Gerard Houllier likes to deal in threes. He won a magnificent cup treble back in 2001 when he was in charge of Liverpool.
And he believes there is a hat-trick of good reasons why the current crop have just claimed the Premier League title.
Houllier explains: “One, they’ve been together for two years to work, train and play. There is a tactical harmony.
The team is coming to full maturity now. “Second, the buys of Virgil van Dijk and Alisson were pivotal in the title quest.
When those two came into the team, it was different. They won the Champions League last year and that tells you everything. “And three, Jurgen Klopp.
He gives so much enthusiasm and confidence to the whole squad. The team would go through hell and fire for him.” Houllier’s triple cup haul put the Reds back in business as he also professionalised the set-up behind the scenes.
Rafa Benitez built on that success, turning Liverpool into Champions League winners and title challengers. And Klopp has taken it even further by ending the 30-year wait for domestic glory along with adding a sixth European Cup to the trophy cabinet.
Liverpool could be set for a big Community Shield change under FA plans He says: “It would be very presumptuous to say that. “Every manager has got something he can improve when he succeeds.
Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier and Phil Thompson with the UEFA Cup the morning after the final in 2001 “When you are a manager, you need results and trophies.
In Liverpool winning silverware is important. “Second, you need to leave a legacy. That means you need to leave a team so the one who comes after you doesn’t have to spend all his money.
And also a legacy in terms of habits. “And the third thing is to make players improve and to make your team improve.
To make them progress. “You mentioned Rafa and Jurgen. Obviously what I had to do in 1998 and the early 2000s does not [relate to] now in 2020.
Rafa came after me. We cannot say we won the title! “But we did our bit at the right time and hopefully the club benefited from that.
For me, I was the first foreign coach. It was a turning point. We were moving from the boot room tradition to something different.” What is beyond doubt, however, is the role Houllier played in the careers of two current Anfield stars.
For the best part of a decade, the 72-year-old has worked as Head of Global Football for Red Bull.
He has overseen sporting development of the brand’s entire roster of clubs, including Salzburg in Austria and Leipzig in Germany.
And his watchful eye spotted the untapped talents of Sadio Mane and Naby Keita. Houllier says: “I saw Mane during the Olympic Games in 2012.
He was at Metz and we bought him at the time for €4m at Red Bull Salzburg. “He played two years and won a [league and cup] double. Then he ran away to go to Southampton! And then on to Liverpool.
“He has become more and more composed. Very focused and more composed in front of goal particularly. He can make goals but he can also score goals.”
Houllier was impressed when he first spotted Keita in action too. And he believes the Guinean can deliver for the Reds in seasons to come.
He says: “Keita was playing for a ‘championship’ team in France. They were struggling but he was playing everyone off the park.
“Like when I saw Steven Gerrard; he was practically everywhere and his maturity was impressive, even under pressure. I recommended Salzburg buy him and they followed me.
Blood Red: Jurgen Klopp describes Naby Keita as Liverpool’s ‘super solution’ Blood Red: Jurgen Klopp describes Naby Keita as Liverpool’s ‘super solution’ Another Liverpool trinity recently came together when Klopp was on the phone to Houllier as he walked through Formby – only to bump into neighbour Steven Gerrard.
Houllier has known Klopp for a while and the pair get on well: “We used to come across each other at meetings in UEFA. “In Dortmund they sing You’ll Never Walk Alone too.
I was a supporter of Dortmund and he was a supporter of Liverpool!” Klopp’s next challenge is to try and turn one title into a Red dynasty.
And Houllier believes his friend is well equipped to do just that despite some obvious obstacles. He says: “The team is still young and it will unlock something inside them.
Winning the league will give so much confidence for the next season. Keita, Thiago and would could happen “It’s more difficult at the moment because you have Manchester City, United, Chelsea, Leicester now and all those teams.
“But the same effect we had with the first win in the League Cup [in 2001 to spark the treble], it could be the same with winning this league today. “Don’t forget – last season they deserved it as well! City had to perform fantastically to beat Liverpool. “97 points.
Only one defeat. Normally when you go over 90 points you win the title.” When lockdown is finally lifted and Liverpool’s league-winning party can truly begin, the city may welcome a very special guest. Is Houllier planning to return to the place he called home for six years to celebrate? The answer is instant: “Definitely. And to congratulate the lads and Jurgen!”