Allan Kennedy (31-8-1954) is one of the great figures of the Liverpool of the 20th century. His name still makes Real Madrid fans shiver. Disputed 251 matches for the networks, won five leagues, four English cups and two European Cups. His was the decisive goal in the 1981 Paris final. He is the last executioner of Madrid in a final of the Champions League.
Since that May 27, 1981, the whites have won the seven finals they have played. The Liverpool legend hopes that this May 28 history will repeat itself in Paris. In his exclusive talk with MARCA he recalls the past, analyzes the present and warns his team, especially about a player: Benzema.
Ask. What is it like to play in a European Cup final? How did you feel when you scored in the final?
Response. Actually, that final was a bit weird. I played quite calmly, because the priority for us and for the master, Bob Paisley, was always to win the League. Everything else, whether it was the FA Cup or the European Cup, we thought of as something extra. We tried not to make too much of it, and take each match as it came. In this sense, it did not resemble a final. Besides, they carried the pressure of being favorites. They had won six European Cups. But that season we had a better record in Europe than the whites, and we were sure we could win. The final itself was very laughable, it was not the most beautiful game in history. When I dialed, I couldn’t believe it. I was wondering: “Have I really just scored in the European Cup final?”
P. It seemed that he was not going to start in the final due to an injury. How did you end up playing, what did you say to the master?
R. That year I did not have much luck with injuries. I broke my wrist in the first leg of the semi-final against Bayern. They told me I was going to be out for eleven weeks. I thought I wasn’t going to play for the rest of the season. But back then, footballers were tougher. I hadn’t broken my leg, and in the end you need your legs to play football. I wanted to play and the master needed me. So I played with the broken doll. They were different times. That wouldn’t happen today.
P. At that time, playing against Real Madrid caused the same incentives and fears as today?
R. At that time, it was a huge challenge to play against them. Real Madrid at that time had already won the European Cup many times. People said he was going to win. But our Liverpool was also very strong. People wrote us off too soon. I think mentally we were more confident. The master, Bob Paisley, had a clever way of downplaying the rival and the party itself. He told us that we only needed one goal, that one of our own was going to decide the final. Repeat and repeat that idea. We believed in his message so much that in the end it came true.
P. What went through your mind when you found the ball in front of the goal? Was he surprised at the mistake the defender made?
A. I did not expect the error. I was surprised when García Cortes completely lost the ball. I tried to clear it like crazy. He was left-handed and that day he played right back, so maybe he was a bit disoriented. When I found myself in front of the goal, I didn’t see any other options, so I just shot with all the strength I had.
After the final we went to drink beers
Q. Explain your celebration after scoring the goal.
R. When I went to celebrate it, my teammates shouted ridiculous things at me: “Why didn’t you pass, didn’t you see that you had options, and if you hadn’t scored…?” Of course, they were joking…partly. The truth is that, at that moment, in front of the goal, I didn’t hear anything… I just lowered my head and hit him as hard as possible. As soon as the ball touched the nets, I started running towards the fans and I remember thinking: “My God, the fans are far away”. I kept running and running towards our people. I ran more in that celebration than in the whole match.
Q. How did you celebrate as a team after the match?
A. The night after the game, we all went out. At that time we players liked beer, it was always about beers. Some of the players, including me, went to have a few near the hotel. The others went to the casino… We had a good time that night! The master, Bob Paisley, didn’t drink a single beer, he told us that he wanted to take it all in and process what we had achieved. It took me a long time to understand what had happened… that night I kept asking myself: “Have we really won the European Cup?”
Q. Where does the winning goal against Real Madrid rank in your long list of career achievements?
R. I have had many very good moments in my career: the five leagues I won with Liverpool, the two European Cups, for example. But, if I have to stay for a specific moment, I choose to score against Real Madrid in 1981. It was possibly the best moment of my career.
I played with the broken wrist. He didn’t have a broken leg; bouquets harder
P. What do you think of this Liverpool? How does it come out when you compare with yours?
A. Our team was amazing, but in the end, records are made to be broken and I think this team is going to do it. Klopp’s Liverpool continues to raise the bar and has already entered the club’s history. I think that in a short time it will become the best team in the history of the club and it is really thanks to the coach.
Q. Do you already place Klopp alongside the great Liverpool managers of the past: Shankly, Paisley, Dalglish…? The German will be remembered as one of the great coaches of the club?
A. At the end of the day, football is about winning titles and Bob Paisley’s record is probably the best of any manager in club history. I think you have to put Klopp in the same category as Paisley, because what he has done for Liverpool is incredible. When he took the reins, the team was going through very difficult times. It has radically transformed it. Moreover, the level continues to improve. The football that Klopp plays is amazing. Thanks are also due to Pep Guardiola for constantly putting pressure on Liverpool. Both coaches force each other to improve.
Q. Real Madrid and Liverpool are developing a great rivalry. It is the third time that they are going to face each other in the great European final. How much will history weigh in the minds of the players what they experienced in 2018 in kyiv?
A. I don’t think history should play any part in this. It is a different scenario, a different stadium and with different players. This Liverpool team is much stronger, much more confident after the huge success they have had since 2018.
P. The last final Real Madrid lost in a European final was in 1981-81. They have won the last seven finals they have played… What are the keys to stopping a team that has been so successful in Europe?
A. I honestly don’t know, but if each of the players in the Pool plays to the maximum, the match can be won. If they are not all 100%, they will not win. It’s that simple.
P. How do you explain the incredible comebacks by Real Madrid that we have seen in this edition of the Champions League, that of PSG in the round of 16 and then against Chelsea and Manchester City?
A. I wouldn’t know what to say. I was very impressed by Real Madrid against City. I found it really incredible. It was as if Manchester City only played with seven players at the end of the game. They beat them up and forced them to make mistakes. There came a time when I thought that all the centers were going to end up at the bottom of the net. It was brilliant. It remains to be seen if Real Madrid can do it for the fourth time in a row.
P. Salah has declared that he wants to take revenge against Madrid. How important will it be in the final?
R. Mo is one of the best players in the history of the club, he is a fundamental piece, both for now and for the future of the club. Beat records like nothing happened. For many people, he is already the best player in the history of the club and I don’t think he is very far from it. I hope that he renews soon and that he manages to score in the final. He is a vital player for the way that Liverpool has built Jrgen Klopp.
Klopp’s team is going to be the best in Liverpool history
Q. What do you think of Karim Benzema? He is the best striker in the world right now, does he see you as the player who can score in the final? He deserves the Ballon d’Or?
R. I have to say that Karim Benzema has been very brilliant this season. He had played with the best at Real Madrid. Now, after having lived in Cristiano’s shadow, he is showing that he is one of the best in the world. For me it is in the Top 3 in the world. Having seen his hat-trick against Chelsea and his goal against City, I’m sure the Liverpool defense will be more than aware of the threat he poses. He has that scoring nose and does everything. It reminds me of the old strikers of my generation. If Liverpool want to win, it is essential that they stop the Frenchman. I hope he has a bad day in the final.
Benzema has a goal and does everything. I hope he has a bad day in the final
Q. To finish. How do you imagine what will happen on the 28th at the Stade de France? How do you think the match will end?
R. Seeing what both teams are capable of doing, anything could happen in Paris. However, I firmly believe that if Liverpool play at their best, they will win the game.