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 By Steven Kelly

Liverpool must take final step and deliver a trophy under Jurgen Klopp

Liverpool's magnificent 5-0 victory against Porto on Wednesday was one of the club's finest away performances in Europe ever.

It would take a brave man to use the word "embarrassing" to describe Liverpool this week. Enter Roy Keane. He used that word to describe the lack of modern trophy successes at Liverpool -- and Tottenham, too.

Some have been dismissive of the legendary midfielder by describing him as rent-a-curmudgeon, deliberately being provocative to goose up ratings for a terrestrial highlights show that gets last crack at the Champions League action.

Others, however, were in agreement. The clubs have one trophy each in the last 11 seasons, and despite their midweek brilliance -- Spurs came from 2-0 down to draw away at Juventus -- that run could extend to 12 years.

Keane isn't the only retired star to hold provocative views. Liverpool's own legend, captain and multi-trophy winner Graeme Souness, adopts a similar tone on satellite TV.

Liverpool supporters themselves often criticise their owners for a lack of focus on trophy-winning. Perhaps they feel criticism is all right when it's in-house and not from outsiders like Keane, especially one so identifiable with success at fierce rivals Manchester United.

It's a little complicated and not a situation that can be reduced to handy, bite-sized chunks for bait. Rafa Benitez's FA Cup win in 2006 made it six cups in five years for Liverpool -- something even Keane might find acceptable.

For the dozen years since, it's not as if the Reds simply downed tools and did absolutely nothing. In 2007, they were in the Champions League final. In 2008, they narrowly lost a CL semifinal to Chelsea.

In 2009, they came second in the Premier League, missing out on first by four points. In the current decade, they've lost three finals, three semifinals and were league runners-up again in 2014.

What's casually described as embarrassing is simply a temporary loss of know-how, a glaring failure to somehow "get over the line."

There are certainly things the club could do to increase Jurgen Klopp's chances of achievement. Such a talented manager at such a big club really shouldn't be operating on a negative net spend, skewed as that may be by the enormous fee paid by Barcelona for Philippe Coutinho.

Klopp isn't the first Liverpool manager in modern times to achieve roughly 90 percent of what fans want. Roy Evans, Gerard Houllier, Rafa Benitez and Brendan Rodgers each came close.

Liverpool celebrate their opening goal.
Liverpool's Champions League performance against Porto now brings heightened expectations.

What constitutes that final 10 percent that raises any club to a level where major success is not just hoped for but actually expected?

Maybe one important player, the catalyst who provides the missing link and glues the whole side together? It may even be good fortune. That rubs many fans up the wrong way, implying that some success in the golden age might have been lucky.

It isn't dismissive of Liverpool's past greatness to say some of it came about through a small moment of luck.

They played well to get a 1-1 draw in the 1984 European Cup final, when Roma's two World Cup winners -- Bruno Conti and Francesco Graziani -- sent their penalties into orbit to give Liverpool a famous victory and their fourth European Cup.

Contrast that with the infamous Steven Gerrard slip of 2014 against Chelsea, when Liverpool lost their title impetus to Manchester City. A whole year's work was squandered by the unsure footing of Liverpool's greatest player of modern times. In the end, there was no trophy because of this one ridiculous moment.

The difference between success and failure can be microscopic. Keane has inadvertently tapped into the pressure on the biggest clubs. Merely doing well is never enough because of the magnificent things they've done in the past.

Neutrals scoff at such "hardship" since the big clubs have all the wealth and power in the game, enabling them to continually challenge for honours.

Burden or blessing, following Liverpool has its own unique demands. Even as Sadio Mane and company were laying waste to Porto, how many were almost automatically thinking, "The greater challenges lie ahead"?

The moment to enjoy such treasures as Mohammed Salah's extraordinary goal glut and Roberto Firmino's all-round brilliance seems fleeting before being overwhelmed by anxiety about the future.

It doesn't help when Liverpool sells its best stars as soon as bigger clubs -- usually Barcelona -- snap their fingers.

It's not as simple as winning a trophy. For Arsene Wenger and Arsenal, three FA Cups in four years hasn't soothed the troubled waters there.

Klopp's Liverpool are in a good place. Improvement and some sublime football keep the more demanding critics at bay for now.

Demands for silverware and ensuing frustration built up over many years before Klopp even arrived at Anfield. They shouldn't be allowed to deflect him from his task just yet.

Steven Kelly is one of ESPN FC's Liverpool bloggers. Follow him on Twitter @SteKelly198586.


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