It is a strange feeling and also a nice feeling to be at home on Merseyside for Christmas. It will be the first time for a few years that I can stay with my family during the festive period without driving late in the night or early in the morning for a game of football.
On December 1, we beat Beijing Renhe 2-0 in our final game of the season with Dalian Yifang and after a couple of days finishing our work in China and a meeting with the President to analyse the old campaign and prepare details for the new one, I came back to England. I had some previous media commitments to finish in the UK and a lot of games to watch. We are waiting for the rules for next season in China to be finalised and released, so our scouting department is working but we still don't know how many Chinese or foreign players we can sign and how much money will be available for the transfer window. For now, all we can do is wait and then make our decisions.
In the meantime, Liverpool are playing in the World Club Cup in Qatar and that reminds me of our wide experience in this competition with different clubs. Every time, there has been one thing in common, namely the risk of injuries because of the timing. In Europe you are in the middle of the league season whereas in South America they have finished. It is the main focus for them.
In 2005, I was managing Liverpool and we qualified for the World Club Cup after our famous Champions League victory over AC Milan in Istanbul. At the time, it was not a hugely important competition for the European teams but it was - and still is - massive for the South Americans.I still remember one of my South American players at Inter Milan reduced to tears because he picked up an injury in the last game before we traveled to Abu Dhabi and he thought he would miss the game. It had been his father's dream to see his kid win the tournament. Thankfully, he played and we won it. It was the first time that Liverpool had taken part in this version of the competition. Before then, it was the Intercontinental Cup and they had participated in both 1981 and 1984. We were second in the Premier League at the time and had gone 10 matches without conceding a goal, which equalled what was then a club record.
The first difficulty we found was finding information about our rivals. You can see the level of the other teams by video, but you don't know how they will do it against you, how motivated or scared they will be when you take them on. At the same time, the style of football is different, so you don't know how your players would adapt to a slow tempo and passing style of football, for example. We played the final against Sao Paulo after beating Deportivo Saprissa, from Costa Rica, 3-0 in the semi final. Sao Paulo beat Al-Ittihad 3-2 in their semi final.
18 December 2005
São Paulo 1–0 Liverpool
International Stadium, Yokohama
Our team: Reina, Finnan, Hyppia, Carragher, Warnock, Sissoko, Gerrard (c), Xabi Alonso, Kewell, Luis García, Morientes. Subtitutes: Riise, Sinama Pongolle, Crouch.
We had a third goal disallowed in the 89th minute.
Referee: Benito Archundia (México).
Man of the match: Rogerio Ceni (Sao Paulo), their goalkeeper.
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It was a hard time for me, not just because of the defeat, but far more important was that my father, who had been in hospital, died before the final. With the difficult flight connections, I couldn't get back in time for the funeral and I just arrive to stay with my family the days after.
In 2010, we reached the final, in this case with Inter Milan. We had to deal with two games, firstly against the South Korean team Seongnam Ilhwa and then the final against Mazembe from Democratic Republic of Congo, they beat International from Porto Alegre, it was a surprise because the South Americans came with a good team and more than 10.000 fans to the tournament. The two matches ended with a victory for us and both with the same result, 0-3. Inter was champion again after the last victory in the Intercontinental Cup in 1965.
18 December 2010
TP Mazembe 0-3 Internazionale
Goran Pandev 13’
Samuel Eto’o 17’
Jonathan Biabiany 85’
Zayed Sport City Stadium, Abu Dhabi
Our team: Júlio César, Maicon, Lúcio, Iván Córdoba, Cristian Chivu, Javier Zanetti ( C ), Thiago Motta, Esteban Cambiasso, Goran Pandev, Diego Milito, Samuel Eto’o, Dejan Stankovic, Jonathan Biabiany, McDonald Mariga
Referee: Yuichi Nishimura
Man of the match: Samuel Eto’o
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In 2012 we worked in Chelsea and the first chance to win a tittle was the FIFA Club World Cup again. We played the final against Corinthians in the Yokohama Stadium, in Japan. We lost, 1-0, in a tight game in which we created more chances than our rivals. Once again, like in the Liverpool final against Sao Paulo, the man of the match was the Corinthians´ goalkeeper, Cassio Ramos. 6 years later, the international silverware returned to a South American team.
16 December 2012
Corinthias 1-0 Chelsea
International Stadium, Yokohama
Attendance: 68. 275
Our team: Petr Cech, Branislav Ivanovic, Gary Cahill, David Luiz, Ashley Cole, Ramires, Frank Lampard ( C ), Victor Moses, Juan Mata, Eden Hazard, Fernando Torres, Oscar, César Azpilicueta, Marko Marin.
Referee: Cüneyt Çakir
Man of the match: Cassio, their goalkeeper
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This year, we have an interesting competition, the qualified teams are Flamengo (CONMEBOL), Liverpool (UEFA), Al-Hilal (AFC), Esperance de Tunis (CAF), Monterrey (CONCACAF), Hienghène Sport (OFC) and Al-Sadd (AFC, and host of the tournament). In football you never know what can happen, but Flamengo and Monterrey could be the main rivals of Liverpool. I´m sure we will have some interesting games ahead and even if the style of football is different, for me Liverpool are the favorites.
I wish all the best to Jürgen and Liverpool FC.