For a large section of the English media that only acknowledges the existence of one European cup competition, tonight’s final is little more than a glorified playoff for next season’s Champions League. Having arrived from a country that takes the Europa League seriously, Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp would beg to disagree. So too would Liverpool’s starting captain tonight, midfielder James Milner.
“The funny thing is that I don’t think any of us have really thought about the Champions League,” Milner told reporters when asked about the importance of tonight for earning Liverpool entry in next season’s edition of the Champions League. “Obviously it’s a nice bonus and where this club wants to be ultimately, but I’m desperate to add to the list of trophies that have been won at this club. That’s why I came here.”
The Europa League has played a key role in Liverpool’s history. As the UEFA Cup, t’s where the club won their first European trophy in 1973 under Bill Shankly. It’s where Bob Paisley won his first, helping set the stage for further European success and more than a decade of dominance at home and abroad. In 2001, it helped lay the foundations for a resurgent decade and the club’s best years of the Premier League era.
Liverpool have a long and storied history in the competition, having won it more times than anyone bar their opponents this season, Sevilla. Access to the Champions League—which it already feels will inevitably be won by Barcelona or Real Madrid or Bayern Munich—would be a nice bonus prize, but no matter how some in the media see it, winning the trophy for the fourth time in the club’s history is what really matters.
“You walk into the reception at Melwood and all the honours are listed there,” Milner added. “I want to ensure the club has to get someone in over the summer to change that. We want to add to the great history of this club and win trophies. That’s what would make it a successful season. Being in the Champions League would just be an added bonus.”