Emre Can makes honest Liverpool admission as he gets second Champions League final chance

Mats Hummels, Emre Can and Nico Schlotterbeck (L-R) celebrates victory after the UEFA Champions League semi-final second leg match between Paris Saint-Germain and Borussia Dortmund at Parc des Princes on May 07, 2024 in Paris, France.

Emre Can missed out on winning the Champions League with Liverpool by a single year. He departed on a free transfer at the end of the 2017/18 season, despite Jürgen Klopp being keen to keep him.

In his place, Liverpool signed Fabinho. The Brazilian was credited as one of the truly transformative signings that elevated Klopp's men from contenders to champions.

Meanwhile, Can looked to have made a horrible mistake. His switch to Juventus did not go well at all, and he was excluded from the Champions League squad altogether at the start of his second season, ultimately leaving for Borussia Dortmund in January after 18 months in Turin.

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Fortunately for him, that transfer has worked out a whole lot better. Can is now the captain at Borussia Dortmund, and while he has had to settle for a couple of 'close seconds' in the Bundesliga, he will now have the chance to right prior Champions League wrongs, having led his side to victory over PSG in the semi-final.

It's easy to forget, but Can did actually feature in that heartbreaking 2018 final for Liverpool, just days before Fabinho arrived and shortly before Can himself departed at the end of his contract. He came off the bench in the 83rd minute, replacing James Milner.

He was also technically a part of the Bayern Munich team that won the tournament in 2013, against his current side Borussia Dortmund. But he did not make the matchday squad for the final, having barely been involved all season.

Speaking to CBS Sports, Can has explained his feelings on those previous finals. He pinpoints what went wrong when he featured for Liverpool in Kyiv:

"It’s very different, I would say, because when I was with Bayern in the final I didn’t play, I was a young guy. I was in the squad but I didn’t play. With Liverpool I was a long time injured, I didn’t play the quarter-final or semi-final.

"Now I am playing all the games and when you play it’s different and it feels different. I am [the] captain of this team and I am very proud. If I talk too much I get emotional."

Can had indeed missed the final seven Premier League games of the season through injury in 2017/18, as well as the latter rounds of the Champions League. Prior to that, he had played at least 70 minutes in eight of the nine European games for which he had been available, including the qualifiers against Hoffenheim.

Would he have started against Real Madrid if fit? Those numbers suggest 'yes', although the fact Can was off at the end of the campaign might have had an impact as well. Either way, barring any late setbacks, he will enter this next Champions League final with full fitness, and as a key member of his team. Best of luck to him. says: Liverpool has something of an unhappy habit of facing fitness races for key defensive midfielders ahead of European finals. In 2022, against the same opponent, the same fate befell Fabinho; he was rushed back in from the start, having played no part in the FA Cup final or the last two league matches.

But you can't really make the case that Can's lack of fitness was the difference in 2018, a final that will unfortunately always be remembered for Loris Karius. While Fabinho was an upgrade in midfield, the addition of Alisson was the single biggest difference-maker.

Even so, it's interesting to wonder how that game might have gone if he had started, and indeed how the next few years might have looked if he had stayed. Can has come good on all his potential now, and while the manner in which he left Liverpool was disappointing, he will have plenty of Anfield support at Wembley.