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Jude Bellingham and Jurgen Klopp combine as Liverpool get hint of what could come next

Jurgen Klopp taking the acclaim of the crowd before Jude Bellingham strolls around the Wembley pitch proudly parading another Champions League won by his club.

And all on an evening the stadium had resonated before kick-off with a stirring rendition of You’ll Never Walk Alone.

But it wasn’t exactly as Liverpool fans would have dreamt the occasion going as recently as 18 months ago.

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Quite a lot, of course, has happened in the meantime. The Reds’ struggles that season which ultimately led to them failing to qualify for the Champions League contributed to their opting not to pursue a possible deal for Bellingham, aware funds would be better served being spread across buying several midfielders.

And while the decision was justified given Liverpool have booked an instant return to Europe’s elite next season, the endeavour and effort required to build a new team cemented Klopp’s belief the time had come for him to walk away from the Anfield dugout.

What hasn’t changed, though, is Real Madrid’s pathological relationship with the Champions League. And on the day his successor Arne Slot officially began his role as Liverpool head coach, Klopp was back in England to watch another of his former clubs, Borussia Dortmund, attempt to stop Real for whom Bellingham has been excelling having instead moved to the Bernabeu last summer.

Given Real had twice beaten Klopp's Reds in the Champions League final – and knocked them out of the competition in the last 16 and quarter-final stages – the German had even greater reason to hope the Spanish side would be vanquished.

There was a more pertinent Liverpool link here at Wembley with Emre Can skippering Dortmund. The midfielder played his last game for the Reds in the showpiece six years ago in Kiev, but had only just returned from injury when stepping off the bench and lacked sharpness in the 3-1 defeat to the omnipresent Real.

This time he shrugged off an early knock and was instrumental in Dortmund enjoying much the better of the first half when only some wayward finishing and a dose of that famous Real fortune stopped the Bundesliga side from going ahead before the break.

The second half began a more even affair although Real still struggled to convince, their midfield too easily played through while Bellingham came in for some no-nonsense treatment and wasn’t anywhere near his best.

But the Spaniards always find a way and that it was one of their smallest players, Dani Carvajal, who glanced home a corner for the opening goal with 16 minutes remaining underlined the fact. Real gotta Real. By the end, demoralised Dortmund had gifted Bellingham the chance to set up Vinicius Jnr for a second.

Klopp, then, was once again left disappointed by the inevitability of Real. But there had been an amusing moment an hour or so before the match when the big screens inside the stadium were filled with an image of Klopp, sitting in the Wembley stands. With more than 10,000 Dortmund fans already inside, the sight of their former boss prompted huge cheers and a smile from the German.

The mischievous television director then cut to Jose Mourinho stood by the touchline, whose appearance was greeted with inevitable jeers. The Portuguese, smirking as the lens lingered on him, took it in good spirits.

What, then, should Liverpool expect on their return to the Champions League next season? Given their absence was only brief, there isn’t the great step up that was required when they came back into the competition after three years out in 2017.

The progress of Dortmund, perhaps not as accomplished a team as the Reds, has shown what can be achieved. And the law of averages suggests Real cannot keep winning the tournament in such an economical manner every season.

But the occasion as a whole highlights what Liverpool were without this campaign. The Champions League has missed the Reds – and the feeling has been mutual. Their return is another parting gift from Klopp to Slot.