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Liverpool believe European glory can be start of golden generation

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MADRID — Everyone connected with Liverpool believe they deserve to be Champions of Europe. Every season. And they are, once again.

But the message from Jurgen Klopp and his players after they won the UEFA Champions League by beating Tottenham in Madrid on Saturday was clear.

This is only the start.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned

With ‘Allez, Allez, Allez’ ringing in everyone’s ears over the past 12 months, Liverpool’s fans urged their team towards, as they say, conquering Europe, after being runners up in cruel fashion last season.

This time around Liverpool won their sixth European Cup as they edged to victory in a far from silky display. But who remembers how you won the trophy? They have now won twice as many European Cups as the next English club (bitter rivals Manchester United have three) and Liverpool’s love affair with Europe goes on. And so will that famous song.

From Paris down to Turkey (and now via Madrid), they have, indeed, won the f****** lot. But they want more.

[ MORE: All of the UCL final news ]

Klopp was asked about being in the final in Istanbul next season, the site of Liverpool’s famous European success in 2005, and his message was echoed by his players.

“We will carry on. We will win and we want to win things,” Klopp said. “This is only the start for this group. We still have a wonderful age group and the all have their best times in their careers ahead of them.”

[ MORE: Klopp reacts

Virgil Van Dijk, who was once again a colossus at center back and was named Man of the Match, was asked by Pro Soccer Talk about dominating European soccer for the years to come.

Wearing his winners medal around his neck and swigging on a beer, he smiled when thinking about the glory of nights like this in Madrid.

“We should be hungry anyway but the season with Liverpool ended today. We won the Champions League. Something that we definitely wanted. But I think in July when we start again, everyone starts on nil. Everyone is working towards their goals. We want a chance to win every trophy possible,” van Dijk said. “We have the squad for it. Hopefully we can challenge Man City again next season for the title. They aren’t going anywhere and we aren’t going anywhere either. In the Champions League we just need to be three years in a row the final. It is something we hope to be in every year. We know how difficult it is to reach it. We are all ambitious. We all want to have these kind of nights a couple of times a year. So let’s just go for it. Work hard. Stay humble. Let’s keep moving forward.”

The players wandered through the mixed zone celebrating, with Alisson holding the trophy, Salah chatting with huge groups and Klopp even made an appearance as he celebrated by jogging around his players.

Jubilation was in the air, but so too was a focus about what is to come.

Mohamed Salah, who scored the first goal from the penalty spot early on, was adamant better things are ahead for this Liverpool side under Klopp.

Not just in Europe, but also in the Premier League.

“It is the start for us, honestly it is the start for us,” Salah said. “This is the first competition [we’ve won] and this is the first season we can say we’ve been fighting for the Premier League, while fighting for the Champions League. This year was the first year we fight for the Premier League and we lost it by just one point which was also against Man City, and for them it was well deserved. The average age is 26, 27 and we also have lots of young players. It is a good experience for us to win a trophy now, and also last season how we learned from it. As you can see today we were more calm. We scored a second goal after the 86th minute, so we were calmer in the game.”

Staying calm in the pressure cooker situation in Madrid was not easy. The intense heat in the coupled with the expectation of being the heavy favorites was tough for Liverpool to handle. And an early goal made their task a little tougher as they sat back and soaked up Spurs pressure, then eventually struck the clinched on one of their many counter attacks.

All week long in Madrid Liverpool’s fans have been rolling into the Spanish capital, outnumbering Tottenham comfortably as their global appeal is clear for all to see. Following on from the glory of winning four European Cups in eight seasons from 1977 to 1984, Liverpool’s last win came in 2005 and they’ve now had to wait another 14 years for the next glorious win to arrive.

But that feeling of entitlement that they are supposed to dominate Europe has never left. And now it will carry on.

Now Virgil van Dijk, Alisson, Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah, Andrew Robertson, Jordan Henderson, Roberto Firmino, Fabinho, Georginio Wijnaldum, James Milner, Divock Origi and Trent Alexander-Arnold have etched their names into Liverpool history.

A new golden generation has arrived, and the most worrying thing for Liverpool’s rivals is that they, as the song ends, are “never going to stop.”

Saturday night in Madrid has the potential to be the start of a glorious run of trophies and European dominance for Liverpool.

Success in Europe is something which seeps into every pore of the club and a new generation is about to try and replicate previous domination.

“Hopefully that is the first of many trophies this squad can win,” veteran midfielder James Milner said. “It will be nice to go into Melwood and see number six next to the European Cup. The club has got such great history. When I signed for the club I was desperate to add trophies to it. It expects to win trophies. It has an amazing history but we want to create our own history as well. We’ve started that tonight and we’ve put one on the board. I’m delighted for the players and the manager. That is what we all came here for. I think when I was at Man City, when we won the first FA Cup it was massive for us, the belief and that winning mentality and to know that you can do it. Hopefully this will be the same and we can enjoy it as long as we can. But we all know we come back preseason and everything is forgotten and we have to go again.”

With a Champions League trophy with them on their flight back to Liverpool and for the trophy parade, the term “we go again” now means much more.

“Sometimes we carry the burden of history,” Klopp smiled as he was asked about winning back-to-back titles in Istanbul next season.

Now, they are making their own history and they’ve cemented their spot as a legendary Liverpool side.

Bruce explains taking wheel at wobbly Newcastle United

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Steve Bruce didn’t have it in him to turn down his boyhood club again.

The well-traveled manager and Manchester United legend has taken the reins at combustible Newcastle United after Rafa Benitez walked away from the club this summer.

[ MORE: Sturridge punished ]

Bruce was Sheffield Wednesday manager when that happened, but simply could not resist the lure of managing at St. James’ Park.

He’s also quite confident in his abilities. From The Chronicle:

“I know in some people’s eyes, I’m not Rafa and I know there are big shoes to fill but believe me, I’ll give it everything I possibly can and hopefully I prove the doubters wrong.”

Bruce certainly does not have Benitez’s resume, but has had success in lower leagues. He’s led Birmingham City and Hull City to a pair of promotions each.

If Newcastle backs him as rumored, he may be able to have one of his better Premier League seasons, but his being backed is a wobbly proposition at best (The club is being linked with monster Hoffenheim forward Joelinton).

Bruce knows things have been largely poor at Newcastle United under owner Mike Ashley, and that the club could be taken over by new owners with different ambitions for their manager’s position.

But, again, this is the club he’s supported since he was a boy.

“As I said the easy thing would to have been to say no but I just hope that people show the respect which you obviously only gain by getting results and doing the job, but hopefully that will go hand in hand.”

It’s another Zlatan day, as Galaxy star rips Vela, talks Area 51

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic took a shot at his rivals and his league in one fell swoop.

Perhaps Major League Soccer’s hit is down to proximity and not intent, but the LA Galaxy star certainly didn’t disguise his feelings when asked whether LAFC star Carlos Vela is the best player in the league.

[ MORE: De Ligt joins Juve ]

Vela, 30, has lit MLS on fire to the tune of 19 goals and eight assists in 19 matches, driving the second-year squad to the top of the Western Conference.

Zlatan and the Galaxy’s seasons have trailed behind, relatively speaking. The third-place Galaxy are 12 points behind LAFC, with Ibrahimovic contributing 13 goals and three assists in three fewer games.

“29, he’s playing in MLS and he’s in his prime. When I was 29, where was I?”

Herculez Gomez replies that Ibrahimovic was in Europe (Vela turned 30 in March. At 29, Ibrahimovic scored 21 goals in 41 appearances for AC Milan, on loan from Barcelona. At 30, he scored 35 in 44 for Milan).

“Big difference, exactly.”

Vela, for what it’s worth, spent 2005-17 in Europe. Anyway, here is the exchange.

But wait, there’s more.

Zlatan was also quizzed on Area 51 while in a scrum. For those who may not know, Area 51 is a classified United States military facility in Nevada which has long been speculated as the home of extraterrestrial testing and scientific experimentation.

He doesn’t need to worry about going there, because he has his own Area 51 and there is only one Zlatan.

Who will make Ballon d’Or final three?

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When Luka Modric won the Ballon d’Or last summer, marking the first victor neither named Lionel Messi nor Cristiano Ronaldo since 2007, it threatened to signal a new era for the trophy in more ways than one.

Ronaldo didn’t win the honors, finishing second, but Messi was inexplicably left off the final ballot altogether.

[ MORE: De Ligt joins Juve ]

Could this be the year that neither makes the top three? Probably not, but it could be the first time Ronaldo fails to make the list since Barca swept the honors Messi, Andres Iniesta, Xavi in 2010.

So while most of us are not thinking of the award right now, Ronaldo has it on his brain. It’s no surprise that Marca, known for its backing of Real Madrid royalty, has thrown his name in the mix as a “favorite” given his scudetto with Juventus. That it mentions his performance in the UEFA Nations League is a little goofy — it was a two-match summer — but such is life.

Ronaldo and Messi are deadlocked on five Ballons d’Or, the most ever, and Messi’s year was superior to his longtime rival. Both won their leagues and Messi did not claim domestic honors at the Copa America — in fact he was not his phenomenal self — but Messi scored 12 goals in 10 Champions League appearances before Liverpool stunned Barcelona prior to the final (Ronaldo’s Juve lost to Ajax).

Marca proffers this “I don’t care but obviously I very much care” from CR7:

“I don’t live with an obsession about awards,” Ronaldo explained. “My numbers don’t lie, this year I’ve won three titles and I’ve been good in the Nations League. What else can I do?”

Ronaldo, it should be noted, was still incredible last season. He scored all three goals as Juventus erased a 2-0 first leg deficit in the UCL Round of 16 versus old rivals Atletico Madrid, then scored in both legs of the side’s exit via Ajax. And he likely would’ve won the top scorer’s prize in Italy had he not missed six matches through injury and rest.

Messi again breached the half-century mark in goals, scoring 51 times in all competitions for Barcelona. He chipped in 22 assists and also missed six matches between the UCL and La Liga.

Are there three players who could surpass both to make a new final three?

It would be stunning if Liverpool and Netherlands center back Virgil Van Dijk was kept off the top three, while Sadio Mane may have a Champions League crown and Africa Cup of Nations victory. And you can follow the Luka Modric logic to a land where treble- and Nations League-winning Bernardo Silva is in the discussion (Raheem Sterling was also great).

Kylian Mbappe had probably the best-looking season on Earth, scoring 39 times with 17 assists in 43 matches and navigating the attention that came with Neymar’s long-term absence by shouldering the burden to great success. We made the argument that his 19 goals and six assists in 23 Neymar-free matches is one of the prime reasons he’s be worth almost any transfer fee.

Also remember that the odds of the captains of international teams having enough ballots without Ronaldo and/or Messi named is very difficult to imagine.

Still, Messi, Mbappe, and Van Dijk seems like the final three to us. What do you think?

LIVE — UEL second legs will determine possible Wolves opponents

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Wolverhampton Wanderers will find out its first Europa League opponent on Friday, and the field will be winnowed with a bevy of second qualifying round second legs on Thursday.

[ LIVE: Europa League scores  ]

Malmo, Aberdeen, Kilmarnock, Rangers, Legia Warsaw, and Hajduk Split are the biggest names in play on Thursday, with only the Polish side failing to hold an advantage after the first leg.

American forward Romain Gall is in the mix for Malmo, though he’s been an unused sub of late for the Swedish powers. That could change today, with Malmo in Northern Ireland with a 7-0 advantage over Ballymena United.

You can follow the dozens of ties by clicking the link above.