucas Moura – there is a broad-brush theory that tonight is a clash between a bought team (Liverpool) and a built one (Tottenham).

Liverpool, after all, spent £163m on Alisson, Naby Keita, Fabinho and Xherdan Shaqiri last summer, enhancing a squad that had just lost the Champions League final to Real Madrid. They had spent £76m on Virgil Van Dijk in January, which followed £72m spent on Mo Salah and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. That’s £311m.

Less acknowledged is that the club sell well. The £130m from Barcelona for Philippe Countinho is the obvious lucrative outward transfer, but Liverpool raked in another £70m from the likes of Mamadou Sakho (£25m), Dominic Solanke (£19m) Danny Ward (£12m) and smaller fees such as Kevin Stewart to Hull City for £4m.


READ MORE: The top 10 Premiership youngsters | 3: Mikey Johnston

Also overlooked at times is the development of players Klopp inherited. Seven of Liverpool’s starters or subs from the Europa League loss to Seville remain at Anfield and perhaps three of them – Dejan Lovren, Jordan Henderson and Roberto Firmino – will begin tonight.

James Milner, Divock Origi, Adam Lallana, Daniel Sturridge and Alberto Moreno also played some part against Seville.

Arguably as great a change as any under Klopp is that Moreno and Nathaniel Clyne (on loan at Bournemouth) have been replaced by Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold. The dynamic full-backs are a trademark of this team.

It is a comment that has applied to Spurs with Kieran Trippier and Danny Rose, though less frequently of late. The former was on the bench in that 0-0 from October 2015, but Rose started as did Hugo Lloris, Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen, Delle Alli, Christian Eriksen and Harry Kane. Harry Winks was on the bench.

In the dramatic second leg of the semi-final at Ajax, seven of those nine started started for Spurs and it would have been eight had Kane been fit. Erik Lamela, who played against Liverpool in 2015 was an important substitution in Amsterdam.


READ MORE: The top 10 Premiership youngsters | 4: Lewis Ferguson

So these are twin stories of progress through continuity and clever re-investment – Tottenham’s in their new training ground and stadium.

In October 2015 both clubs had potential: they have fulfilled it via structure, strategy, smart managers and some mid to long-term thinking rare in football. Pochettino signed a five-year contract last year; Liverpool gave Klopp a six-year extension at the end of his first season.

Thus in June 2019 Tottenham and Liverpool are solid institutions and this does not feel like the culmination of a plan, but the next step.

While there is carping about the managers’ recent trophy absences, some valid, it will end for one in Madrid.

Which one is another matter. Those semi-final comebacks against Ajax and Barcelona show the risk of prediction. But after last year’s final and this season’s narrow loss to Manchester City in the league, it could be Liverpool’s moment.

READ MORE: Graeme McGarry: Surreal Europa League Final is UEFA's reward for disregarding supporters

If barely half-English, this is an All-England final and that may be a factor. Liverpool finished 26 points ahead this season having beaten Spurs home and away. The Reds are more experienced in this setting and have several players on form, such as a clinical Sadio Mane.

The latest match between the two was nine weeks ago. Liverpool won 2-1 when Lloris fumbled an injury-time Salah header.

There is something about Salah. His was a traumatic 30 minutes in last year’s final against Real. Madrid would be an appropriate place to strike back.