A lot can change in 10 years.
But a decade ago, even the most spirited Liverpool fan would have struggled to predict that by August 23, 2020, the Reds, managed by the most revered boss in world football, would be champions of everything.
Back then, most Liverpool fans were just hoping they’d have a club to support after witnessing what might have been the nadir of Tom Hicks and George Gillett’s painful Anfield tenure.
Liverpool were a mess off the pitch when they arrived at the City of Manchester Stadium to take on Roberto Mancini’s exciting, young team on August 23, 2010.
And fans were about to realise just how far the Reds had fallen behind on the pitch, too.
City, spurred on by a debuting James Milner, tore Roy Hodgson’s hapless side to shreds to inflict the new Liverpool manager’s first defeat since taking charge. It wouldn’t be his last.
And sitting in the stands to take it all in was Sheikh Mansour, watching his Man City side for the very first time having splurged £130m in the summer transfer window – with more to come before it was out.
In truth, Liverpool’s problems went even further.
Their off-pitch worries were well documented and it would be another two months before John Henry’s New England Sports Ventures, now Fenway Sports Group, would win a high court battle for ownership of the club.
The sickness that had infected the club had taken hold on the pitch and, after Rafael Benitez had been sacked months earlier, Javier Mascherano had decided he wanted out.
Mascherano had emerged as one of Liverpool’s key men, but having watched the man who had signed him get the sack, as well as his midfielder partner Xabi Alonso leave a year earlier, he’d decided enough was enough. He had to leave. Barcelona were the main suitors.
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Never one to pull out of a challenge, the Argentina international went head-to-head with his new manager over his future, agitating for a move to such an extent that Hodgson felt he had no choice to leave him out all together.
“Javier Mascherano is not in the right frame of mind at the moment to play the game because his head has been turned by the offer from Barcelona,” Hodgson said. “The fee that the club thinks is the correct fee and one that has been offered are very far apart and unless that can be resolved he might be unhappy for a long time.”
Without the experienced midfielder, City cut through the Reds at will and goals from Gareth Barry and two from Carlo Tevez were enough to leave Liverpool empty handed.
It was a shameful episode but, in hindsight, who could really blame Mascherano for his choice?
Unlike Philippe Coutinho years later, it was clear to the man signed from West Ham that Liverpool were headed in the wrong direction while the Catalan giants would go on to enjoy one of the most dominant periods in their history.
Mascherano and the defeat realistically only scratched the surface of how deep Liverpool’s problems ran.
And by the time Henry and co pitched up at Anfield months later, they would discover a club that had fallen so far behind their rivals both domestically and in Europe that a full overhaul of Liverpool’s thinking was needed.
By defeating Liverpool with such ease, City had put down a marker to the rest of the Premier League and in Europe, Barcelona were on the rise once again with a new and innovative brand of football.
Without City’s petrodollars or Barca’s philosophy, FSG had to do things a different way. And it would take time. The best part of 10 years, in fact.
But slowly and surely Liverpool did it, exacting revenge on both City and Barcelona along the way.
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