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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.

Winks says trophies for Spurs are “round the corner”

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Tottenham Hotspur has just one trophy in the last 20 years, but midfielder Harry Winks says the club is knocking on the door and should be earning hardware in no time.

With the club reaching the Champions League final this season before falling to Liverpool, Winks – who started the big game in midfield – is believing in what Mauricio Pochettino has brought to the squad.

“As long as we keep believing in what we have to do… I’m sure they [trophies] are round the corner,” Winks said after the club’s first training session in Singapore. “Everybody is ambitious in the squad. Of course there comes a time when players want to start winning trophies. But there is a bigger picture at Tottenham.”

Winks signed a new five-year contract at Spurs just over a week ago, rewarding the Spurs academy product for breaking into the first team and earning a significant role throughout last season, only cut short by a groin injury. Winks made 17 starts and 26 total appearances last season and was a consistent presence in the Champions League run as well, starting eight of the team’s 13 matches in the competition.

Tottenham’s only trophy of the last 28 years is a 2008 League Cup victory, when they topped Chelsea 2-1 in the final with Jonathan Woodgate scoring the winner in extra time. You have to go all the way back to 1991 for their previous trophy, when they won the FA Cup by beating Nottingham Forest 2-1 in the final on a stoppage-time own-goal.

Spurs has come closer in recent years, with last season providing a legitimate title chase until Liverpool and Manchester City pulled away at the turn of the calendar year. They reached the Champions League final before falling to Liverpool, and fell to Chelsea in the League Cup semifinals as well.

Big things have taken place for the club this summer, with Winks’ contract extension plus the addition of Tanguy Ndomele on a club record fee. Spurs is also rumored to be in for attacking midfielder Giovani Lo Celso in what would be a quality addition to the squad. Christian Eriksen has not yet made a move to depart despite heavy interest from the top Spanish clubs, and Toby Alderweireld has also not yet departed despite his low release clause sparking rumors. Meanwhile, Danny Rose has not made the trip to Asia for preseason and the 29-year-old is reportedly on his way out.

Europa League: Rangers, Aberdeen, FCSB advance in first qualifying round

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The first qualifying round of the 2019/20 Europa League wrapped up Thursday as the competition pairs down teams en route to the group stage.

A couple of notable teams lived to see another day, including Steven Gerrard and Scottish side Rangers who passed its test with flying colors, hammering Gibraltar side St. Joseph’s 6-0 for a resounding 10-0 aggregate win. Jermaine Defoe scored a late brace but Colombian international Alfredo Morelos was the man of the hour, bagging a hat-trick including a stunning rabona at the doorstep that probably wasn’t necessary but still found the back of the net.

Fellow Scottish side Aberdeen who topped Finnish club Rovaniemen Palloseura – or RoPS – 2-1 for a 4-2 aggregate victory. English striker Sam Cosgrove put Aberdeen in front from the penalty spot in the 26th minute, and 19-year-old Scottish youth international Lewis Ferguson picked up the late game winner in the 94th minute with essentially the last kick of the game.

FCSB, previously known as Steaua Bucuresti, knocked off Moldovan club FC Milsami Orhei 2-1 for a 4-1 aggregate victory. FCSB, who finished second in the Romanian top flight last season, got the winning strike from 21-year-old Romanian youth international Razvan Oaida in the 42nd minute to give FCSB the victory.

Danish club Brondby advanced despite a 2-0 road loss, topping Finnish side FC Inter Turku 4-3 on aggregate thanks to their 4-1 victory in the first leg. Turku struck twice in quick succession after the break, scoring in the 52nd and 56th minutes, but it was too little too late.

Legia Warsaw shook off a 0-0 first leg draw and secured a 3-0 win over aptly-named Gibraltar side FC Europa. A brace from Spanish striker Carlitos led the way, with goals in the 7th minute and 60th minute to set the pace for the Polish side.

Irish club Shamrock Rovers advanced over Norwegian side SK Brann on a late winner by new signing Gary O'Neil who bagged an 87th minute strike to secure the 2-0 win and lead the Irish side through 4-3 on aggregate. O’Neil only just joined Shamrock Rovers from UCD this summer, and he came off the bench for the final 10 minutes and found the winner.

Swedish club Malmo, famous as Zlatan Ibrahimovic‘s boyhood club, finished off Ballymena out of Northern Ireland 4-0 for a 11-0 aggregate bashing. Malmo featured four different goalscorers, including American international Romain Gall, who picked up his only international cap with a late bench appearances against Italy back in late 2018.

Croatian side Hajduk Split was upset by Maltese club Gzira United 3-1 at home, which gave the visitors the win on away goals after a 3-3 aggregate tie. Gzira striker Ben Hamed Kone struck for a pair, including the game – and matchup – winner in the 97th minute that sent the Maltese side through. The two goals were utterly spectacular, with the first coming in the 69th minute on a bicycle kick from all the way at the top of the box, while his second was a flick from nearly the same position that sent them through.

All Europa League scores (bold team advances)

Rangers 6-0 St. Joseph’s
Ballymena 0-4 Malmo FF
Legia Warsaw 
3-0 FC Europa
FC Milsami 1-2 FCSB
RoPS 1-2 Aberdeen
FC Inter Turku 2-0 Bronby
Apollon Limassol 
4-0 Kauno Zalgiris
Hapoel Be’er 1-0 KF Laci
Hajduk Split 1-3 Gzira United
Kilmarnock 0-2 Connah’s Quay
KR Reykjavik 0-0 Molde
Shamrock Rovers 
2-0 SK Brann
Hapoel Be’er 1-0 KF Laci
Tobol Kostanay 1-1 Jeunesse Eche 
FK Makedonija 0-3 Alashkert FC
Kairat Almaty
2-1 Siroki Brijeg
KS Teuta 1-0 FK Ventspils
FC Levadia Tallinn 3-2 Stjarnan
Rigas Futbola Skola 0-2 Olimpija Ljubljana
Universitatea Craiova 
3-2 Sabail
Dinamo Minsk 1-2 FK Liepaja
Levski Sofia 2-0 MFK Ruzomberok
Cracovia 2-2 Dunajska Streda
FC Vaduz 
2-1 Breidablik
Haugesund 5-1 Cliftonville
Neftchi 6-0 Speranta Nisporeni
Petrocub-Hincesti 0-1 AEK Larnaca
Torpedo Kutaisi 0-2 Ordabasy Shymkent
Zalgiris Vilnius 1-1 Honved
Zrinjski Mostar 
3-0 Akademija Pandev
Progres Niederkorn 1-2 Cork
UE Engordany 0-1 Dinamo Tbilisi
B36 Torshavn 2-3 Crusaders
FK Kukesi 1-1 Debrecen
Hibernians 0-1 Shakhter Soligorsk
IFK Norrkoping 
2-1 St. Patrick’s
NS Mura 2-3 Maccabi Haifa
Vidi 0-0 FK Zeta
FC Vitebsk 1-1 KuPS Kuopio
Shkupi 1-2 Pyunik
Buducnost Podgorica 4-0 JK Narva Trans
FC Spartak Trnava 2-0 Radnik Bijeljina
NK Domzale 1-0 Balzan FC
Radnicki Nis 2-2 Flora

Report: Barcelona logs bid for Neymar

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According to a report by Sky Sports, Barcelona has officially submitted an offer to Paris Saint-Germain for Brazilian superstar Neymar that includes a $113 million cash component as well as a two-player offer that PSG can choose from.

The report states that Barcelona submitted a six-player list to PSG which includes Philippe Coutinho, Ousmane Dembele, Ivan Rakitic, Nelson Semedo, and Malcom. PSG can reportedly pick two from those six players, and the deal would be complete. Sky Sports did not know the identity of the sixth player at the time of the initial report.

Neymar has become unsettled at PSG after his time in France has been marred by suspensions and disappointing results in European play. He was involved in an altercation with a fan after PSG fell to Stade Rennais in the Coupe de France final in May, and has been accused of rape this summer by a Brazilian girl he flew to Paris late last season. Neymar was also suspended for three upcoming Champions League matches for critical comments made on his Instagram page after PSG was beaten by Manchester United this past spring.

Neymar has reportedly told PSG sporting director Leonardo that he wishes to leave the club in a recent meeting following the Brazilian’s late arrival to PSG preseason training. He missed the Copa America this summer thanks to an ankle injury suffered in a pre-tournament friendly against Qatar.

Over the last two years at PSG after joining from Barcelona via a world-record $250 million transfer fee, Neymar has made 58 appearances, scoring 51 goals and assisting 29 more. However, he’s been eliminated from the Champions League Round of 16 both years, finding himself injured for at least the return leg of the knockout matchup in both years.

Watford downed late by Ajax in preseason friendly

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Watford went toe-to-toe with Champions League semifinalists Ajax for most of the match, but capitulated late as Dutch youth international Jurrien Timber scored an 89th minute winner in a 2-1 win for the Eredivisie side in Austria.

Andre Gray put the Hornets up from the penalty spot six minutes before the break as American youth international Sergino Dest was called for an unlucky handball in the box. Abdoulaye Doucoure danced through the box and as he looked to skip the ball past Dest, it popped up and caught the American’s arm. Gray delivered and put Watford 1-0 up at the break.

The lead would only last until the 51st minute when Dusan Tadic found himself on the ball at the end line on the right, and he cut back to Donny van de Beek through the dummy of Kasper Dolberg on the penalty spot for an easy low finish and a 1-1 scoreline. It would stay that way until one minute to go in regulation as Carel Eiting sent a ball into the box where the 18-year-old Timber lept with his back to goal and clipped the ball off the top of his head for the winner, burying the chance inside the far post.

Both teams featured strong lineups, as Watford ran out stars like Gray, Tom Cleverley, Adrian Mariappa, and former Eredivisie veteran Daryl Janmaat while Nathan Chalobah, Gerard Deulofeu, and Jose Holebas came off the bench. Ajax saw van de Beek, Tadic, Dolberg, and Daley Blind all make the starting lineup.

Next for Watford is a match against Bayer Leverkusen on Saturday, also taking place in Austria.