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What We Can Learn from Liverpool or: the Unbearable Smugness of Being

Liverpool has so much to teach us, but are we ready to learn?

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There is a murmur. It begins as a whisper, a susurrus of wondering. And it rises. A question mark unbending into an exclamation point of defiance. What could Liverpool possibly teach anyone?

An answer emerges, in the form of a post, neatly wrapped for our humble edification, unfurling its elegant lessons with breathless sanctimony. It expands, infinitely. It bulges, lewdly.

You wonder what we could possibly learn from a club that has finished below us eight out of the last nine seasons? Simply that this does not matter at all.

What Liverpool has, and Spurs most assuredly does not, is an unbreakable sense of self-possession, an impermeable aura of confidence that transcends the rational and inhabits an almost spiritual plane of auto-erotic self-delusion.

You’d call it hubris if it had a downside.

No club on earth has imbued its fans with such a righteous assurance of its own supreme worth and a matching indignation towards the thankless public who refuses to receive the benevolent gift of their existence. Every aspect of its past, present, and future demands to be revered.

You Shall Acclaim Us. We Shall Be Acclaimed. If You Do Not, What Use is the Acclaim of Peasants Anyway?

Once, Arsenal made vain attempts to seize their crown, but they proved to be a false king. The seemingly pure veneer of Doing It The Arsenal Way corroded beneath the poisonous final years of Wenger’s reign, splintering armor revealing nothing within its pearlescent shell but the howling winds of madness. Even Barcelona, one suspects, would collapse upon itself like an imploding neutron star if they spent successive seasons in eighth place. Mes que un club they may be, but only until the day the are not. Not so, Liverpool.

Liverpool is a temporarily embarrassed millionaire serving drive-thru french fries to customers who must time and again interrupt him: “Sir, this is an Arby’s.”

When they had won the most league titles in history, you knew it. When they hadn’t won one for twenty years, you still knew it. When they no longer had the most, you learned that it was actually much more important to have won the European Cup five times. There is no goalpost so movable that Liverpool cannot still sneak their achievements in at the far post.

Which brings me back to Liverpool’s paean to Mohammed Salah, wreathed in lightning like a pre-season Pikachu, an Egyptian Beyonce uniting the world in the holy light of his Liverpudlian glory.

I don’t know where these words came from. I don’t need to know, and I don’t want to know. Because they were not written, they were wrung, purely distilled, straight from the heart Liverpool, in all its undauntable majesty. Where a pre-season friendly carries not the weight of the world, but a solid-gold palanquin bearing their new, solid-gold idol, a force weightier and more significant than a mere world could ever be.

Please do not mistake this for mockery. To not only express these words, but to believe them, is a gift worth more than a victory over Real Madrid in a meaningless final. You can lose finals; we all have. Some of us even lose semi-finals. But what one football game can stand against that?

When Harry Kane claimed his goal, we folded in on ourselves, irritated and flippant. If Mohammed Salah claimed it, he would claim the universe. He would claim your very soul. He would claim he had given it a nobler home than the husk of your feeble frame could ever manage. You would thank him for it, and he would claim your thanks were already understood and were unnecessary.

This is no ordinary smugness. It is the unbearable smugness of being truly great. You’ll never walk alone with it. You must not. You could never, ever carry its weight alone.