Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk has revealed that he believes Real Madrid ganged up on teenage defender Trent Alexander-Arnold during last season’s Champions League final.
Two howlers from Liverpool ‘keeper Loris Karius and an overhead kick from Gareth Bale were enough for Los Blancos to lift yet another Champions League in a 3-1 victory over the Reds, who were without Mohamed Salah for the majority of the match after a controversial challenge from Sergio Ramos injured the Egyptian.
Speaking to De Telegraaf, as quoted by the Sportsman, Van Dijk outlined a change of mentality he identified when Salah was forced off through injury.
He said: “Mentally, something changed for Real Madrid once Salah left the pitch. Suddenly Marcelo, Benzema and Ronaldo all ganged up against our young right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold and left the whole right flank free. With Salah, they would not have dared.”
Van Dijk may have a point, Real Madrid’s second goal came down the right flank, and while Alexander-Arnold didn’t look out of place at that level, his inexperience may have told on such a big stage.
Despite the disappointment in Kiev, there can be no doubting that the young right back now looks right at home for both club and country.
Alexander-Arnold has turned himself into one of Liverpool’s most consistent performers, providing considerable quality from dead balls and shutting down some of Europe’s most dangerous wingers.
While some may view Real’s choice to focus on the right back last season as unfair or a negative thing, it’s the kind of ruthlessness that has seen the Spaniards become so successful in Europe in recent years. It may have been harsh, but the experience did Alexander-Arnold the world of good.